How To Hire a Web Designer

These are the things I wish clients would ask when they’re looking to start a new project. You can use this as a punch list of questions to ask a web designer, web development agency or someone to develop an online course:

1. Do you have any case studies?

Case studies are a really great way to see what an Internet developer or graphic designer has done for another client. Good ones take you through the problem, solution and introduce the technology. We’re careful to create case studies that are framed to show how work we’ve done for one client is applicable to many. People can find case studies on our website, but they don’t ask for them enough or ask for ones that are specific to the work they need.

2. Do you have references?

It’s a little odd how many people don’t ask me for references. They should, because talking to someone we’ve actually done work for is invaluable. An outside perspective is exactly what someone hiring a designer should be looking for, too.

3. How does your process work?

I’ve worked on enough projects to know how valuable it is to have a capable person managing the process. You’re not only hiring someone who knows about the technology and design, but who also knows about how to manage a project, how to schedule milestones, and make sure deadlines are met.

4. How did you get into the web design industry?

This is an easy question that will give you an idea of how passionate a person feels about the work they do. It will also give you an idea of the values of the web developer and what kinds of hidden skills they bring to their cache of talent. It always sparks a good conversation, and anything that opens up conversation in an exploratory call helps.

Notice that nowhere on this list is, “How much will this cost?” Everybody has a budget, but without preliminary research into what a client needs, it’s virtually impossible to give a price estimate. Plus, if you’re working on a tight budget, a good development agency can help figure out how to solve problems you have rather than cut features you can’t afford. Plus, value is not the same thing as cheap. With interactive design, you get what you pay for.

Anything I missed? If there are other questions you’ve found useful in initial conversations with web designers, add them in the comments below.

Reader Question: How Do I Engage a Group of Online Learners That Isn’t Participating?

We have an online course that consists mainly of students who know each other. The rest participate minimally and do not seem engaged. How do I level the playing field and make the new students feel welcomed?

Darren

It’s always tough to be the new kid, whether it’s your first day at an elementary school or an online course. It’s understandable that a smaller group of people is finding it difficult to relate to a bigger group that already knows one another.

Engaging learners is always a challenge, but it’s critically important in an online training format. Here are a couple strategies that will help learners join the group and get to know the other participants.

Have learners introduce themselves

The first step is to make sure you’re having introducing students to one another. I often make the first exercise in an online course a personal introduction, where people have to answer a few questions about themselves, where they come from, their goals for the course, and usually something irreverent like where they’d like to go on vacation, which can spark conversation.

I’ll often make this a two-part exercise, in which students have to respond to one or more other student’s postings, which helps get them talking with each other.

It also helps to have learners post pictures of themselves, write a bio, or share social media, so the others can start to make a connection with them outside of the class structure.

Create opportunities for partnering

Creating groups is a helpful tactic to have students talk throughout the course. Think about pairing the way you would seating at a dinner party: match up the quiet folks with the chatty ones.

Also structure partner exercises, like role-plays, where you pair up the new people with the others.
This overview of creating and facilitating online role-plays from Australian Flexible Learning Framework provides a good overview. Here’s how role-plays work, according to them:

  • participants are allocated roles to act out within a scenario
  • participants solve problems that are introduced within the course of the roleplay
  • participants and facilitators take part in a debriefing stage, either online or in a face-to-face situation.

The site gives sample exercises targeted to different groups of learners and also gives instructional design tips for integrating role-plays into your courses.

Have a look at this discussion that carefully breaks down a role-play in an online course from the Articulate forums. In this situation, a participant is asked to do a role-play with someone in their office,
but the idea can be adapted to a purely online format.

Check out more articles on making your online course better.

[Have a question you’d like answered? Ask on the comments form at the bottom of this page, on Twitter @talance, or on Facebook. We’ll review your question before posting (don’t be shy about asking!) and get back to you with a response.]

Guest Post: Grow Your Business: You Fuse, You Win!

Lina Arsenault

Lina Arsenault

[Silicon Valley marketing executive Lina Arseneault is our guest writer today, offering perspective on generational diversity in marketing, including your web strategy.]

By Lina Arseneault

Embrace generational diversity

Are you a for-profit organization looking for people who will help make more money than they will cost the business? Are you a nonprofit employer seeking employees with passion for the cause you serve? Does your workplace use the full breadth of talent available to it? Are you attracting the right candidates?

The key to making the most out of these challenges lies in embracing generational diversity. It will foster a culture of flexibility and collaboration in which everyone is responsible for the high quality and timeliness of the final product.

I love to read! A few weeks ago, I went to visit my parents in Northern Canada. Not only was I looking forward to spending time with them but I was also looking forward to the long plane ride from San Francisco so I could indulge in uninterrupted reading time. For this trip, I selected a few books including “Fuse: Making Sense of the New Cogenerational Workplace“. My colleague and friend Ayelet Baron, VP Strategy for Cisco Canada, contributed a bonus chapter to the book and I wanted to check it out.

Fuse isn’t just another generations book. It’s a thought provoking, entertaining and useful read that will have you questioning your beliefs about how to get the most out of generational diversity. It shows you how to weave together the experience of Boomers and the techno-smarts of Millennials in ways that benefit you and your organization. Authors Jim Finkelstein and Mary Gavin suggest that common points of fusion exist in all of us.

Pop quiz

There are vast differences between employees fresh out of school and their more seasoned counterparts. As a team, working in more flexible ways gives you a chance to leverage the best qualities of each generation. That means young people can learn how to be professionals at the same time that older or less knowledgeable team members can come up to speed on their technological skills.

To find out whether your organization is cogenerationally savvy, take the Fuse quiz. Your results might surprise you.

The right kind of job descriptions

Are you attracting the right candidates? How much time and effort do you put in crafting the right job description? Does it have the correct tone?

Resist the temptation to save time by recycling a generic job description. Instead, you should consider an extra step. The Fuse authors explain the importance of tone and positioning in job descriptions.

A Millennial won’t read past the first sentence of a job description unless it hooks her. If the first line doesn’t explain why the organization is great and how it’s making a difference in the community, city, county, state, country, world, or universe, chances are the Millennial won’t bother applying.

Contrast that with the old approach of leading with the laundry list of all the job responsibilities. It might be worth taking the time to audit your job description template to ensure that you include the emotional hook in that key first sentence. In doing so, you’ll have a better chance of enticing high potential candidates to read beyond the first sentence. Consider emphasizing employees, community, and environment. Other considerations (as long as it’s true) are the promise of meaningful work and access to technology.

Reverse mentoring

Does your organization have a reverse mentoring program?

Reverse mentoring was first popularized by former GE Chairman Jack Welsh and it’s been around for about a decade. It’s a relatively new type of mentoring where the traditional roles are reversed and junior employees take on the role of teacher to their more experienced co-workers. The Millennials are coming into the workforce with networking and global-mindedness skills from which older generations can learn. In addition, Millennials are technology natives who can drive a role reversal by mentoring technology-challenged Boomers.

If you don’t have a program in place, the good news is that reverse or reciprocal mentoring can take place within existing company mentoring programs. What you’re looking to do is match up employees of different generations and encourage them to meet on a regular basis to exchange ideas. Mix and match: don’t restrict mentoring relationships to people of the same gender or same fields. There so much to learn from people who are different from ourselves.

Cogenerational communication

How frequently do you communicate with your team and how do you do it?

Millennials expect management communication to be:

  • Positive
  • Respectful
  • Motivational
  • Electronic
  • In person, if the message is really important
  • Timely

From Fuse on “How Millennials view communication”:

There is no need to take time to listen to a voice-mail when you see a number on your smartphone – just hit redial.

Gaming = entertainment + work

Millennials are fast becoming an influential factor in the workplace and an increasingly important part of its future. They grew up with computers and cell phones the way Boomers and Gen Xers grew up with typewriters and corded telephones. Boomers see technology as a tool, or even a toy, while younger workers see it as an extension of themselves. Millennials see themselves as “technology natives,” sensible multitaskers who get a lot done. Most of them mix entertainment and work.

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The Kids Are Alright: How the Gamer Generation Is Changing the Workplace by John C. Beck and Mitchell Wade, is an excellent reference on the impact of video games on young people. The authors argue that gamers collect valuable knowledge from their entertainment and that they’re poised to use that knowledge to transform the workplace.

Move over Stephen Covey, these are the 7 Habits of Highly Typical Gamers:

  1. Everyone Can Succeed
  2. Gamers grow up in a world where literally everyone can succeed at just about anything. By working hard enough (and long enough), it is possible for every player to win these games.

  3. You Gotta Play the Odds
  4. This generation grows up playing games of chance. There has been a probability algorithm built into almost every game they’ve played.

  5. Learn From the Team, Not the Coach
  6. Whenever you can, resist the urge to dint; often you “teach” better by introducing a group of gamers to a problem and then just getting out of the way.

  7. Kill Bosses: Trust Strategy Guides
  8. Share hand-won knowledge. Position yourself as a fellow player who has been there and can offer some strategy tips, not as a boss.

  9. Watch the Map
  10. Gamers count on the “meta-map” that shows where they are in relation to other players, goals, obstacles, and resources.

  11. Can’t See It; Ignore It
  12. The action is all on the surface. This generation can become confused, baffles, even furious when thwarted by unseen forces in organizations.

  13. Demand the Right Team
  14. Good gamers flee places where there aren’t enough high-quality players. They do the same in other parts of life as well.

Why not help the gamers you care about find teams that match their level — and their passion for a particular challenge — and you’ll be amazed at what they can do.

Are you beginning to see how you can make Millennials’ habits work for you and for the gamification of the business (it will happen whether you like it or not)? Respect is the starting point of any relationship. All it takes is the genuine desire to learn from each other.

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You Fuse, You Win!

It’s not always easy to get along… That’s because we all see things differently. And different is not bad! In fact, it can be very good! Successful businesses cultivate new and innovative ideas. From those ideas come ways to expand the business by offering new services, working more efficiently, and marketing more effectively.

As a team, working in new and more flexible way gives us a chance to leverage the best qualities of each generation. That means young people can learn how to be professionals at the same time that older or less knowledgeable team members can come up to speed on their technological skills.

You fuse, you win!

  • Benefit from the best qualities of each generation
  • Give young people the opportunity to learn how to be professionals as well as business leaders
  • Let young people to teach others how to use technology more effectively
  • Use the full dimension of available talent

Fuse: Making Sense of the New Cogenerational Workplace is a great read. I especially like the call-out features of the book. These include “fuse tips” – helpful suggestions for connection opportunities and “fusions” – bulleted list summaries that conclude every chapter.

A fused workplace can provide tremendous benefits in terms of improved morale, outside-the-box thinking, greater teamwork, and an atmosphere of mutual understanding and respect. In such an environment, there is less focus on the specific schedule of when or where the work is accomplished. The benefit to the business is a more nimble and efficient organization with increased capacity to effectively meet client needs.

Use ALL your talent

Are you creating a workplace that uses the full dimension of talent available to it? Remember that “you snooze, you lose” and “you fuse, you win”.

If you happen to be on a long flight, you might enjoy reading Drive and A Whole New World by Daniel H. Pink.

About the author

Lina Arseneault is Millennial at heart. Follow her on Twitter, read her blog.

Open Letter to Board Members

Hey, I get it. You’re a dedicated board member and you are invested all the way from your hair follicles to your bunions in your nonprofit organization’s mission. You want everyone to know how awesome your nonprofit is. For whatever reason, what comes naturally is to emblazon your mission statement everywhere you can: annual reports, brochures and, in a streak of misinformed enthusiasm, your website homepage.

Oh, no. No, no. You are sorely mistaken there. Your mission statement does not belong on your homepage. I would argue that thing shouldn’t be within throwing distance of your website. Your site is not a place where you need to talk about how you’re meeting your organizational vision. In fact, the words “vision,” “mission statement” and “statement of purpose” have no business anywhere on your website.

Why? Because nobody cares. I’m not trying to be mean here, there’s just no other way to say it. I guarantee the people you’re serving care more about what you’re doing for them than looking at your gobbledygook mission statement.

I’ll tell you now that no pregnant teen, no neglected pet, no activist, congregant, health worker, educator, mentor, counselor or any other type online audience member visiting a nonprofit’s website ever needs to know the mission statement. Not one!

I’m writing to you directly, dear board member, because you’re the unseen reverser of many a good decision about website homepages. I know this because in my work at a web development firm, I lead our clients through a painstaking process of identifying the most important information for the homepage. We look for something that will keep them there longer than 10 seconds. Too often a board member steps in during final approval to insist on the mission statement going front and center. So back we step.

Listen, I’m not a board member. I don’t know what goes on behind doors when choosing a mission statement. It could be a mixed martial arts battle over which words to choose (“innovation” or “enrich”? “Potential” or “realize”?). You might have bloody lips and bruises that prove your mix of bizpeak is the best. Respect, man. That’s got to be tough.

Still, though. It doesn’t change that no one cares.

So for pity’s sake, pretty please stop insisting your mission statement appears anywhere on your website homepage.

Respectfully yours,

Frustrated web developers everywhere