Choose a web designer

Many small business owners struggle with deciding how to make the right decision to design their website. They search the web for help with their website and discover that the choice is more difficult than they thought. There are currently (literally) millions of websites claiming to be professional web designers. However, care must be taken in choosing the right person or persons to entrust the image of your company. In this article, I will try to categorize web designers into manageable groups and teach the reader the difference between the types.

Web designers fall into four general categories: Freelance Hobbyists, Freelance Professionals, Web Design Firm, Web Development Firm.

self-employed hobbyist

Most of the web designers you will come across, especially searching the internet, are freelancers. That is, people who do web design but who are not employees of a web design company. Some are self-employed professionals, but most of these freelancers are of the hobbyist-hobbyist type. They find a copy of FrontPage™ included with their MS Office™ suite. They found out how much fun making web pages could be, so they started telling their friends that they could “design” web pages.

The “pros” of using a hobbyist is that they are very cheap. The “cons” are too numerous to mention, but I’ll point out a few. They have no training; they have little understanding of what makes a good website work; they don’t understand HTML or CSS, just point and click in FrontPage; they do not understand general design and layout concepts and have little real-world experience. The main reason serious entrepreneurs should avoid them is that their work looks amateurish, which makes their company look amateurish. Who wants that?

Independent professional

A professional is often defined simply by being paid. People think that if you get paid for something, then you’re a professional. That may be true at the Olympics, but for the world of business services, you’re not a professional until you’re established and respected as such by your clients and colleagues. Freelance professional web designers are a big step up from the hobbyist in that they have established a respectable portfolio of work. They have some type of qualifying training and experience and have credentials that can be verified by contacting references. They have a good reputation with their clients and other professionals. In general, a good professional freelance web designer can be a good person to make your site. But they are hard to tell apart from amateurs when you are just searching the web.

The upside is that if you find a good one, it’s significantly cheaper than a web design company. But that’s usually the only advantage. If your budget is tight, a freelancer will work for a small project. But anything seriously important should be left to a professional company.

Some downsides to using a freelancer are that they are usually part-time, which means they are limited in the amount of time they can spend on your project. They are also limited in what they can do for you. Most freelancers are specialists in one area and generalists in everything else. Some are unskilled in anything except their one specialty, and often you’ll have to find others to fill the roles. In addition, freelancers are not always cheap, although many of them aspire to create their own company; some are highly sought after, charging $100 an hour or more for their work. My advice here is, if you have that much to spend, go with a company that has a team of professionals to get the job done faster.

Web Design Company

This is the next step beyond being a freelancer. The web design company offers the “full show”. They provide real project management and have assembled a team of web experts to do a wider range of work. A company can provide a much higher level of expertise in web design, programming, content development, and more.

Such a company is usually very small, but large enough to handle larger-scale projects. Compared to the most skilled freelancer, a company has a diversity of talents and collaborations working for them. The end result is usually a much higher quality product.

The only real drawbacks are, for one thing, the web design company is more expensive than a freelancer because there are so many more people on the job. However, you get what you pay for rings true. On the other hand, for very large projects or long-term development, web design firms may be too small, and typically don’t have the human resources to deliver on that $500,000 contract. In the end, for serious entrepreneurs looking for quality and professionalism and who can’t afford a big company, this is the way to go.

web development company

As its title implies, a web development company is just like any traditional company. They have a staff of office workers, they have owners and officers, and they have a team of talented professionals who are paid a good salary for their work. They often have a sales force that does both inside and outside sales. The quality of his work is evident as you couldn’t be as well established doing shoddy work. These firms offer teams of very talented professionals who work on your project and get the job done in a timely and extremely efficient manner. Additionally, they typically cover all aspects of website development, including marketing and advertising. They may have teams of specialists that they can deploy to your location and work in-house on a temporary contract. The possibilities are endless.

If price is not an issue and the highest quality work is needed, then this is the person you want to do the job. For businesses with smaller budgets, a quote from an established web development company could take your breath away, but know that companies with project requirements running into the millions of thousands of dollars know the score. Therefore, the only real drawback for a web development company is that they are usually very expensive. On the other hand, cost is relative and larger companies like to work with larger companies.

In short, the choice is yours. I would recommend serious business owners to budget a decent amount of dollars to properly design and run a professional website. I would avoid the hobbyist and outsource to a person or company with good experience and reasonable fees to create my web presence. If money wasn’t an issue then I would only deal with established firms and pay top dollar to get the job done right and well done.

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