It's funny to me how some of the most boring and ugly sites on the Internet are for Web designers. For some reason, we have trouble creating a site that really sells our business. Now, if you're not working on your site because you're so busy you have no time, then stop reading this article. Get back to work! But for the rest of you, this article will help you to figure out what your site needs and what it doesn't need to really market yourself as a Web designer.
If You Don't Have a Site
If you're a Web designer or want to be one and you don't have a site, then you're lucky. You don't have any bad habits and annoying special features to get rid of. But before you race out and start building a site, do some research first. If you haven't written business plan yet, then you should start there. A business plan will help you to clarify what your site needs and doesn't need.
Look at other designers that are doing similar things to what you do (or want to do):
- What are they doing with their sites?
- How do they market themselves?
- What skills do they showcase (and what do they leave off)?
- How large is their site?
Once you see what the competition is doing you have a better understanding of what you can do with your own site. But be sure to evaluate any plans you have for your site by the criteria listed below.
If You Do Have a Site
If you already have a Web site, you should be prepared to be ruthless in evaluating it. If possible, get someone else to evaluate it. Look at it with an eye to the criteria set up in your business plan:
- Does this site show what you offer?
- Is this site clear and easy to navigate?
- Are there only a few "bells and whistles"? (As a rule of thumb: if you thought "Wow! Now THAT is cool!" when you built it, it's probably too much for a professional Web site.)
- Does it include all relevant information, including contact numbers and email addresses, pricing or pricing tiers, services offered, and your qualifications?
- Does it include a nice, but subdued, portfolio?
Take your time, and think about this project as if you were doing it for a customer. In a way, you are your most important customer. This site needs to draw people to you to generate more business, it shouldn't be something that scares people away or makes it difficult for them to find the information they want.
My Criteria for Judging a High Quality Site
Contact Information For some reason, it is fashionable to make it hard for customers to reach you. Yes, I know, there's problems with spam and so on, but if they can't contact you, how will they be able to tell you they want to hire you for $1Million plus expenses? Be sure your contact information is easy to find on your site, and easy for your customers to use.
Technology Sure, you want to use the latest Flash, PHP, or Java technology. You want to show your clients that you can do what you say you can. But Flash for the sake of Flash is often ugly and just takes a long time to download. Use technology where it makes sense on your site, not just because you can.
Design Use the same professional design techniques you use for your customers' Web sites. You would never put a blinking, flashing red banner ad in the middle of your designs, why are you doing it on your Web site? There is a place for blinking text and flashing graphics, I just haven't found it yet.
Browser Compatibility Do it. Don't force your customers to upgrade to the latest browser, just because you like to use it. If your Web site isn't compatible, they're going to think that's all you can design for, and that's not true, right?
Download Speed It should be fast. If it takes more than 20 seconds to download your site, then it's too big.
If you keep these things in mind while creating a professional site, you'll have a Web designer's Web site you can be proud of.