Finding a Good Web Designer the Hard Way
If you are reading this, you probably know what we're talking about. CHRISAL of California wanted to provide information, promote our business and at the risk of sounding crass - sell something. Whether you are selling a product, a service, or soliciting support for a charity - the bottom line is you want to "sell".
We knew that somewhere between - our President's nephew (budding computer geek taking courses at the local community college) who swore he could set us up with a "kick ass web site" - and the ultra-expensive, big Web Design firm (with offices in the high rent district) who promised us the moon - there had to be a designer for us. Right?
With thousands of Web designers and developers out there, ranging from individual freelancers to big Website Design agencies, how did CHRISAL "luck out" and make the right choice?
Jim Hay SEO was our final choice and we're glad that we did our homework up front. We ended up working very closely with Jim at Jim Hay SEO. The end product, the CHRISAL-probiotics web site, we think speaks for itself.
It Wasn't Luck
In order to find help, CHRISAL needed first to figure out what we wanted as a company. We needed to do homework and not just count on good luck. We asked ourselves the following questions:
What kinds of information should be our web site?
Our product is scientifically-based. We needed some fairly technical articles. Obviously, no web designer was going to know the specifics about our product. It dawned on us that we needed to be prepared - do some writing - up front. We needed plenty of visuals. We needed to divide our product into categories.
How big should our website will be?
CHRISAL Probiotics decided to start with about 60 pages and add to the site over the following months. This meant that we needed to have 60 pages of "content rich" information about our product and the problems that our product can solve.
Who will be using our website?
People who are educated - people looking for green alternatives - forward thinking people - people with problems they need to solve - people interested in non-invasive types of products - sophisticated customers who would want technical information.
Will the site require regular updates? Would we like to make changes in house?
Absolutely. With a scientifically based product - we needed the web site to be updated as new studies and information became available. We were not sure if I anyone on our staff was knowledgeable enough to update the website.
When did we want the web site up and running?
Yesterday? OK - seriously we set a 2 month goal for a 60 pg website.
Did we want to work with someone local?
Face-time did not seem important for this job. In fact, if we couldn't work on a website with someone at a distance we felt it didn't bode well. We were going to expect customers to visit our site from all over. So, this was not a deal breaker at all.
We started out thinking we could get a website up for under $5,000. Boy - did we go through some sticker shock. One company wanted $5,000 down to start and they weren't promising even one page up and running for that. That was just for their up front SEO work. Needless to say we hung up fast on that call.
What were our deal breakers?
CHRISAL management would not tolerate a designer who would not listen to us about what we envisioned. Or, a designer who developed sites that are too slow. Or, a web site design that tended toward an overly "busy" style. Or, websites that had no factual content. Or, designers who just made it look pretty, but didn't know anything about Search Engine Optimization. The boss's Aunt Lil always said, "You can't eat ambiance." We think the same goes for web sites. They need to deliver - not just look slick.
The Search Begins
OK - so we've now established that CHRISAL wanted a great deal of work done, in an exceedingly short period of time, and that we needed it to be done on a reasonable budget. We didn't need an ordinary web design company - we needed superman.
I don't want to scare you - but OMG. There are some fast-talking, hard-selling web designers out there. It seemed like they threw a lot of lingo at us and hoped to intimidate us into signing on with them. One thing we knew was that this project would not be something we could just hand off and turn on the computer in 2 months and voila! The person we chose needed to be able to listen to us long enough to be able to capture the vision we had. Just as important, the designer needed to be able to set goals for us and tell us what he needed in language that we could understand. We needed someone who we could click with. We needed someone who wasn't already driving us crazy during the honeymoon period.
We looked at web sites created by our potential list of designers. Hey, if his own site doesn't show you some of the bells and whistles of the trade? Not a good sign. Also, if we didn't like the style of the web designer's own website - too "artsy-fartsy" - or too flashy, we figured we probably weren't going to like what they did for CHRISAL either.
We conducted telephone interviews. As I mentioned before - we ran into some high pressure sales types. They knew we didn't understand all the inside terminology they were slinging around, but they didn't care. The less we knew - the better for them - was the feeling we got.
We Decide on Jim Hay SEO As Our Website Designer
Finally, we talked to Jim at Jim Hay SEO. First of all, Jim is just salt of the earth. A man who says it like it is. No fancy talk - he was willing to explain terminology we didn't understand. No pressure sales. For the first time we felt calm. This was a man who was not going to spring hidden costs on us. He clearly knew his business. He clearly did not know our business, and he didn't pretend to.
We liked that. He didn't pretend that he could write content about a product he knew nothing about. Before it was all over, Jim knew a great deal about our probiotic products. He took the time to read the material we sent him. Then he began to build an elegantly simple, easy-to use, fast web site. He used the content we provided and suggested topics that we hadn't addressed.
There were many conversations about the best way to organize the flow of information, and Jim listened to us patiently on points of personal preference or taste. He set a steady pace of work and emailed notes when he needed more content from us. We had to work to keep up with him. Mind you, this was during Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday and Jim was working away to meet our goals. You don't have to worry about work ethic with this designer.
For us, the beginning was the scary part. Jim was doing lots of code - laying down a foundation for the website. It's not like a bunch of graphics went up and CHRISAL had something flashy to look at right away. So, as the customer we were sort of anxious. But, Jim patiently explained what he was doing and allowed us to see the progress. It is sort of like watching a flower bloom. When the graphics started going in - it got really exciting.
Jim came to understand what we were probably not going to like. Several times he made suggestions to change something, creating more work for himself, because he'd found a way to accomplish a CHRISAL goal in a more esthetically pleasing way. He got a feel for what we envisioned. We weren't starting back at page one every time we teleconferenced.
There were times when a spelling error, or grammatical error would come up and make us antsy. (We kept telling each other that Henry Ford and Thomas Edison were poor spellers and look what they accomplished.) In time, we came to realize spelling and grammar are easy fixes. The skeleton of the web site needed to be strong and the bones sound. We decided to not sweat the small stuff. All the nits could be fixed - if we could just get a robust design to work off of. And that is just how it worked out!
The main framework - the way the information flowed - the way the story unfolded - the way we moved around the site - those are the things that Jim got really right. Clean, logical, simple, fast.
We liked the fact that we weren't working with a lot of people. Jim was the key - though at one point we did have some label work done by someone else on the Jim Hay SEO team. I think we achieved a consistency throughout the web site that would've been hard to achieve if we'd had a larger team working on it. There was close collaboration between two people at our company and Jim. Getting all three of us going in the same direction was the key. We always got the sense that Jim was dedicated to our project and he had the personal motivation to make our website successful.
Value for the Investment
CHRISAL believes that we got a lot of value for our investment. Jim didn't work for free, but then neither do we. We always felt that we got more than we paid for, because Jim went the extra mile to get the site looking just the way we wanted.
This may seem like a lot of work to you. We aren't going to lie. It was. First, we talked to several web designers and SEO experts before settling on Jim Hay SEO. Then we developed the rich content material in our field of expertise. Then we had to collaborate closely with Jim. There were times when Jim probably wanted to wring our nit-picking necks. But, he stayed upbeat, steady and patient with us. All this hard work led to a custom website that reflects the culture of our company.
CHRISAL is very pleased with our website launch. And we look forward to working with Jim Hay SEO on a maintenance plan to keep the site fresh and current. CHRISAL is putting the power of probiotics to work now, thanks to our powerful web site design.
Deborah L. Ziegler
Chrisal of California
949 378 2896