Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Finding A Good Web Designer Is Easy With MWD

Many potential clients don't know much about web design and can feel lost when it comes to finding a good web designer. Confusing "tech-speech", hidden costs; charging outrageous fees and committing clients to long term "update" charges and proprietary software packages that only they can use, often turn off potential clients and worse, landing some in financial crisis!

Knowing what makes an effective website is only half the battle. Communication with the designer is crucial.

Here is some verbiage to understand as you seek a designer:

• Dynamic Content (Interactive features on a website. The content the user sees is sometimes updated based upon the users input. Dynamic content can be information stored in a database, user input, or even cookies. Forms and a Search option on a site are perfect examples of dynamic content.)
• Search Engine (A program (website) designed to search a database of information from and about other websites. Google, Yahoo and others use this kind of program to create a directory of sites which you can then search through.)
• HTML (how to write the code that displays the website)
• CSS (Cascading Style Sheets - controls font colors and sizes and removes code bloat)
• Server (A computer that delivers web pages to users. It is the "computer" where website files (the whole website) reside and are accessed through the Internet. A server can also be called a host or node.)
• SEO (Search Engine Optimizaztion - how to get top ranking in search engines for your keywords)
• Graphic Design (The design of logos, navigation graphics and editing images)
• Composite (Comps) (The look of the website without actually creating it. This is achieved with graphics only, and is usually presented to the client in printed form or as an attachment in an email.
• Contact Page (The page in a website that contains all information as to how to contact a business or individual. This usually includes a mailing address, phone number, fax number, email addresses and any other criteria that may be necessary. This page can also include a map and directions.)
• Content (The body of a web page. Content includes words, selling points, graphics, animations, etc. that do not comprise the framework of the page. This is the information that changes from page to page.)
• Debugging (Detecting, locating and correcting errors or problems in a computer program or web site.)
• Forms (Interactive elements which allow a user to input information to be utilized by the website. Forms can be used to gather information supplied by the user in order to help the user interact with various components within the site.)
• Homepage (The entry page to a website, also known as the index page. Often mistakenly referred to as the "Portal" page.)
• Hosting (Most commonly thought of as the place (think of a heavy-duty computer) where your website's files reside. An Internet host has a unique Internet address (IP address) and a unique domain name or host name. A host can also refer to a Web hosting company.)
• Marketing (The process of planning and executing the promotion of a website via printed and other media, and the Internet. How you make others aware that your website exists.)

Some things to look for while looking for a designer:
Is the designer's website professional looking and clean cut or is it full of Google ads and affiliate banners or links at the top of the home page?
If it's the latter keep looking for another web designer because they are attempting to gain a living via advertising instead of their web design skills.

Do they claim "award winning" designers?
Anyone can apply for a web design award and often get one because these award sites usually offer awards with one goal in mind - getting links back to their website. Emblems from web design guilds may look impressive, however if you check into the means to attain these you will see that most of them charge a fee for membership with minimal requirements, and thus anyone with the most basic web design skills can gain awards or buy memberships and that is not always proof they are quality designers. That can be better assertained by the guidelines offered in this article.

Do they Guarantee a Top Listing in the Search Engines?
No. Genuine web designer can guarantee a top listing in search engines and especially on Google because they change their algorithyms often. What used to work last week may not work next week as Google is preventing any methods that attempt to manipulate their search engine. A top listing can usually be achieved by providing unique and interesting content on the web pages, by the designer having a good knowledge of SEO and by submitting the site to numerous other websites so it has adequate links. Some designer sites are SEO Ripoffs and use spam techniques that will get your website banned.

Do they provide Site Hosting?
A web designer that boasts hosting is known as a reseller for a large hosting company. This means they have bought a large space on their host site and they host the sites they design in that space (i.e., shared hosting), and they will be your sole tech support. Sometimes they have a computer they use for a server in their home. Either way this is not a good idea because if they get sick or their computer breaks down your web site will be down also. Often they do not keep up with expensive hardware or software upgrades to prevent hacking attemps and other problems and thus your website will be more vulnerable than if it was on a real host.

Are they in your country?
It's not so important that a designer be in the same city as most design communication can be covered by phone or email. However if they are in another country you may have problems if they don't complete the job after you paid them (and no legal recourse) you're screwed. Check their contact page for phone, address and email to make sure they are in the same country.

Most important: Looking at a designer's own website is not always proof of their ability because they may be too busy to keep their own website updated. Looking at their web design portfolio will give you a better idea of their skill level.

Before you look at a large agency (which often farm out web designers), your neighbor's kid, or someone in your office that knows a little Microsoft Word, please contact Mark Wolfe Design!

The Anatomy of an Agency Infographic

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs 1955 - 2011

By now we've all heard of the passing of Steve Jobs. We've all lost a truly great mind that can never be replaced. One of the reasons I have always loved using Apple, is that it was always engineered and promoted with an elegance, design and sense of quality never before seen by technology or the public. Not every one gets it, but those who do are participants of a special group who appreciate quality, aesthetics, performance and marketing.

Apple under Steve Jobs was bolstered by people who were MBA's and marketing specialists. This set Apple apart from the mainstream at the time. This made the mainstream work harder and employ those elements to their products.

Design, quality, understanding the market and being true to your values. What a concept. That's why I love Apple and that is how I approach my work. MWD and Apple sort of grew up together and during that time I've tried to learn from Steve and Apple. Hopefully I will still continue MWD with these core values and strive to be an active apostle of these for years to come.

Thanks, Steve.