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Old 26th January 2007, 02:24 PM   #1
Stang
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Default Web Site Designers - Who To Choose

I've been reading through some posts on here about web designers and appreciate the info here. Some have suggested to speak with at least three designers before choosing one and check their references. But what about the actual code they use? What is the "best" in your opinion and why? How does someone with little understanding of the technological aspect of this work evaluate their choices? While I agree talking to other clients of that person is valuable as far as service is concerned, those same clients are, most likely, not proficient in the technology themselves. So how would you suggest a novice evaluate one's work in this area?

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Old 26th January 2007, 04:17 PM   #2
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Quote:
What is the "best" in your opinion and why?
Assuming you're talking about server-side languages and databases, it really doesn't matter for most sites. Speed and quality of development drive this choice, don't let it concern you.

Now, if we're talking about rendered markup (the HTML that actually hits the browser), that's a different story. There are a few things you, the end-user, can do to test a deisgner's chops:

1. Test sites from their portfolio in every browser you can get your hands on. The vast majority of people are using IE or FireFox, but a consistent look across all major browsers is a decent indicator of skill/attention to detail.

2. Go to some of their sites and try to change the text size (in IE or FireFox, go to View -> Text Size and pick one of the options). If the text size doesn't change it means the designer chose a fixed size which, combined with some other indicators, might mean they're not concerned with accessibility.

3. Along with #2, go to their sites and turn off style sheets (this is most easily done in FireFox, go to View -> Page Style -> No Style). Are the sites still usable? Is information presented in a way that's still useful? People with visual impairment use screen readers and other tools that ignore page styling, if your site lacks meaningful markup*, it won't do them any good.

4. Go to w3.org and run the HTML validator against some of their sites. They don't have to validate 100% perfectly, but they should be close.

5. Browse around each site, note ease of navigation. All of their sites should be easy to get around in.

6. Check their portfolio for overall design. Are their sites aesthetically pleasing without being distracting? Try to get other people's opinions on this as well.

7. Check references.

Those are some of the things that immediately spring to mind. Also, don't hesitate to get them on the horn and check things like length of time in business, team size, overall experience, design process, etc... Anyone who can't be bothered to go over that sort of thing isn't worth dealing with.

Also, I can't stress this enough, picking the cheapest option will always, ALWAYS cause you problems. There are a lot of so-called web designers out there that give the rest of us a bad name.

* "Meaningful markup" is defined as markup arranged in a way that organizes and presents information in useful form, regardless of styling or delivery method.

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Old 26th January 2007, 07:01 PM   #3
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Wow! Even more than I was expecting! Thanks.

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Old 29th January 2007, 08:22 PM   #4
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Great response John!

Quote:

...picking the cheapest option will always, ALWAYS cause you problems.
This couldn't be more true. I can't count how many times a client has come to us in desperation after either being scammed or dissatisfied with the "cheap" web designer they chose to work with.

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Old 9th February 2007, 04:08 AM   #5
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Is someone tell me on what resolutions a site could be made. I mean 600x1024 or what. This issue relates to the SEO Friendly Websites Development.

Thanks

Bilal

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Old 27th February 2007, 04:29 AM   #6
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Since your knowledge is limited in this area, ask them to explain what they will be doing, what tools they will use and why. Remember, you're also looking for a good communicator. Someone who can convey these complex ideas to a novice is probably someone worth their rate.

You'll most likely have to go back to this person for changes or a redesign, so choose a designer who is willing to educate you on the basic concepts - enough so you know why you're making the right decision.

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Old 28th February 2007, 08:14 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johnb View Post
Assuming you're talking about server-side languages and databases, it really doesn't matter for most sites. Speed and quality of development drive this choice, don't let it concern you.
I would have to disagree with you on that point. A skilled developer should know what language is best suited for a particular website's needs. Some websites might require PHP (which is free), others might require ASP.NET (which is not free and only runs on Windows), etc. There are many different languages out there, and they all have their perks and downsides. Not many people use Java, and yet it might be a good solution depending on what you need. ASP and PHP have similar features, but one might be better suited for a particular project because even though they are similar, they aren't identical. The same goes for database development when you have to choose between Oracle, MySQL, SQL, etc.

Granted, I would assume that the consume would not know about most of these things since, if they did, they would be developing the site themselves. Therefore, I would make sure that your potential developer really knows what they're talking about. If they have experience in a range of different programming languages (and if you can see examples of them), it would be safe to say that they would know which one to choose for the job.

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Old 5th March 2007, 06:14 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DigitalDoodler View Post
I would have to disagree with you on that point.
My post was directed at the consumer, I'm not sure what you're disagreeing with.

Quote:
Some websites might require PHP (which is free), others might require ASP.NET.
There's not a site on the planet that can be done in PHP that can't be done in ASP.NET. No site "requires" one or the other.

Also, the added cost of ASP.NET development comes from the high-end tools and hosting costs, not the software itself. For a site of any decent size, reduced development time can easily make up for the cost disparity.

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Not many people use Java, and yet it might be a good solution depending on what you need.
I'd love for you to provide an example of this.

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The same goes for database development when you have to choose between Oracle, MySQL, SQL, etc.
For most sites on the web, it doesn't make a difference. Your development (and infrastructure) team's talent and familiarity with the platform is the critical factor.

Quote:
Granted, I would assume that the consume would not know about most of these things since, if they did, they would be developing the site themselves. Therefore, I would make sure that your potential developer really knows what they're talking about.
How do they make sure that someone knows what they're talking about if they don't know anything about development?

As I said in my post, all you can do is check usability/accessiblity and make sure they have solid references.

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If they have experience in a range of different programming languages (and if you can see examples of them), it would be safe to say that they would know which one to choose for the job.
This could just as easily mean they don't do any one thing well. The all-MS or all-Open Source shops are the ones that know their platform inside and out and have extensive code libraries to leverage.

Again, notice that the platform doesn't really matter.

The bottom line here is, even if a prospective designer can clearly explain why they'd do things a certain way, it doesn't make it right, or even optimal. The work they've already done is all you can go on. Here's a condensed checklist:

1. Do the sites in their portfolio meet usability/accessibility standards (see my earlier post for ways to check)?
2. Have they done recent work for reputable companies? Can they give you contact information for a stakeholder that can vouch for them?
3. If your site will be high-traffic, have they proven that they can architect a site that can handle high volume and still scale?
4. How do they treat their developers? The shops where all developers have private offices, Aeron chairs and dual high-res displays are the ones that draw the real talent.

This wound up being longer than intended, but there it is.

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Old 5th March 2007, 07:17 PM   #9
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I'm not going to reply with a point-by-point attack, however, I would like to explain myself more clearly.

I responed to your post because this is a discussion forum, and frankly, a discussion that only involves everyone agreeing with eachother isn't much of a discussion. I want to make sure the consumer knows everything they possibly can, and that was my intention by posting my reply in this topic.

While all websites can be created the same using any programming language (as in their output HTML is the same), there are some drastic differences between programming languages and the development involved with each one, and I think the contrast between PHP and ASP.NET stands out the most. For example, if a company needed a website that might eventually need to become a stand-alone Windows application, ASP.NET would be the best language, since the codebehind could essentially remain the same. ASP.NET would also be a better choice for websites that need to display a lot of data with sorting, etc. since the datagrid is such a useful built-in control. And since the design aspect is somewhat separated from the functionality/logic, updating the data within the design is simple. PHP, on the otherhand, essentially just outputs lines or blocks of HTML.

I don't want to stray too far off topic here, but just to wrap up, there are differences between languages, and while the consumer may not notice, the developer should realize the differences and use the best one. The best one would be determined by looking at what language is best for the job, the timeline of the project, and the budget of the project. You're right, since PHP is free and easy to use, it often times is the best language for most projects. But I still think there are projects out there that would be greatly handicapped if it were to be programmed in another language.

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Old 5th March 2007, 09:31 PM   #10
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First, I hope you didn't take my post as an attack. Refuting your arguments doesn't mean I bear you ill will, only that I disagree with some of your points.

I think we agree in principal, but you're missing the point of the thread. None of what you're saying will help a person without a web design background choose a good web designer.

If you want them to be aware of the thought process behind platform selection, well, there's no point.

Quote:
You're right, since PHP is free and easy to use, it often times is the best language for most projects.
I most definitely did not say that, in fact I wholeheartedly disagree.

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