Creative Web Design

By contracting a creative web design company to design your new website as opposed to a more traditional web company, you give yourself an unmeasurable edge over your competition in the eyes of your potential customers.

Traditional design companies focus on purely getting a site put together with relevant information, that functionally works. Enter Web 2.0 and more traditional marketing avenues venturing into the marketplace, and creative web design companies have come into the game.

By ‘creative web design’, I refer to websites which still have the functionality and relevant information consumers have come to expect, but have a huge focus on the aesthetic aspect, and use traditional marketing ‘wow factor’ to capture the users attention, and last longer in their mind than those of the competitor.

Picture a billboard with great graphic design and immaculate choice of imagery, compared with an ad on the side of the road simply with a name and number. While you may have chosen to look at both, the creative approach will prompt you, the audience, to remember the creative billboard.

Now picture two websites, side by side. One with a flash intro page, immediately showing a montage of images and grabbing y our attention; which leads into a visually beautiful website where every pixel is perfectly crafted into alignment. Next, a bland website showing you purely text and a basic navigation. The difference is so enormous it’s like comparing Black and White TV with a 3d Movie Theatre.

Through the use of the latest and greatest technology, a creative web design company will use Flash, jQuery, and HTML5 to visually engage the user; however this is where the pitfalls of a creative web design can come into play.

Many years ago, around the year 2000, many graphic design companies started to see an emergence in the marketplace for web services. Many of these companies had employees with a little web experience, enough to get by, and as such they began offering web services. What they didn’t understand was functionality, valid mark-up, cross-browser compatibility, or SEO – all things which a more traditional web design company would take into account.

While this would be classed as a creative web design company, often their creative web design’s wouldn’t be successfully converted from a design into code, and having mis-alignments in a design (especially cross-browser) became commonplace. Without experienced developers on-hand, many of these problems became overlooked, and many substandard creatively designed websites are still around today, with more and more being sent live on the world wide web every day.

For this reason, when looking to hire a creative web design company, you should always be sure to look into their operation, most reputable companies won’t mind you asking a few questions. In a creative web design company, the people building your site should be working as a team. The days of all-rounders are over, and when creativity is to be combined with functionality, it is essential to have a ‘designer’ as well as a ‘developer’ work on your project.

A designer is generally artistically minded, and may have worked as a graphic designer in the print world at some capacity. Thei r goal is to create a visually appealing design for your approval. This will be a static image of what your website is going to look like, as it is much faster to edit a graphic than to edit a coded website. Most creative web design agencies work in a similar fashion, as this allows for the complete artistic talent of the designer to be used, and complete use of the imagination of not only the designer, but also the client.

Once a design is approved, a developer steps in to convert this to a web format in standards compliant code. This may include implementation of a Content Management System (CMS), and generally involves some mild Search Engine Optimization (SEO) as well as cross-browser compatibility. Once this is done, your brand new creative web design is all ready for the World Wide Web.

You need to choose a creative web design company that can fulfil all of your needs from creating a website which suits your brand image and captivates the user, to something which will navigate easily, rank well on search engines, function the same across your entire user-base, and ultimately lead to more conversions in your market.

The main things to keep in mind when choosing a creative web design company are their design to implementation process, their cost, their portfolio, and ultimately the level of service you can expect. I am an online consultant, and can help you shoul d you have trouble finding an agency, or even if you would like me to help in assessing another agencies ability to meet your needs to come up with a creative web design that will fit your needs and help in squashing your competition.

What to Look for in a Web Designer or Design Agency

Google for web designers or web design firms and you will get millions of results for companies all promising very similar things: timely delivery, budget-friendly, search engine optimization and cross-browser compatibility, etc. Now if they were all so great, why are there so many crappy websites you may ask. Here are some qualifications that will help you to weed out the good web designers from the bad ones.

Great Portfolio

A great portfolio displays creativity, style variety and most importantly has examples of real client work and not just spec work from school. Ensure that the web designer’s overall style in their portfolio matches what you are looking for. Test out their previously launched websites to ensure that they are user-friendly, error-free, suitable for their target market and fast-loading.

A great portfolio always trumps design experience or education. Web designers with too much experience could be set in their ways and less open to new ideas or trends. And just because someone took a few classes for design does not mean that they have an eye for it. We have encountered many websites offering web design services with hideous websites.

Customer Service

No matter how stellar your designer or agency is, if they cannot respond to your calls or emails in a timely manner during business hours, they most likely cannot meet your deadline. This can mean death to your business if your project is time sensitive due to something like a product launch. Some freelance web designers are moonlighters meaning that they have full-time jobs and they pick up the odd project here and there for extra cash. Be wary of those folks because they will likely not be around when your project goes awry forcing you to forfeit your deposit.

Required Skills

Whoever you select should be proficient with the web technologies your project requires. If you need Flash for an animated clip, ensure that your web developer is proficient in Flash Actionscripting 3.0. If you want to convert your website into a CMS, ensure that they are well versed in your chosen CMS and the web technologies that support it. Most open-source CMS’ are controlled by PHP. It is always better to hire an expert who can excel at the things you need rather than a jack of all trades who is just mediocre in everything. Usually, you should be able to evaluate this based on their online portfolio.

Their Timeline Fits your Timeline

All projects have a deadline or some preferred time range in which you would like it to be completed. Inexperienced web designers often quote overly optimistic timelines. No matter how simple your website design or redesign is, it is almost impossible for the design process (from concept to completion) to take less than two weeks because there will always be revisions. I always laugh when a potential client emails me and estimates that their new website is very basic and should take no more than 2 days. It is much more professional to quote a longer timeline and deliver earlier than expected. However, if your web designer says it will take much longer than their competitors, they may be moonlighting.

Full-Service

Full-service is usually offered by design firms because it requires a team of developers, designers and marketing experts. Full-service means that they offer all-encompassing web solutions like SEO, ecommerce, branding, mobile compatibility and social media marketing all in one place. Rarely will you find a web designer who is an expert in all of these categories, which is why some companies hire design firms if they have the budget.

Communication Skills

Communication skills are just as important as design and programming skills because if your web designer communicates with bad grammar or spelling mistakes so will your website. Do they articulate issues well? Can they translate complicated technical jargon into laymen terms? You can easily evaluate their communication skills through your initial calls, emails and project proposal.

Marketing / SEO Experience

What good is your website if your target market cannot find it? Your web designer or design firm must understand how to promote it. If you found your web designer by via Google with industry-specific keywords then they must know something about SEO. Here are other simple SEO techniques your web designer should implement to build your web presence:

  • Generate fresh content relevant to your target market with a blog
  • Write a meta title and description tags
  • Include your keyword search terms in your headings and subheadings (H1 and H2 tags respectively)
  • Sprinkle your keyword search terms throughout your content
  • Create a sitemap for search engines to crawl
  • Add your website to online business directories
  • For more SEO strategies, refer to my blog post about Driving High Quality Web Traffic.

Customer References

Ask for client references and make a point about calling them. Ask their clients whether they were responsive, on time and within budget. Some web design firms look for work through freelance websites such as Guru where you can find reviews.

Social Media Presence

Social Media helps you respond to people talking about your brand and understand how they perceive your company. There are so many social media networks but the ones to monitor are Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. A good practice is to post a status update whenever you publish a blog post or new web content.

Cost / Budget

It is key to consider all of the above and then consider cost or budget if everything else falls into place. The cheapest quote is rarely the best.

Jeanette Kwok Web Design is a full-service design agency with clients in US, Canada and Europe that provides:

  • Website Design
  • Joomla Template Design
  • WordPress Blog Theme Design
  • Drupal Theme Design (new service)
  • Majento eCommerce Template Design (new service)
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Mobile Websites
  • Web Maintenance

We collaborate our in-house knowledge and experience with industry web experts such as copywriters, photographers, programmers, animators and other creative talent to clearly communicate your corporate message to your target market to help you achieve your business goals. We know our bandwidth so we only take on design projects if we can complete them within your timeline and budget. Unlike the blanket approach that large design firms adopt, we seek to understand your business to develop your online presence to meet all of your communication objectives so you crush the competition