There are lots of ways to see a website project to completion. Some web designers do both design and coding work, and others will just design and have a developer turn their work into a functioning website. While it’s important to find a designer that can pull off the visual aspects of the project, it’s equally important to make sure that the website’s code is high quality.
The design itself is the first thing we see as a website visitor and needs to be first-rate, taking into account important considerations like business objectives, branding, and marketing strategy. The design is visual and right there in front of us. It’s real and ready to be critiqued as effective or not.
On the other hand, the code that actually brings a website to life (HTML, CSS, PHP) are behind the scenes and out of sight. Unless you know how to look into these things, you’re at the mercy of your web developer to deliver a final product whose code is at the same level of quality as the design itself. So how can you be sure you’re getting a solid product?
Let’s look at this question from both a potential client’s point of view, and an existing website owner’s point of view.
First off, validate your HTML and CSS. Some errors are fine. In fact, part of pushing the envelope with new technologies means that the validator won’t recognize some of the newest properties and vendor prefixes that are used in HTML5 and CSS3. That’s fine. But if there are tons of errors in either the HTML or CSS validation, you might want to have your previous developer or a new developer take a look to make sure everything is ok.
Secondly, if your site is slow or other problems consistently arise, have someone take a look. Most good web developers will charge very little to peek under the hood and make sure there are no glaring errors. Some good tools for checking on performance bottlenecks are pingdom and yslow.
The keys here are reputation and examining past work. Finding a developer who has a reputation for doing quality work and is knowledgable about web standards as a whole is essential for getting quality code for your project.
Secondly, it’s important to know what kind of systems they have in place for their content management system – how easy do they make it to update the content of the websites they build? Are you going to need to call them every time you want to make a little change somewhere?
Third, what kind of relationship do they have with their existing clients? Ideally you want someone that is available in case any issues come up and will stand by their work if problems arise. Testimonials and references are a great way to gauge this.
This is only the beginning of ensuring that you are getting a well-built custom website, but it’s a great start!