Choosing a web design company or design consultant?
Choosing a web design firm/company or consultant seems like a daunting task and the easiest thing to do is choose a name you know or go with a company or consultant that X other person and or company has used. This is the wrong way to go about this choice.
Here's an easy and simple guideline to aide in choice of a web design company/consultant.
1. Disregard large portfolios of work. You want to browse a small and recent selection of work. Not that large ports or older works are of no use but you'll want to see what the company is doing in the present. What they have done in the past is no correlation or affirmation on what they can do for you now. Firms especially, as designers that were once there may not be there any longer. If what you like about the firms work was done by a designer that is no longer there that artistic expression or essence will not be furnished in anything that will be produced for you.
2. You are not a designer, you however know what you like and what you don't like. For the most part you'll want to save the design to the designer. Tell them what you are looking for and leave the rest to them. If you don't like the small bit of work they have done recently. You will not like anything the design firm or design consultant has to offer. Designing is an artistic space and you have to enjoy/admire/like the artistic space the firm or consultant is in. Otherwise it's just not going to work.
3. The designer is not an engineer, however there are elements of function that will need to be discussed between the designer and the persons actually building the functionality or engine for the site. In rare cases you will find a designer who can do both. This is an extreme rarity so in those cases you should count your blessings many-a-fold.
4. Web design for the most part is expressed in ONE fashion; visually. Forget all technical aspects in regards to the design until you have visual aspect that you can be happy with. Beauty is of form-and-function but form is your initial attractor.
5. If what is produced is not to your liking then you have the wrong designer. Design by committee doesn't work. Never has, never will. Anything that has ever been produced by design-by-committee always looks and operates in such frankenstein fashion one may as well have not bothered in the first place. Refer to 2. It's ok to say, "Well, I do not like this and i'm going to try another designer". A professional designer will not be offended and may even recommend someone else in this space that is more to your liking. The commission or setup of a design is a working relationship. Any designer worth his/her weight will tell you that much. Any contract furnished by a professional designer will have such a clause in it.
6. Should you find yourself in constant iteration? There is something clearly wrong with the design, no professional designer will put up with constant iteration on their work once they've felt it to be complete. If you find yourself saying? "Can we just tweak this, or change that, or move that". There is an overall problem with the design and you need to either find a new designer or start over.
7. The best design is the most simple design. If you see a lot of clutter everywhere? There is clearly a problem. There are huge design problems that haven't been solved in the relay of large bits of information in all sorts of different context. If you don't have a designer that knows this? Something is wrong.
8. You get what you pay for. Many persons often think design is superfluous and easy. Unfortunately that is not the case. Design is an extremely draining mental task all for the goal of someone not even noticing and appreciating the work in most cases. The web package deals you see around the internet are for cookie-cutter box designs much like McDonalds has value meals. That maybe ok for something small or a site one doesn't really have much invested in but one cannot subsist on value meals alone. If your website is an important part of your daily routine then maybe instead of the value meal you should invest in a proper dinner.
9. There are a lot of bullshit artist out there. You shouldn't be looking for someone who knows all the whiz-bang words. You should be looking for a true designer, one who views the world creatively through the objects around them and is able to put together something functional in a way the rest of us apes aren't. Even if they don't know whiz-bang technology, that work can be assigned to someone who is ore capable in that realm. This doesn't mean the person doesn't know whiz-bang it just means they don't considering Flash, ASP, .NET worth mentioning. The same way a construction guy doesn't say Hammer, Screwdriver set, pipe wrench know-how! This type of person doesn't follow whiz-bang anything and in general will use all the tools available to them to get what they want.
10. Another tip is to find a designer who actually has a studio or works with other designers in actual creation of products/stuffs/tools/whatever. If all they have in their portfolio is web design then you aren't dealing with a designer. You're just dealing with someone that understands HTML. These are clearly two entirely different beasts.