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Leading the charge for a better website

It astonishes me how cavalier some businesses and organisations are with regard to their websites. This is their home on the web. At the very least, it is their business card on the web.

A more advanced site can be a communications hub for staff, stakeholders, customers, and as importantly, potential new customers.

So it should reflect the professionalism and the ethos of the business. It should look good, have the right functionality and be updated without typos and grammar glitches.

However, commissioning a website can be baffling for someone who has little experience in the area.

Marty Neill, managing director of Belfast interactive design company, No More Art, warns: “Often businesses can be surprised at the costs involved in getting a solid presence on the web and this sometimes leads to them cutting corners or hiring people with limited experience. This is a dangerous gamble as a website is now generally the first point of contact people have with a business and first impressions last.”

It is the designer’s job to understand your needs and how those needs can be best addressed. If they don’t, then walk away.

Andy McMillan, a freelance web designer comments: “The most enjoyable projects, I find, are always with clients who are genuinely interested in the process behind design.

“If you're hiring a designer to complete a piece of work and not attempting to foster a relationship with them, you're doing it wrong.’’

The clear message is that you should not commission pretty pictures, you should commission functionality.

“Designers need to understand the business they’re working for and the aims that they have as best they can before beginning work on any design,” adds Marty Neill.

“Sometimes clients themselves are unsure as to why they want a website and the designer’s role should be to help the client make good decisions about functionality and to implement it well.”

Andy McMillan believes the client should always get involved with |the process. He says: “Ask questions. Unsuccessful work goes hand-in-hand with clients disinterested in the process and end up with work they're not happy with.”

Davy Sims blogs at davysims.com