In general, go by word of mouth.
My web site was looking a bit stale, bogged down with old photographs and so on, so I decided I needed a new one.
Signed recording artists do not generally make (or organise) their own web sites, I knew someone who worked for a major record label and asked him where that label went to get their web sites. He supplied me with a list of established firms that did this.
I looked at the various web site makers’ web sites and picked one. I spoke with the owner of that company on the telephone and asked if there was any way I could get a web site from them – as I liked their work – without paying the sort of money the major labels pay.
His response was surprisingly positive. Yes, he would be happy to help.
Looking back, I have no idea why he said that, why he didn’t just say they didn’t do that sort of thing or whatever.
What did I have in mind? he asked. We discussed what might be involved and in all areas he was amazingly helpful and positive.
He suggested for a start, changing my service provider to the one he recommended, to which I agreed, there seemed little point in seeking his advice and then not taking it. His ‘tech expert’ employee would set up the new email address and steer me through the change procedure.
Not being particularly expert in media matters myself, I sought to pursue all instructions given to me as best I could but soon got stuck. Without sparking off any alarm bells at that stage I found my new benefactor increasingly difficult to raise. I was aware that this was a successful company and naturally everyone there would be busy. Eventually I was given the contact details of the employee in question, apparently a whizz at all matters pertaining to this sort of tech stuff; due to the change in ISP I was now having a real problem with e-mail.
So here I was momentarily stuck between service providers, and unable to get my e-mail going. Fortunately for me I had a secondary e-mail.
In order to get to know these people a bit better and discuss what I wanted from my web site I travelled up to Manchester (I’m in London) and took the boss and his employee to lunch. All seemed to be going from strength to strength. During this meeting they very kindly suggested they could provide permanent web hosting absolutely free of charge. The ‘tech expert’ employee would arrange the technical aspects in his own time (for which I was to pay him directly) and the design would be created by another employee on the same basis.
I went into some detail both before and during the meeting as to the email problem, mainly that it simply didn’t work, their ‘expert’ advice was that there was for some unexplained reason, a “blocked port,” I had no idea what this meant and no clear explanation was forthcoming.
As time went by I made many attempts to contact these people and get this sorted out but it didn’t happen, apparently a ‘blocked port’ was difficult to deal with without having the laptop to hand. At the risk of upsetting these people I decided to discreetly look elsewhere to get my email operational. It took the new ISP five minutes – there was no blocked port or anything of the sort, the ‘expert’ hadn’t set it up properly.
Increasingly I would call their office and try to speak to someone in order to get things going but seldom got beyond voicemail. Texts, also increasingly, soon and predictably remained unanswered.
I had suggested to them several times, as we were getting nowhere and as they were clearly busy perhaps they could suggest an alternative firm?
After a couple of months they did get back to me to apologise for being unable to help me as they had originally hoped, would I like them to recommend an alternative designer?
Yes I would, I said, and took a note of the email address of this brilliant designer and really nice guy they knew and whom they had used themselves previously.
On asking him for his bank account details in order that I might pay him directly and electronically when the time came, he replied immediately adding lots of positive comment. Then there followed weeks of silence. I emailed – no answer. I emailed again, sorry, he replied, been very busy etc.. And so it continued.
To cut a long, irritating and tedious story short, contact with this expert was difficult bordering on impossible – eventually after three months of mainly unanswered emails from me and as Christmas approached, presumably feeling the need of a bit of extra income he finally got back to me.
All together I’d wasted more than half a year on this and was still without a new web site.
As I mentioned when I began this post, I’ve no real idea why the MD of this web site company said what he did. I’m guessing he felt that he was helping me in a grandiose showboating sort of way. For whatever reason, repeatedly my attempts to contact his chosen employee remained unanswered followed by attempts then to contact him with the same result. Very odd.
What a pointless waste of time – I often wonder what this person thought he was doing. Having met those involved and seen their office and operation, it seemed doubtful to me at once that they would be able to devote much time to me, despite the promise from the MD of his employees working from home in their own time and so on. In retrospect I wonder if he was just a bit of a poser and maybe his employees didn’t appreciate his volunteering their free time for whatever poorly considered reason.
By chance and in the course of standard internet research I count myself very lucky to have stumbled across another designer who was the complete opposite of the pointless timewaster encountered up to then; quick, efficient and clearly expert, not to mention reasonably priced, and dealing immediately with one aspect these previous people had constantly ignored. If anyone reading this needs a site I’ll be happy to refer you to this guy, assuming he’s not fully booked.
By way of comparison, whilst trying and failing to chase the first company, eventually I got a long-winded text explaining how it took a long time to build a good site – bullshit as it turned out – this new guy did an excellent job in a matter of a couple of weeks, the other clowns wasted half a year and achieved absolutely nothing, apart from leaving me stranded without a functional e-mail address.
If you are looking for a seriously expert designer, go by word of mouth.