Welcome to the initial post of the Network Enterprises blog written by Kelly Wildman, owner of Network Enterprises, LLC. For those of you who don’t know me, I’ve been a web designer/developer since 1997. I live and work in Corvallis, Oregon which is located in the beautiful Willamette Valley. I’m often asked by far away clients, “Gosh, doesn’t it rain a lot in Oregon?”. Well yes, sometimes copious amounts on Oregon’s west side, but that is also why it is so lush here.

I first became interested in website design because it appealed to both my creative and technical nature (my formal education was in accounting). Since then, my horizons have expanded to include other aspects such as accessibility, usability, search engine optimization, ecommerce and database development.

I really do love my work and enjoy getting to know new clients and their livelihoods. I realize that there are many web design firms to choose from these days, so I am always honored when a client trusts me to implement their online presence. Selecting and hiring a web developer is a critical business decision, making it especially important to determine what firm might be the best fit for any given circumstance. If you’re pondering hiring a web designer, I would urge you to consider the following:

1. Acquire a domain name. Domain names are a website’s “address”. If you have purchased one through a domain registrar, then you may be ahead of the game. If not, what names have you considered and are they available? A good web designer can steer you in an appropriate direction.

2. Find a web service provider. Websites need to exist on a special computer called a web server which will make your website accessible to the internet. Since there are many web service providers available, which ones might suit your needs and anticipated traffic? If you don’t know, a competent web designer should be able to make several suggestions.

3. Ask for a portfolio or examples of work. Anyone who’s created at least one website can call themselves a “web designer”. Would you hire someone to drive a School Bus when they’ve driven a car only one time? Somehow, I don’t think you would.

4. Ask for references. A competent web designer should be able to quickly provide you with a list of past and current clients. Find out if they completed projects on time, within budget, and what their working style is like.

5. Interview them. Although a web designer may not be an employee, you should still determine if you can work with them. Are they professional, courteous, sincere, and prompt? Do they “speak your language” or do they rattle off acronyms and terms that sound like a foreign language? Do they understand the scope of work at hand? Do they ask as many questions of YOU as you do of them?

6. Ask about a contract. I’m still amazed at how many web designers do not produce contracts or a written scope of work. This is can be a recipe for disaster. Contracts should protect the developer and the client equally, outlining what should be done, at what time and the costs involved.

7. Ask yourself “are you ready?” It is common for a client to believe that they MUST have a website. In all honesty, this may not be the case. However, if you believe that a website would be a benefit to your business, then it WILL involve additional work and consideration on your part. Do you know what you want and why? How will your website support your current business goals? How do you anticipate compiling the information necessary to relate these goals through your website? Content such as text and images will need to be supplied. Do you have the time, staff or resources to do this?

By heeding these few suggestions, you have an improved chance of weeding out inappropriate web designers that could end in disaster. My goal has always been that if my client’s succeed, then so do I, aspiring to not only meet a client’s expectations, but to exceed them.

I wish you the best in your web design goals!