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How to Find a Web Designer

The first assessment to finding a web designer in Vancouver (or anywhere for that matter) is to know what you need. If you need a website with 4-5 pages that will display text and images without future changes, a web designer should be able to complete the task. But, if you need more, such as content management system, you must determine how much more you need because the skill levels vary.

Determining their Skillset

It is a good idea to ask what technologies would be used to build your website. If you need a content management system, it will use a database and server side language like PHP/mySQL. You will want to know what you need because people who use content management systems can be anything from users editing text and images to software developers creating elaborate custom programs. Since the html/css hand-coder is competing with the kid next door, knowing how your website is built will give some indication to the designer’s experience. However, a good portfolio will show the type of work that they do. Web designers who this sort of work are plentiful and prices vary dramatically. Often, it is very affordable to have it done with HTML/CSS and doing it yourself would be a waste of time. The web is cluttered with amateur-looking websites done by those who decided it was within their grasp. If you want to have changes made in the future, you may want someone trained from a decent institution, since they will use hand-coding techniques and can update websites much faster by manipulating code rather than manipulating text and images with pointing and clicking. The code is much better too since it would not contain bloat generated by a computer.

HTML/CSS Conversion

Another option is to create the website yourself in Photoshop and have it sent out for conversion to html/css. A site like this can look identical to the original Photoshop PSD file. This can be okay, or not. Photoshop is often the source for CSS, WordPress and Joomla templates. The code should be modified after conversion. For html converted pages, pages could end up with separate stylesheets and that would mean a lot of editing later for a very small change. Imagine having to pay $100 for changes when you could have logged in and made them yourself, or with your web developer in less than 10 minutes.

Downside to HTML/CSS Websites

The downside to a basic website built with html/css is that it does not easily allow for expansion of new content. If SEO is important, then a system for which you can expand the website into hundreds of pages and thousands of words. If you need more than the basics, the next stage of progression would be to use a content management system or blog.

Content Management Systems

Some of the major players here are Joomla, WordPress, Drupal, Plone and Expression Engine. Any one of these CMS can allow for a strong SEO plan and allow quite a lot of flexibility in terms of making changes to any part of the website. Here is a zone where web design and web development merge. A web designer with design skills may be able to style with images and text, but may not be comfortable in other programming languages like php and mySQL. In addition to that, a skilled programmer could add and alter custom components and templates. Here is a real division and you should highlight this part.

Determining their CMS skillset

Having someone build your cms can result in low to high pricing. Here are some details that shows what questions will help you determine a web developer in Vancouver who can deliver what you need.

1) I need a CMS. Can you create the cms. If so, do you use the default database prefix, or make a different one? This is a security issue, and most hackers take advantage of the default prefix for sql injections since they already know the database prefix.

2) Do you hand-craft templates, use software, buy them, or any combination. If they hand-craft them or hand-craft with other methods that is a good sign. If all you care about is a website with style and changeability a good template maker may be the only extra skill you need.

3) Can you customize or create extensions for the CMS. If the answer is no and you need a specific feature on your website like video lists, this could be an issue. Here is where an area where skill levels vary dramatically and it can be very difficult to know if the web developer is qualified.

Some people may search forums and spend time trying to copy and paste answers with little or no programming knowledge. It is like it sounds, a person without a clue of the language is taking online advice and trying it out! In some cases it could work, in others it could turn into a big issue between web designer/developer and the client, sooner or later. In some cases, a skilled programmer could do the job in 1-2 hours where as someone not qualified could spend 20 hours looking for a solution. In the end, the solution may not work and they would look elsewhere to find a programmer to fix the issue(and you may never know about it).

If you want the bells and whistles like blogs, forums, custom directory application, custom CRUD applications you are much better off with a qualified web developer who has a list of samples to show. The learning curve between a simple web designer using html/css and maybe some Javascript and a well-rounded dynamic web programmer using a language like PHP, perl, mysql is huge. Not only is it a huge gap, but the skill variance within the language is huge. With WordPress, Joomla, Drupal and many other content management systems exhibiting a huge influence on the web, many web designers without adequate php/mySQL skills are trying to use the PHP/mySQL technologies to the best of their ability without knowing the code.

Caveat Emptor!
Beware of any website designer in Vancouver that does not hand-code, but just uses simple methods like installing the CMS, adding a commercial or computer generated template, installing components for which they do not know how to recode or check for security. A hand-coder is always more efficient and there are a glut of people who build websites on a whim without knowing how to optimize the server, website files, templating, database and coding. They know how to assemble, but that could lead to a slow, unsatisfactory website.

The requirement above covers most jobs. But, for more custom applications you would need to seek a web developer to deliver your custom needs. Here is some more info to find a web developer.

Now that I got a few details out of the way, I hope I made your ability to select an appropriate web designer or web developer a little easier.