These days everybody and their cat is a web designer, a friend of a friend who “knows computers” can put a website together for you… badly.
The underlying issue behind this I believe in many ways is a problem that I see on a regular basis working with new clients; which is the limited knowledge they have on what constitutes a good website. The majority believe that if the website looks pretty, then its a good website! This as many good web designers will tell you, is not the whole truth.
This article is intended to help people that are looking to commission a web design project to identify what constitutes a good website, to ask the right questions and to analyse the work of their chosen array of designers to establish which designer can produce the best website possible for the budget.
The Build of the website is as important, if not more than the design and layout of it, by build I mean the way the website has been coded. The build quality of a website effects many important factors that constitute a good website the major two being:
This is very important, your website should be 100% viewable by the widest possible audience, this includes people with disabilities that are using special browsing tools such as Screen Readers.
- Search Engine Friendliness
If your website is not search engine friendly, it will cost you business. Your site will not appear as highly as it could in Google and other search engines if built incorrectly.
You could read for days about accessibility for the web, all the information you’ll need to know can be found here:
How deep you choose to go is really up to you , but I’d definitely recommend reading the Introduction to Web Accessibility.
A rule I adopt to aid with both of the above clauses is: Important text content, IE. headings and navigation bars should be actual text as opposed to an image. You can tell if a designer has used an image for something by simply trying to select the text with your cursor.
Having Valid Code is an indication of how well your website will display across the vast array of Internet browsers available, to a degree it is also a measure of accessibility.
W3.org HTML Validator
Content & Keywords
Content is another really important factor, content is what makes your website an information rich resource, these are the websites that Google will index higher because it can see that information being provided is rich and useful to searchers.
Take for instance a website homepage with hardly any text content; The Google web crawler comes across your site and sees a few images and little text, it then deems the page as not particularly relevant, Google then crawls your competitors website, which has a fair amount of content, with keywords strategically placed within the the page copy and headers, this is the website that will be indexed higher, providing all other SEO factors like inbound links are equal.
Getting a good web copywriter is essential to writing content for your website that reads well and that contains the right amount of relevant keywords.
Questions to ask Designers
- What version of HTML/XHTML will my site be built in?
(XHTML 1.0 & 1.1 recommended.)
- Will my website be built without the use of tables for layout?
(Using tables for layout is a depreciated method of coding and should be avoided at all costs!)
- What web browsers will my website be tested on and how?
(The more the better, Firefox, IE 6,7 & 8 and Safari minimum.)
- To what accessibility standard will my website be built to?
(“Section 508″ minimum, “WCAG Triple A” is the best.)
- Will the pages of my site include individual META keywords & description tags?
(Very useful for search engines.)
- Will you be providing a sitemap page and an XML sitemap?
(Helps Google index the pages of your website.)
These questions should help you sort the wood from the trees when searching for a designer, if your designer is not sure how to answer any of these questions, its likely that he is not 100% clued up, so beware. Use the information and tools above to check their work, if you’re still in doubt, give us a call on 0800 611 8222 and we will give you free, non biased advice.
Contribution on this topic is more than welcome from other designers, please use the comments form below!