Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Websiring (Website Redesign Revealed) - Finding your crew

Okay, so this, here, whipping-boy IT fellow works...um...slaves away for a non-profit and I have been privy to a great many of the travails of our kind (Yes, it's a goddam MS shop). Of late, I have been in the midst of the meaty parts of a web redesign project. So, a few of my thoughts shall be committed, not unlike myself, to these digital bits.

It would seem that discovering a decent web designer or web design shop is quite a task. One can survey listings and look for advertisements, but it seems that word of mouth and someone else's experience really sell the contractor's goods. Portfolios, amazingly enough, only go so far. Also, there are myriad questions to be asked soon after the proposals start flowing in from the RFP...Are you people legit and can you work together under a deadline and with grace enough to respond to constructive criticism? What are you coding with and are you flexible in your coding skills (or is it the same site over and over)? Why should I host in your shop, again? Can you code an ADA compliant site? Do you know what usability is? You want to nest my information how many clicks below your pretty graphic? The list goes on...so here goes the logging of what has truly been an ordeal between Scylla (the non-profit) and Charybdis (the duplicitous, often amaturish design crews), with the waves slapping, cracking, and swamping my little boat for good measure.

Edition I: Finding the crew

Okay, so for the most part, this is the list of places and processes that have been fruitful. Of course, there are two tacks that may be taken - one may choose to look for a professional shop (or, at least, a troupe masquerading as one) or one may hire independent contractors. Each case calls for some different approach in contact, usually (for instance, an RFP may not be appropriate), but, nonetheless, one has to find these people.

  1. Word of mouth

    (This has got to be one of the best and worst ways to find your designer - a level-headed friend may introduce a great crew, or their near-destitute village d'achouffe; picking friends well, though, is the best way to avoid the latter, in all likelihood.)

  2. Surveys by geographic location (i.e. with Yahoo categories, or meetup.com [see below])

    While this can be the best way to make a complete survey of the shops available in your area (and it can be a good idea to have personal interaction with the designer, depending on the size of the job, and for other obvious reasons). However, freelance designers and their ilk and brethren (smaller teams) are not usually so fortunate as to have their sites logged, though the masquerading teams are usually so lucky if they're savvy to how to get listed. So, surveys are well and good, but be prepared to make the eyes bleed covering portfolios.

  3. Wherever they may roam...meeting the freelance types

    In all likelihood, one can find a fair number of places to meet a designer in the local area or outside of it. Two of the best may be Craigslist.org and webdesign.meetup.com. On Craigslist, one can even post a job or RFP, though the respondees may be highly varied in caliber and quality.

  4. Having your crow cake and eating it, too...

    Volunteers have proven to be quite easy to find for some organizations with some notoriety or something to barter, albeit intangible. This surfeit of vounteers inevitably includes someone who has "done a webpage" and the temptation to through them in a chair, wrist-shackle them and scream "mao, diddy-mao" can be very strong. (Should the surfeit be less than forthcoming due to a lack of reputation or notability [i.e. you work as a non-profit think-tank for Phillip Morris...er...Altria] you can always try to find a cigar-chomping libertarian web-designer at volunteermatch.org) To enlist the aid of a volunteer, however, is akin to signing up the homestead for a spin on the aesthetic wheel of fortune. Even if the results are respectable, dedicated volunteers who will succumb a bit to scrutiny are rare - everyone needs their bread.

So, with that, this dopple-geek will bid adieu, until next time. Questions are welcome.

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