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How to Buy a Designer

Dear Tog

I just found this "Ask Tog"-page. I'm not sure what sort of questions you really deal in, but what can you advise me in terms of looking for website construction firms. In addition to the whole graphic arts aspect, about what should I be concerned. Do you have any suggestions for a web-site construction firm or a list of them out there?


Much depends on what kind of web site you intend to build. If you intend to build a web service, from bookstore to stock brokerage, then I can be quite specific. Sites dedicated to service respond to all the time-honored strategies of traditional applications. (Even though most services must be built using the new and amazingly primitive web technologies, the design techniques are identical.) For service-oriented sites or for any traditional software design, I recommend these consultants, with all of whom I have personally worked.

Recommended Consultants

On the other hand, you may be building a more traditional web site, essentially a glitzy commercial. For that, you want someone with a background in advertising, a flair for design, and experience in building successful web sites. I don't have a list of such people (although perhaps some of you reading this can send me some folks you recommend). However, one good way of going about finding these designers is to hit the web yourself and wander through a bunch of commercial sites. Many will have a URL to the their designers, generally in small type at the bottom of a page. Many of these designer sites prove quite interesting in themselves, and most will have URLs to other clients for whom they have also designed sites.

One thing to watch out for in picking a firm: Graphic designers are tortured by the speed constraints of the web. Many really fine designers just cannot bring themselves to accept that people really are running under 14.4 modems. In judging site designers, be particularly aware of how long it takes for their clients' web pages to load. And do your testing with a 14.4 or 28.8 modem, not a T1 line. The prettiest design in the world will do no good if your customer has left for another site before yours has even had a chance to load.

Dear Tog,

Far be it from me to suggest that there's a problem with your web site, but I think there's a problem with your web site. I *think* that you've only posted two editions of "Ask Tog", but it's really not that easy to tell. I wouldn't have known that there was even more than one without going to the bottom of the current column. It would really help if you had a link to some kind of archive listing of all the columns, prominently positioned on your first page. There's also no indication of your truly wonderful Maximizing Windows page until the end of the *second* column. Ouch! It's almost as though you want us to read the site linearly....

Notwithstanding, I really enjoyed reading the two columns I was able to find and look forward to returning regularly for many more columns in the future.

Ralph Brandi
Web Architect and Mason, Customer Training and Information Products
(formerly Bell Labs Tech Pubs), Holmdel, New Jersey

Randi got me good, and deservedly. If you're wondering what he's talking about, that's only because I spent the weekend revamping the site. I expect this site to grow and mature over time. Any ideas--further brickbats included--are gratefully received.

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