There are lots of different reasons people hire web designers:

  1. They don’t understand the internet, what it’s capable of, and how to use it to their benefit.
  2. They understand the internet, but they don’t have the skills necessary to create a web presence for themselves, and don’t want some standard ubiquitous template that may or may not meet their needs.
  3. They have some skills, but not enough time/energy to figure out all the details.
  4. They know exactly what they are doing, but don’t want/need to do it for themselves.

Rarely do people fall neatly into those categories, however.  Often times someone knows a little bit, but needs some help to get going.

If you’re getting ready to hire someone to help you with your web presence, I recommend that you keep the following in mind:

  • Get organized. And I don’t mean just knowing where you’re going to get your domain name and hosting, or the big testimonial you want featured on the Home page.  I mean that you are clear about what the goal of you project really is.  For example, do you want to attract new customers or service exiting ones, or both?  Do you want to enrich your existing brand, or create a new one?  Do you want to attract a wide audience, or are you looking for a particular group of people?  Once you have a clear goal, make a list of what you might put online to help reach that goal, then solicit advice from people who are experts in web marketing and find out if what you have planned will realistically help you meet that goal.  Only once you feel confident that your idea will help serve your goal should you hire a web designer to help you put the plan into action.  Many times, a web designer wears both hats, but it’s important not to jump straight into what the site will look like before you’ve talked about what you want your web presence to *do*.
  • Do your research. Having an idea of what your competition looks like and what they’re doing online is critical knowledge.  Not only will this help you get more fluent in what your customer/audience will expect from you, but it’ll help you talk with your designer about how your ideas will be implemented.  For example, it’s not enough to know that political candidate websites heavily leverage patriotic colors and iconography…   you need to go further into the voice and tone of the site, how their site is organized, and what kind of content they’re offering.  This will help you position yourself in the marketplace and communicate your wants and needs to your web team.  Remember, you’re hiring them not because they know about *your* business, but because they know about theirs.  Helping them get up to speed on your business so they can create a great solution for you will streamline the process and make sure everyone is playing to their strengths.
  • Understand your limitations and don’t be ashamed of them. This is often the most difficult hurdle to overcome when working towards a successful web presence, but it’s important to leverage the expertise of people who fully understand all the available options to be successful.  Remember, your goal isn’t to acquire a new skill or to prove your intellect, it’s to make your web presence work for you.   And most likely your business/service/product doesn’t require you to be an expert on web design and marketing — it requires you to be an expert on whatever you’re offering.  The tough love here is that the less your web team has to dance around your ego, the more efficient your project will be and the more likely that they’ll be able to create something that really meets your needs.

In my experience, the most successful projects are those which implement the above tips.  They are not only more efficient (thereby saving money), but also encourage a type of communication that benefits the end result.  Make sure you’re leveraging your web team to the best of your and their ability…  they’re there to design solutions that make you and your project a success if you’ll let them.