Look at Your Competitors
Before you even get started it would be wise to check out your competition particularly in the local areas, you may find it quite a eye opener. Generally speaking I find they’ll either be really good or really bad, the really good being dedicated web design businesses whilst the bad seem to squeeze the design in between every other tech job going. As well as providing some insight to the issues that plague the web design industry it will also help you set your own benchmarks and help give you the ideas to stand out amongst your peers as well as provide you with an understanding of what you should be charging.
Have You Got The Time?
Look at your current situation and consider whether you even have the time to get web design in and around the rest of your business operations. One of the biggest mis-considerations is the time that a website can take to get going from the ground up. Consultations, building the design, editing graphics, client not liking the design, redesigning, it all takes up precious hours and usually a lot of them. It’s particularly harder for one man/woman operations so having the ability to delegate certain tasks will make your life much easier.
If you find that time is a cause for concern you might still be able to outsource particular parts of the process. It quickly became apparent for me that I’m certainly no graphic designer. If I can’t find anything in my image stocks or online stock photography websites then I’ll outsource the work to one of two graphic designers I have on my books. Be honest with yourself, if there’s a particular part you know you’re not good at then find someone who is. Your websites will benefit and will set you apart from the competition.
Can you use PhotoShop?
Even if you do outsource graphic based work like me it’s still strongly encouraged to have some sort of grasp on the basics of graphic manipulation. If you (or your client) later decide on a small color/size change on the logo then having the ability to quickly make that change yourself will save you both time and money. After some experience working with your favorite graphics package you may find yourself outsourcing a lot less as well as getting much more efficient at the overall design process.
WYSIWYG or Notepad?
If you’re new to the game then you’ll be using a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) design editor, although not an exceptionally accurate acronym with the growing number of browsers and devices accessing the Internet it still holds the basic premise. You draw pretty boxes in a window and the background coding is done for you. Having said that it’s important to know the coding and using either notepad or at the very least the coding view of DreamWeaver for example will help develop your understanding of the underlying code. The more experience you have doing this the better a designer you’ll be as you’ll be able to identify problems more quickly and streamline your coding to remove the “fluff” which is often the result of the WYSIWYG.
Design For Your Client & The Browser
Its all very well designing a site for your client but it’s becoming increasingly important that all your websites display accurately across multiple browsers and devices as the browsing habits of the average user continue to adapt and change in the browser and particularly the mobility markets. It may look fantastic on IE 9 but the likelihood is that if you haven’t been checking, it will probably look disastrous on your iPhone. “Design for FireFox, fix for IE” was the guidelines a couple of years back, but with the recent browser and devices releases this term now feels somewhat obsolete. Just “Design for Everything”, keep checking randomly throughout the design process to save yourself a very big headache towards the end.
Template discussions will often bring in two conflicting views consisting of those who love them and those that wouldn’t touch them. In truth I find myself somewhere in the middle of that. Templates do have their place and for small businesses its often a necessity to have some of the ground work in place to either save time or at the least to kick start the creative process. I’m happy to admit that a blank page will often leave me deflated and I’ll find it hard to drum up the encouragement to tap out all the boring basics of HTML tagging structures. Templates for me are very much there to kick start me creatively and if it doesn’t look completely different shortly after starting then its time to go back to my trusty notepad. The big NO for template use is the creation of duplicate websites from one template. I mean that if you’re just changing the images and text for every new client but leaving in the exact same web page structure then its likely you’ve not listened to your clients needs and is just bad industry practice. If your clients get wind of the fact that their website looks exactly the same as various other businesses in the area then they may well be within their rights to ask for their money back? I await your comments ;)
Your pricing will ultimately depend on your commitment to the web design work that arrives at your business and the competition you have in the area. As a guideline my competition are charging up to £500 for every website they make, they generally consist of a few pages and they’re all the same as each other except the odd logo change and image swap. Given that all my clients receive an exceptionally unique design with bespoke graphics and photography where necessary £500 would be a base price growing to £1500 for PHP coding work for small online shops.
Solucija.com produces a nice handful of free templates which have provided a nice basis for a few of my past designs. For those starting out with web design it demonstrates clean coding techniques and provides some great CSS use particularly with menus.
A good collection but will require sifting through some of the rubbish.
A subscription based access site which may work well for you if you’re doing a lot of website work.
Stock Image Websites
Just a few of my favorite stock image sites.
Have A Contract
You might have said to your client that you will create this many pages, to be completed on this date for this price. It may seem fairly black and white but there are many more issues you need to sort out before you start work such as:
- What sort of fee structure are you going to use? A percentage before and after completion or outright?
- Are there any late fees if the client doesnt pay on time?
- When is the content for the website due? There have been many horror stories of clients holding up projects for months because they dont get the content to the developer
- How many design revisions are included in the initial quote? Again, there have been many horror stories where the client expects unlimited design changes to be included in the original cost
- Who owns the rights to the graphics and code?
The above tips and guidelines I hope will offer up some areas of thought which may guide you through some of your future web design offerings, especially if you’re considering to branch out in this area in the near future. If you have the time and inclination then web design can be great fun and an excellent way to increase your income. Of course web design opens up additional opportunities down the line, SEO and email/web marketing and hosting to name but a few. Are you offering web design to your clients? If there’s one piece of advice you could offer readers considering web design what would it be?