This is a tell tale sign. Yes, it is true, the shoemakers kids always have the worst shoes, but a web designers website should be somewhat up to date. Our website is always a bit behind and only a very small amount of our websites are on our portfolio.
1. Check for a responsive and mobile design. If you are looking at the site on a computer, grab the side of the browser and slide it back and forth. Does the website scale and the menu and images change so that the website adjusts for different size screens? If not – run. Period. Responsive designs have been out for several years and that is a necessity.
2. Is their phone and address readily available on their homepage? If not – run. Is the phone number click to call from the mobile phone view? Open their website on a mobile phone and click on the phone numbers on the homepage and contact page. If they do not call the web designer, then clearly the web designer does not have a clear understanding of how customers interact with a website and are missing the ball.
3. Do they have a wide spread portfolio and do they link to the portfolio sites from their website? And do those portfolio links open in a new tab or window. As a business, you never want your prospects or customers to leave your site. It takes a few extra seconds to make those links open in a new tab and leave your website up, those little details will tell you a lot about the skills and knowledge of your potential web developer.
4. Did they use an original design for their own website or did they just buy a cheap template and make their site? If they cannot make their own design for their own website, what makes one think that they will be creative and original with your business and needs? We see this at least three times a week. “I bought a custom website from fly by night website designer” And it turns out it is a poorly designed $39 wordpress template that was destroyed trying to make it work for that business. Custom websites are not hard, they do require time and skill. And in reality they are a necessity. Different customers use websites differently for various businesses. Your web designer should be tracking how people visit a site and be able to adjust the site to maximize the business return. Soon I will do an article about how to tell if a website is from a template.
5. How is the site speed and optimization? Many website designers will pump out a cheap site, even their own but not go through a website process or checklist and check their work. This is a must. There are several sites such as https://gtmetrix.com/ and Google https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/ Do not expect perfect results as those are unrealistic and not completely accurate, but a handful of Ds and Fs are not good. For a responsive design – Google should be above 60 for mobile and 80 for desktop. Keep in mind, to obtain a perfect score, it can easily take 40-80 hours to get close to a perfect score. This is expensive for a small business website. We strive for the 80/20 rule when building sites for small businesses as they budget only allows for us to get close. But there should be some optimization involved. Also – grab a few sites from their portfolio and check those sites for performance as well.
6. How is the website security and best practices. Many of the web designers sites that we see are using a store bought template on wordpress. A very simple test to check basic security is to go the the website.com address and put in /wp-admin or wp-login.php If the login screen displays, then even a simple tweak to make the site a little more secure has not been done and that web designers knowledge is minimal at best.