There are a few things that have been on my mind lately.  One of them is how to tell if a web designer or SEO person actually knows what they're talking about.  You see, I run into a lot of "web people" in my different social circles.  Some are very talented and can code yours truly under a table; some can make a website for foot fungus facts look interesting; and some are simply salespeople who will promise you the new Facebook while delivering you a Myspace page.  So, how do you tell the difference?

1. ASK FOR REFERENCES.  You're probably saying "duh", but some people simply look at a couple of websites that the designer says they've worked on.  When you actually make a call to some of the designer's clients you may find that they were impossible to work with and the client did not get what they asked for.  The final website may look pretty, but if the client isn't happy then what make you think you'll be?

2. ASK THEM WHAT LANGUAGES THEY KNOW.  There are a few web design languages that any good web designer should know how to code in (or should at least be aware of).  Ask your potential designer if they know: HTML, CSS, and Javascript.  They should at least be fluent in HTML and CSS.  PHP and .NET are other languages that are helpful.  You don't have to know what all of those languages are, but they should be able to help you understand.  If not, walk away.

3. ASK THEM FOR WEBSITES THEY'VE DESIGNED FROM SCRATCH.  There are a lot of "designers" who simply use templates to create your website.  That may be okay for them and personal blog, but do you really want to pay someone good money to create something that a thousand other people may already have?  Designing from a template may also mean that they don't know enough to actually modify the template.  That means you'll never get what you truly want.

4. ASK FOR A BASIC KNOWLEDGE OF HOW SEO WORKS.  Many "SEO" people I run into clearly do not know what they are doing when it comes to SEO.  If they give you a run-around answer to your SEO questions and can never really explain anything about SEO except by giving you a few buzzwords like "Social Media" then maybe you should find someone else.  Another red flag is someone who says "You can never get good search results for your site unless you pay for it" or "If you give me X number of dollars I guarantee you'll be on top".  NO ONE can guarantee that. 

5. ASK FOR A SPECIFIC QUOTE ON EVERYTHING THEY'LL BE DOING.  When someone fixes your car you get an itemized bill of exactly what you're paying for.  Why can't it work the same for web design?  On every proposal I give you know EXACTLY what you're paying for.

6. ASK THEM WHAT THEIR ROLE IS IN WEBSITE CREATION.  There are a lot of web designers and web design firms out there.  Who do you want to work with?  Do you want to always talk to a middle-man salesperson who has no more knowledge of the web than you do, or would you like to talk to the man in charge?  The nice thing about working with a smaller firm is that you tend to get an answer immediately.  They don't have to ask 8 other people if what you want can be accomplished.

7. ASK FOR A TIMELINE. Timelines create accountability.  If the designer cannot give you a timetable then they may not have much experience.  If they can't hit your deadlines then how do you know your project will ever be completed? 

I truly hope this helps you in your search for your dream website.  Other questions you've found helpful to ask?  Leave a comment below.