The One Question to Ask Your Web Design Firm

Here’s the paper rocket ship I send to congratulate clients when their new sites launch. You’re only getting a mere hint of its awesomeness in this snapshot, but I think it helps to capture the excitement of launching a great new website.

There’s also the sad dismay of launching a mediocre new website. A poorly built site that won’t do as well as it should in search or present your business as well as you hoped it would.

Katie York of Peacock Media asked me how to avoid that, when having a site built. After all, you get a chance to approve and make changes to your content, and you get to approve and make changes to a mock-up — which is to say, a picture — of your design. How do you know whether your site is good under the hood or not?

And more importantly, how can you tell ahead of time whether it’s going to be good under the hood or not. Because after it’s launched and you learn that it was built with a template from 1995, it’s too late. How can you make sure that the new site or redesign you’re having done will really be as good as it looks?

First, you can check on the firm’s own website. Get some help evaluating it. If their own website is not built well, there’s no reason to think that a site they build for you will be, either.

Second, just tell them that standards-compliant code is very important to you.

That should be true. Clean code does better for search, loads faster, is easier to maintain, and looks better to people on different browsers or using different assistive technologies to access your site.

A designer who looks vague when you mention standards-compliant code should be crossed off your list. One who assures you that all sites produced by her company are completely validated before launch or that “standards-compliant” is his middle name — that’s what you want.

Katie copied down the phrase, and you can do so, too. You can also contact me when you need a new site or a redesign. Standards-compliant code is very important to me, too, and I can make sure that you get it.


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