When you hire an electrician, how do you know how good the work is that he does? If you're not an electrician yourself, you won't be able to tell a good job from a shoddy one. It may look alright to a layman like you or me, but underneath, it could be a serious health and safety hazard.
So, we have to rely on third parties. We only hire electricians that have a City & Guilds certificate (or similar), and we always look for electricians that are accredited to their trade organisations.
The same goes with plumbers and all kinds of other contractors.
But what about web designers?
Well there's some good news and some bad news.
The bad news is that there is no official training organisation and no trade accreditation organisation for web designers. Anybody and their monkey can set themselves up as a web designer. And from appearances, most web designers are monkeys.
The good news is that there is a much better way of seeing how good a web designer is. And unlike electricians, who rely on accreditation, you can see exactly how good the work is that they've done on your specific website. It's just like getting another independent electrician in, just to check on his work.
Before you hire a web designer, you just need to put their web address (plus some web addresses from their portfolio) into a couple of websites. That will tell you how good those websites have been designed.
Then once the web designer has completed your website, you should put your web address into the same websites to check the work that has been done on your website.
The first website to put those web addresses on is http://validator.w3.org. This will tell you if the website has been written correctly. If the website fails this test, it has been written by an amateur. There is a correct way of writing websites, so if this test fails, the web designer is an amateur and should be avoided. It's as simple as that. If it passes this test, great! But make sure that you test the websites in their portfolio too. There are a lot of web designers who have designed their own websites correctly, but they haven't put the same effort into their clients websites.
The next website is http://www.cynthiasays.com. Set the Accessibility Report Mode to WCAG Priority 1 and leave everything else the same. Then click on the "Test Your Site" button.
If this test fails, your website is not compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act and this leaves you liable to prosecution. The report from this website is a little more difficult to read than the previous test, but, basically, if you find the word "No" anywhere in the "No" column, the test has failed. Your web designer has left you open to potential prosecution.
Whilst nobody has yet been prosecuted in the UK for having a website that does not comply with the Disability Discrimination Act, companies in Australia and the US have been successfully sued under similar laws so it is only a matter of time before the same happens here. The Disability Right s Commission has already issued more than 800 warnings to companies with non-compliant websites. Read this article for more information.
If you already have a website, then you should test it with these two tests. If your website fails, you have unfortunately been taken for a ride by your web designer. Why not get a free website report from OpenGlobal to find out how we can help you.