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The World Wide Web is crucial to maintaining Freedom of Information while well designed websites encourages information to be read and spread
Ray's web design studio - RWS - helping to spread the word
Ray's web design studio - RWS - helping to spread the word
Ray's web design studio - RWS - helping to spread the word
Ray's web design studio - RWS - helping to spread the word
Ray's web design studio - RWS - helping to spread the word
Ray's web design studio - RWS - helping to spread the word

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A website is the window into your company and service.

We want visitors to look into your window and say, this is what we need.

We use a number of skills, our business knowledge, our knowledge of users and design plus assorted technologies to help achieve that.

If you would like more information then please contact us.

Good luck with your enterprise and contact us should you have questions or need assistance with your website. Of course we are always happy to hear should you like one creating.


An informal opinion on why a website is better built by a web designer than doing it yourself or getting a 'friend' from along the road to build it.

We are happy to receive comments on these views.

The article was placed online 5th June 2013 by Raymond Howell of Rays Web Studio (RWS). There are no hidden costs to reading this and no adverts will jump out at you and no knock-on services are involved other than the placement of our phone number here, which is 01472 852037 (just in case you wish to talk about this further) and a gentle prompt that if you like this and it was useful to you then you could make a small donation so we can fund more articles like it because they do take time to write.

Choosing a Web Site Design Company.

This has been written to consider for potential clients why they should use a design company for their site build as opposed to using a readymade site or using an inexperienced friend to build it. The article is not about flying our flag, it is an attempt to highlight a situation created where we get called to remedy a bad design or to assist because the chosen site framework (a build your own CMS, Joomla, Wordpress etc) is beyond the clients expertise.

Will this be biased? Of course, but for the right reason. We want your website to work for you, we want you to be happy with it and of course, we want the chance to build it.

Before any site is built regardless of who builds it, or the framework used, the 'site owner' must have clear ideas of what they want to achieve, an idea on how they want the site to look, and function and also have a realistic idea of their own ability, which includes the time factor, to manage the site, particularly if it is to be an online shop.

That sounds harsh or forbidding, it isn't meant to be, these are practical considerations.

You have a plan - you want a site building. Who to use can be a tricky question. So let us look first at who not to use.

Just because someone knows how to drive a car does not mean they are a qualified mechanic. Because someone is an engineer doesn't mean they can design for the web. Or that a graphic artist can build an online business site and understands online marketing. Agreed?

Friends? Just because a friend understands the workings of a PC or can open a word processing programme, or they are in the first year of their IT course does not mean they have the skills to be a website designer. Sorry, but it is true. Just because they are in the fourth year does not make them a designer either. Web Design aptitude cannot be fully taught - in the main it is acquired. A designer is about attitude, life experiences, web experiences and an ability to communicate and to empathise. Of course, acquired academically trained skills account for bundles but not if they are applied incorrectly.

So if you want a site which stands a chance of succeeding, do not use your brother or other relative or friend (if unqualified) to build it. So often we hear the words my xxx friend, or relative, knew a bit about it so we got them to build the website. Wrong. (The proof? They were talking to us because it was not succeeding).

Choosing the wrong person - because it was easy to do - is possibly the worst mistake a perspective website owner can make. It can cost them revenue, reputation and create considerable unnecessary stress.

I came across a site link which design wise had the promise to be really brilliant - they were marketing bouncy castles - their vans were so well decorated and designed I just had to look at their website. When I did it was an awful let down and it lacked even a telephone number or a means to contact the company.

The 'brother in law' put it together and the people concerned just didnt want to offend him by having it put right and redesigned. I was so disappointed for them and I so wanted to see a site which reflected the brilliant artwork on their vans that I offered to design it for nothing. The offer was refused, rudely I might add, because they did not want to offend their brother in law. What a stupid situation they got themselves into! It was another year before a telephone number and an email address appeared on a blank white contact page. Ho Hum.

Had the website matched their brilliant vans then that business could have 'flown', instead it dragged along very slowly. What a shame and what a waste of their efforts. They had no idea of the benefits a good website might have brought to them due to the brother in laws inadequate experience.

That situation is not uncommon. People don't really like what they get given by friends or relatives but are afraid to say so because to do so might cause conflict.

Most sites built without experience of web marketing, designs principles, an understanding of user psychology, the use of colour, grid layout ascetics, image creation and manipulation, copy presentation and wording, effective use of the latest technology, JQuery, PHP (plus variants of), Javascript, Asp.Net, eCommerce, Blogs, Wordpress, Joomla etc, or understanding web hosting pitfalls, plus of course the schematics of good site SEO, will fail, without doubt. What a waste of time, money, effort and dreams.

Remember Sales Reps? They were chosen for their product presentational skills, their persuasiveness, and their ability to represent and consolidate the company image by the way they dressed, acted and generally 'carried out ' the act of business. Your copy, your images, your layout and your colourisation are your Sales Reps.

Would you employ Goofy to represent your business, which sells Italian handmade silk suits? No, of course not (no offense Goofy). You would employ someone who can represent your brands image, who understands your brand, understands your market place and everything that stands for.

Web Designers should be able to stand up and say; yep we can do that and achieve it. If your 'helper' can't say 'yes' I CAN do that then don't use them, because doing so will shatter your dreams and maybe cost you money.

Lets think about an online shop

If you are starting an online shop you have to plan it plus you must consider the time needed to update the site; if the site owner has never used the type of software needed to run an online shop they have to consider their ability to use it and to plan around that too. A good designer will be able to talk to them about that, show them the plus and minus points to their ideas, explain the principles of the software, again the plus and minus points to it and generally help clients to gain understanding. Most amateurs just do not think 'customers needs', hence the number of clients I have helped - often unpaid because they have blown their budget - because they have become stuck, bogged down or are completely out of their depth.

If building an online shop then you might need to consider stock turnover. Stock turnover means site updates. Who is going to do it, how much time will be involved and what knowledge is needed.

What use is a shop if you cannot maintain it?

By all means accept help on that side - but also understand the implications to you if for example, you are using your daughters boy friend to help? Ok, great while they are together and great while he hasn't toddled off yet to university.

Think seriously about how you cope with the shop if left alone? Where can you get help and so on. In situations like that the phone number of your local web designer could be just the ticket. 01472 852037.

Incidently, I do provide some clients with contact details for a really reliable Joomla site admin service based in the Philippines. I helped to set them up and work with them often when setting up new stores for clients. I send them your product details in a text file or a spreadsheet, then I run through your product set up details, then I leave them to work their magic.

A service something like that can be worth thinking about. Yes it costs but if the site needs updating and you can't do it, what is the cost of not doing so? What alternative is there? Leave it with old stock on? Shut the shop down?

As an alternative to the Philippine service I also update clients product databases for them which a lot of web design companies will not do. The Philippine service, or my assistance, are an efficient, cost effective back stop while you spend time learning your software (We can supply links to good sites for you to learn from or we are happy to show you some of the fundermentals).

Another thought when deciding on a shop

What type of products you will be selling? If a bespoke element is involved, how will that be presented to the customer and how will the customer convey their requirements to you? In that situation is it an online shop you need or is it an online show room? There can be a difference.

This year within the first 4 months 18 calls for help were received from people with online shops which they had taken off line for exactly the reasons illustrated. That is 18 dreams and income thrown out of the window due to the wrong person helping them to get started. In every case those individuals were not web designers but thought they knew enough to help. Of course their intentions were good, this is not a knock at them, but rather a simple statement that their inexperience crippled the businesses from day 1.

That stated, these people can offer a lot of assistance at the planning stage if they and the 'new site owner to be' accepts and understands the limits of their knowledge.

Also, if your still at college friend produces good artwork, then pass the designs onto your web designer, that is good use of your friends skill. They might also suggest you could use Joomla for your shop and show you a Joomla site - great, you now have something to ask your designer about.

So, friends are useful in many ways, particularly to help expand your knowledge, to give you ideas and to help you research and plan. At that stage you should then be ready to look for a web designer and be able to get the best from them.

Thank you for reading this and good luck with your enterprise.

The following expands on some of the above points.

Planning? approach the thinking in a similar way to how you might think about redecorating / refurbishing a home from scratch.

If for example you are not sure about what you do want or like then start to list what you don't like in a site. If you hate pop ups, then list that. If you hate a site where navigation is difficult to use or find, add it to the list. If you hate particular colours, list those. List what you want the site to achieve and how you achieve that. An important part to consider at this stage is customer demographics because that will lead the design. From the list you can grow your likes, form ideas of what it is you want and how you might achieve it.

Should a design not be to your liking, or have been ill considered (both rare events if a good all round designers is used) at least with a design company you have recourse of sorts, but with a relative or friend, or someone not really versed in web building arts, you have none. True a friend might charge you less at the on-set, but the long term costs to the web business in terms of lost revenue due to the overall design imperfections or use of the wrong user environment (example use of Joomla or Wordpress for someone not computer literate), and so therefore use of inappropriate copy, images and so on, could be astronomical.

I have seen that mistake happen so many times - but Jonny at university said it would be right for me! It was right for him, not you! Remember that Jonny is still wet behind the ears, he / she hasn't a clue about the difficulties of managing a business, a home, learning difficult technologies, the time needed to update things, learning online marketing, how to influence viewers, how to write copy so that the site returns in Google (or others) and is informative and persuasive. If you do it for yourself using things like Joomla, Wordpress, Drupal (CMS's) then you will need to acquire all those skills, plus more. Sure, you should eventually learn some of the copy writing, marketing and presentation skills, but in time, when it suits and so on. When you are ready to move a site to say, Joomla because you have acquired the necessary skills then your web Designer can help there to.

At times using a friend, partner, acquaintance can be right of course.

Use your friend or unqualified acquaintance to help build your mind picture of what it is you seek and maybe even explore together existing sites which might look and function the way you would like. Or use them to help you understand how CMS works and to explore whether 'is it for you' yet. Research is great when you can exchange ideas, so grab as many helpers as you can.

Younger helpers who have grown up using the web will have some very good and valid ideas - grab them - but because they have those, it does not mean they have the rounded knowledge to build a successful site.

Selling shoes to youngster? Then talk to the younger members of your circle. Selling cardigans for the blue rinse brigade? Then talk to Aunt so and so and her friends. It is called research, it helps with your understanding of what look and functionality design might work for you.

Researching with them means that you will be in a better position to illustrate your preferences to the designer so helping you achieve the look, the functionality and have the online marketing potential you would like. Now that is a big help and thank you to the friend or whoever did that. Having a firm idea of what you would like could save you money too, so again, thanks to the helpers.

Letting them build your site.

Look mom, we can build our own site if we host here. Shall we do it? Mistake!

The tool provides a standard template - your layout and look will be the same as others. The colours may or may not be right for you? Get it wrong and your message is ignored. It does not help with your copy content or presentation style or the marketing angle of your copy content; it does not care how bad your images might be and the effect that might have. In fact, it does not care at all about your business, your website, or you. The tools are there simply to extract monthly hosting fees from you. To be perfectly honest, I have seen very few of the advertised web hosting template designs appear in searches- yes, I would recognise them. That speaks volumes. Our advice is, do not use them unless you are sure you know what you are doing and do not let unqualified people talk you into using such tools.

When to use friends / relatives / Jonny from down the road

Use friends to help you understand the look, the content, the functionality, and maybe even some marketing ideas but letting them build it too without the right background and knowledge will put your business at risk and your friendship too when it fails. In addition, where do you go if you fall out, the site needs maintenance, and you do not know how to do it? Use a web designer always.

How then to chose a designer.

The first question is what is it you want to achieve. If you want to build an Amazon or EBay type-site then you would need a web design company specialising in development or as more often happens these days, a web design company who can sub contract out and manage the development for you. The odds on the build being outsourced to say, India, are extremely high for reasons of personnel costs.

Do not frown at that, it is understandable and cost wise, often the right thing to do. For a website design company to employ experts for every type of internet coding base (could mean 30 to 60 people) and marketing concept gurus, designers, illustrators, photographers, copywriters etc and maybe a web business advisor, would mean only the largest of business concerns would be able to afford to have a website designed and built. That situation would not be good for business.

Many so called graphic design companies who claim also to build websites usually farm them out to a smaller design company adding their percentage on of course. That can be both good and bad for a client. Just be aware that is what they are doing. In fact, I know of graphic design studios who also farm out logo and artwork design; all they do is doodle an idea and pass it on. Ho hum, £5,000 please :). Personally, I am not keen on that approach, I think it is business 'dishonest', but that is a personal view. Also, I like to deal with the person doing things for me.

The understanding, personal touch.

If you prefer the personal touch then choosing to start off discussions with what might appear to be a small web design business is often the right step because they should have an all round grasp of Internet technologies, design etc and should be able to guide you in the right direction. If you need a small but effective business site then they ought to be the right place to start to look. If after discussions you want to try elsewhere, that is your choice.

Our aim is to help a business attain its goal.

Speaking for ourselves if we feel we cannot facilitate a customer's requirements we will tell them but at the same time we will help them to source a more suitable web development or graphic design business should they want that.

Therefore, who you choose will initially depend upon the attitude of the design business. If they want you to accept a particular direction or design as opposed to listening to your ideas or explaining why a particular route or design style would be better for you then drop them like a brick. Walk out, or discontinue the association, do not even bother trying to persuade them to your view.

If a dentist refused to listen to you and wanted to pull the wrong tooth would you let them? Of course not. Do not let designers bully you into something they want to provide.

Their motives might not always be to your best interests. For example, to maximise their return on your build some designers often chose a predefined look (used before) and worse a standard ' template' and then force your ideas to fit that. THAT IS SO WRONG! Unless of course it IS the right approach. Only you can tell based on your requirements and on your perception of the smooth talking salesperson :). Yes, designers are sales people too.

Think carefully, these are your dreams and your money at risk.

So, if you are unsure, say thank you and walk away.

There are plenty of other designers around. Your designer is there to help you achieve your internet dreams, not theirs. It is not just about a designers skill levels, it is also about the trust you feel in your designer. If you feel trust then design issues which do arise from time to time, if the designer has not quite grasped your concepts, can usually be satisfied amicably.

If the designer wants to explain concepts and the processes, let them, it is right that they do so. However, if it all becomes confusing then just say, hold on, back up, or let's talk about that another time. If you feel that the designer does not want to include you in the design path then consider why. My view is move on again and keep doing that until you find someone you feel comfortable with.

Does the designer appear to understand your business, your market and your aims?

Obviously, that ought to have been placed first on the list. If you feel they do and they are willing to explore various design ideas then that is probably the designer for you. In that case it does not matter if the person is suited and booted or still wearing 60's flares (yes, I eventually threw mine out in favour of corduroys) or working from a room at home or a swanky office uptown (they cost more!).

If you can both communicate your ideas and are open to each other's views and the designer has the skill to develop your site and understands your market then you are home and dry. It is then just a matter of cost.

Nearly finally. We feel it is wrong to say to your designer, you know I need a website so just show me it once it has finished. Would you say to a decorator, I need my house redecorating so you chose the colours and the papers I will live with whatever you decide? No, you would not, so do not say that to your designer. I do not know how many times I have had that discussion. Take part, or at least ask to see the design stages so you can comment on them.

I can promise you there are designers out there who virtually insist that you back off and leave them alone because they want to get on with the job without interruptions or input. Basically, they want to do it their way, not yours. That has to be a wrong approach. Where is the client in all this?

If you really do not want to be involved then at the very least give the designer some idea of the look you want your site to have. Also, some designers will charge for changes should you not like it! After all, if you did not state what you wanted and expect the designer to keep trying until you are happy, then these things take time. As they say, time is money and the designer is there to make a living too. By joining in with the process you could be saving yourself costs and achieve exactly the look and functionality you want your site to have.

Very finally, if you have a logo, then give it to them. If you prefer to have a logo designed by someone else, then go ahead, it is your right. If you want swirled backgrounds and you know just the thing then supply it, so long as it is all of useable quality. If not, at the least you would have provided the designer with ideas.

Very very finally, images.

Good images make a page. Supply bad, blurred, uninteresting images and no matter how smart the page layout and any artwork looks, bad images detract the look and ultimately detract from your business / brand image. Images should not be the last thing considered, or passed across, but the first followed by some basic 'guiding' site copy.

Good Web Designer hunting and good luck with your enterprise.