Being in the San Diego Web Design game for nearly a decade has been great — we have worked on many projects over the years and have helped a number of San Diego area businesses in a variety of different industries, all while receiving stellar feedback and making client satisfaction a priority. In doing so, we have heard a number of horror stories from clients who came to us for help after having bad experiences with their past web designers. To help save you some time and energy, we have compiled this list of the five tell-tale signs that you actually have a good web designer, and how to avoid bad experiences in the worlds of web design and development.

1) Location, Location, Location: Surely you’ve heard this tome a million times before in regard to real estate and everything else that encompasses living in our modern world. With finding a good web designer or web developer, this principle stands true. It’s important to find someone who is accessible to you in terms of location. That means that they live in the same timezone, or at least the same country as you do. Ideally, they’d be in the same city as you are so that you can begin to build a face-to-face relationship as well. Working with designers and developers in different countries leads to logistical nightmares that slow progress and cause issues to go unaddressed for days at a time. We had one client in San Diego who was working with a Development Team in the UK and they literally never had the same business hours because of the time difference, meaning that tasks and issues required twice as much time to be taken care of since the two teams never worked simultaneously. Time difference aside, it’s important to find a design or development team that live in your country of residence for reasons regarding both accountability and language barriers. Outsourcing programming labor to developing countries such as the Phillipines or India became very popular in the early and mid 2000s, but at the end of the day, developers in different countries can choose to abandon you and your project at any point because they lack accountability from the BBB and other US-based business accreditation services (not to mention it would be impossible to involve a foreign body in a civil suit of any kind, should the situation call). We had this happen to a number of clients who came to us after their respective designers in the Phillipines, the Cayman Islands, El Salvador and New Zealand all abandoned them by severing all contact and making away with those clients’ deposits. Language barrier is also an issue — it can be challenging to discuss the relatively intangible elements and concepts that comprise website development as a discipline in general, let alone with someone who is speaking their non-native, second language. Outsourcing is sometimes a solution, but it is NEVER a GOOD solution.

2) Availability: Your project is important, and so having a web designer or developer who is readily available to work on it is a hugely important detail. A good web designer will not be moonlighting after his day job and will not be over-extended by working on too many projects at once. These are two reasons why it’s preferable to hire a web design company instead of an individual — having a designated place of business makes your design and development team available to you in every way possible. We had one client who fired their previous developer for refusing to answer phone calls or to meet in person — he would only correspond via email and nothing else. They were delighted to find out that we not only answer emails and phone calls, but that we have a brick-and-mortar location where we can be found during business hours if need be. Having multiple people on staff makes it even easier for clients to get ahold of us. We’re always available to help out and that’s one sign of a good website designer.

3) Experience: With any service based industry, you want your service provider to have some sort of proven experience in the trade you are paying them for. With web designers and developers it is no different — you want them to have experience, and you want them to be able to prove it. Education and advanced degrees are helpful, but sometimes those things aren’t enough. Being involved in San Diego web design for close to a decade has given us the experience we need to tackle any project with ease thanks to our time spent on past projects comprised of comparable tasks. Quantifying experience is tough — but there is one good way to do so when it comes to finding a good web designer, and that is making sure they have a good portfolio. A good web design portfolio has more than a handful of examples (think experience again), and also has samples from a variety of different industries. Mission Bay Media’s website design portfolio has all of these things and we’re adding to it all the time as a way to relate our website design experience to new prospective clients.

4) Some sort of reasonable social skills: OK – let’s just be honest here. You can totally get away with being a web developer / web designer with minimal, if any, social skills. Programmers are not particularly known for being “people persons,” if you will. However, if you’re working with a good designer or good web development team, there will be at least one person you’re working with who can explain the technical details of your project in “the Queen’s English.” That is to say, they should have a way of telling you what it is they are charging you for without letting loose a waterfall of acronyms and other such tech jargon. We have one client who is very clear about their need for this, and as such we have dedicated one team member to providing flowcharts and a layman’s description for all the features of their extremely complicated web app project. Good web design teams approach each client with a cheerful and positive attitude, and we make it our mission to make sure that each client has a solid understanding of how each moving part works, regardless of their level of technical expertise. Mission Bay Media has achieved this through division of labor amongst team members, in-depth client meetings and correspondence and even on-site demonstrations and line-by-line explanation of code, when necessary.

5) They did NOT introduce themselves as a “WordPress Developer”: This one is important. While WordPress is a great framework that powers a significant portion of websites on the Internet, there are ways to design or develop a WordPress website and COMPLETELY screw everything up. We see this happen most often with people who say “I’m a WordPress Developer” or “I’m a Web Developer but work only in WordPress” or “I’m a Web Developer and I use WordPress because it’s the best.” Any variant on the preceding three phrases should be taken as an extreme red flag that you have a BAD web developer. Anyone who relies solely on WordPress for Web Development is likely relying on their knowledge of a handful of plugins or one particular premium WordPress theme that they use for every website they make. This means that not only will your site be “cookie cutter,” to some extent, but also that your “Web Developer” will eventually hit a roadblock — some feature you require that they do not have the skills to actually build on their own. People who rely solely on WordPress or push that as the “only” development option likely have little to no programming experience, and definitely have no knowledge of backend or database technologies which are more or less essential when trying to customize WordPress in any significant way. Mission Bay Media is comprised of developers with years of experience in a variety of different web technologies and will develop WordPress sites when requested, but we can also build projects using a number of other web technologies and likely can take even your WordPress project further than your average freelancer.