It can be hard for small business owners to know exactly what services they should receive from a web designer. Of course they will design a site for you and publish it to the web but what exactly does that mean?

Prep Work

The first thing  a good web designer should provide you with is a creative brief before they quote on the project. A creative brief will ask you a bunch of questions about what pages you need on your site, what sites you like and should be used as design reference, what sites you consider your competitors, who your target market is, and what content will be going on each page. All of this information will allow the designer to quote on your site accurately so that both of you are on the same page.

What if you don’t get asked these questions? It doesn’t mean that the web designer is a bad one but it may mean that they will not be prepared for all of the things you want on your website. If that happens then the relationship will be strained on both sides. You will both assume that you are on the same page and you won’t be. You as the client may expect a very complex form on your ‘contact’ page while the designer may expect that all you need is a basic three field form. Both of you will be frustrated by the lack of understanding of the other.

With the information gathered in the creative brief the designer should then take the time to survey your competitors to get a better understanding of your market. Without a good survey of your industry the designer will be unprepared to really design a site that is good for your users, and ultimately the site if for the users not for you.

Build for SEO

A good web designer should also be building your site with on page SEO in mind. On page SEO makes sure that you have proper heading tags, alt tags on images, and that you have all of the appropriate meta tag information. I would also expect them to set up a proper 301 redirect so that if people type in your site address without www at the beginning they will be sent to the version with www at the beginning. If they don’t do this both sites will be viewed as different sites and that will hurt your search engine ranking. This initial set up is not a full SEO plan for your business but a firm foundation for you to continue with a good plan to maximize your search engine results.

Web Standards

Your web designer should build your site to proper web standards from the start. Not only does this provide you with a site that is easier for search engines to read it also sets up your site for easier changing in the future. While I’ll admit there are some valid reasons not to have a site that validates to the W3C spec there should be a good reason that this is done. Accidentally capitalizing a break tag is not a valid reason to fail W3C validation.


Finally a web designer should take your target market into account when implementing accessibility on your site. If you are getting them to design a site for video gamers then it you can safely assume that they will have the latest plugins for Flash, and Javascript. While if they are designing a site that is marketed at the elderly it is safe to assume that they may not be the most technically savvy of users and you should build to suit their needs, which in not necessarily with the newest and greatest technology. If you just try to have the newest technology in your site without addressing how this will affect your end user you are doing them a disservice. Your web designer should build the site for your users not for themselves or for you.