Your boss just tasked you with overseeing a large marketing website, or maybe a complete redesign of an existing site. Where do you even start? Is this something you can handle yourself? If you need outside help, what should you be looking for.
Perhaps the biggest problem that some people have when being given a project like this is that they aren’t sure where to begin. There are lots of options out there, and you need to make sure you make the right decisions. After all – the site will reflect your work, and you want it to go smoothly, stay under budget, and result in a beautiful website with great functionality.
Start with defining the project
Before you even think about looking for outside help, or taking the project on yourself, consider the following questions.
- Are you building a site from scratch, or are you redesigning an existing site?
- Do you own the domain? Do you have control over it’s hosting?
- What platform is the current site on – or what platform do you want the new site to be built in?
- Is your project a website with just content?
- Is eCommerce involved?
- Is your project a web application, or a mobile application?
- What is your budget?
- What is your time-frame?
- Who is your target demographic?
- What keywords would describe your project?
These are the types of questions that potential candidates should ask you, so you should be prepared to have answers for them.
Let’s take a step back for a minute and ask ourselves a very important question. Do we need a web designer or web developer (or both)?
Wikipedia defines a Web Developer as
A web developer is a programmer who specializes in, or is specifically engaged in, the development of World Wide Web applications, or distributed network applications that are run over HTTP from a web server to a web browser.
Many individuals who market themselves as web developers may not be interested in the artistic and creative abilities required to design a site from scratch – and may look to you for guidance in this area. If you need a website from scratch – or the complete reworking of an existing site, you may want to hire a web designer.
Web design encompasses many different skills and disciplines in the production and maintenance of websites. The different areas of web design include web graphic design; interface design; authoring, including standardised code and proprietary software; user experience design; and search engine optimization. Often many individuals will work in teams covering different aspects of the design process, although some designers will cover them all. The term web design is normally used to describe the design process relating to the front-end (client side) design of a website including writing mark up. Web design partially overlaps web engineering in the broader scope of web development. Web designers are expected to have an awareness of usability and if their role involves creating mark up then they are also expected to be up to date with web accessibility guidelines.
So the first decision you need to make, and perhaps the single most important, is do you need a web developer, a web designer, both, or a team of individuals to successfully complete your project.
Once you have the answer to that part, you should next decide the scope of the project.
What platform will you use?
If you are building a website from scratch, a very important question to consider is what platform is the site built in – or what platform should you use for our project?
WordPress – WordPress is often times overlooked as a website platform because most consider it just a blogging platform. Not true! WordPress is the basis for many sites across many industries, including blogs, marketing sites, micro sites, corporate sites, eCommerce sites, and more.
If your site is heavy on content, and light on server-side scripts, advanced database calculations, and actions that require exhaustive programming – then WordPress may be a great option for you. WordPress should be considered as a blank framework on which you can build whatever you want. WordPress’ community is what makes it great – there is a lot of support, user created themes, plugins and widgets, and other options.
Runs best on LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) servers.
Drupal – Another CMS with seemingly limitless potential. Many developers prefer Drupal to WordPress. Drupal also has an impressive community that offers support, custom themes and custom modules.
Runs best on LAMP servers.
Magento – A popular open-source eCommerce suite. Magento is a server beast, and you will likely need to consider powerful hosting as compared to WordPress and Drupal. Like WordPress and Drupal, Magento has a large community that offers support, themes, and modules.
If you are looking for an enterprise level eCommerce site, then perhaps you should consider Magento Enterprise. It does come at a hefty price, but many Magento developers swear by it. It does so much more than the Community Edition, and you should strongly consider it.
There are obviously many other options out there, and perhaps none of them suite your needs. In this case, you’ll need to build a site from scratch.
You need a Web Designer
Ok, so you decided that a web designer suites your needs. Excellent! Let’s look at what a good web designer should have in his/her toolbelt – and his/her portfolio.
- Excellent sense of design, with great artistic ability.
- Mad photoshop skills.
- Cross-browser compatibility understanding.
- Understanding and working knowledge of great UX design.
- Understanding and working knowledge of SEO.
- Working knowledge of different CMS’ (WordPress, Drupal, Magento, etc).
Where many people get hung up is that the above description sounds a lot like a web developer. Many people consider “web designers” as just being artistic minds who can whip together some impressive images with Photoshop. This isn’t the case – web designers are more than often very capable programmers – they just focus on the front-end (client side).
You Need a Web Developer
The term “web developer” is often attributed to anyone who builds websites. This isn’t always the case. Web Developers are not always great designers. I know more than a few developers who would have a hard time drawing a recognizable stick figure – but ask them to build you a database driven web application and they will blow your mind.
When searching for a web developer, consider the following:
- What programming language(s) does the candidate work in? Not all programmers will know the programming language you require!
- Expert level understanding of Object Oriented programming.
- Working knowledge of server administration and environment.
- Database and query knowledge (SQL).
- Working knowledge of UX design and implementation and on page SEO.
So now you have a better idea of what you are looking for, you can weed out the candidates that don’t fit your model. I won’t go into the personality types you’ll deal with (it could be interesting!) – I’ll leave that to you.
This is just a broad overview of things you should consider when looking for a web designer or developer. Every project is different and most projects will have unique requirements.
If you have any specific questions, please feel free to comment below or fill our my contact form.