Cowboy Coders

The Web Design Market has become saturated and with it some questionable web design companies have formed. Below is a guide on things to look out for when choosing a web design company as well as a list of questions you might want to ask them.

Cowboy Coders

Firstly, a few hints on what your website should and should not feature.

Homepage

The homepage of a website should clearly show what the site is about and it should be obvious to any visitors almost immediately. This is important for you visitors as well as any search engines crawling your website. You do not want an ‘enter here’ button or a flash intro. The homepage should provide links to the most important information on your site, a good menu and site map is essential for users and search engines.

Layout

The pages should have a fairly consistent layout (fit for purpose) the pages don’t need to be identical but similar pages should enable your users to instinctively know where to click next to get the required information.

Navigation

Navigation is an integral part of any website, it delivers users to the information you are providing and without good navigation your website will inevitably fail. A typical website employs links, either horizontally in the heard of vertically as a column on the main body of the page. A footer is with repeated navigation links is often beneficial for search engines particularly if the menu navigation is in an image format.

Bad Navigation

Over the top navigation, e.g. a sliding drop down menu that requires careful mouse movements to prevent it from disappearing. Might look nice but it’s obviously not practical for navigation.

Flash based navigation

While flash is becoming a bit more search engine friendly, if it can be avoided then it should be. (See more about flash below)

Mystery Meat Navigation

A strange term from the states that refers to images as navigation links. Confusing and providing different meanings for different users. Forcing users to hover over elements to interrogate them to then be able to navigate is not a good use of most peoples time.

Flash

Flash is a fantastic multimedia tool for use on web sites. The key is using it properly which unfortunately is a rare occurrence. Amateur web designers who perhaps have a rudimentary knowledge of flash will often create website entirely in flash, while some search engines are now able to index flash websites it is still not an ideal solution and flash should be used with caution unless fit for purpose e.g. an animation or other entertainment website.

Graphics

There are some basic errors which can be made by amateur web design companies and free lancers that give you a clue as to their level of competency.

Jagged Edges – this makes spotting amateurs easy, usually occurs when images are placed over background colours and not blended correctly.

Incorrect Image formats – As a general rule JPEGS are best suited for complex images such as photographs and GIFS are best suited for simple block colours as seen in a logo for example. Blatantly obvious for competent web design professionals.

Coding

The underlying code of a website is essential for its success; A website can look great but if the code is bad it will struggle in multiple browsers and search engines will probably hate it. As a client you may struggle to determine the quality of the code a few simple things to lookout for out included below. If you are in a browser you can right click and “view source” or “inspect element” this will present you with the websites coding.

Things to look out for include;

“Tags” should be in lower case, i.e. <html> not <HTML>,

If the website is littered with the following tags then it may well be using out of date construction methods.<td> </td> <tr> </tr> <font>.

The first line of code should begin with <!DOCTYPE.

For more details about what to look out for or further information, please contact us.