You could let a web designer take the lead on your web development project but if you did you'd be making a big mistake. Don't get me wrong, I love web designers, I employ web designers, you NEED web designers but you should NEVER let them lead a web project.
To explain where I'm coming from I'll outline how I think a typical web project should look. To help with this I'll create a fictional but typical company with a typical requirement.
Out of the Park are an events management company. They have a website but it was built 5 years ago and has been sadly neglected. The company have recognised their site could be better.
Typically they would contact a web designer and start talking about logos, layouts, widgets, colours, photographs in fact everything except the things they should be talking about. This is WRONG!
The first step should be to figure out what success looks like, in very broad terms. For example in the case of our fictional company this might include:
- Driving business into the company
- Attracting media interest in the company
- Communicating with clients
- Managing and running client accounts
It may even be helpful to write a simple statement that captures the core requirements. Something like "We need a website that generates business and helps us better serve our clients". First off let's consider how we will generate business.
To generate business you will need to understand what people who could use your services search for. This comes under the general heading of keyword research. This isn't a web design discipline it's an SEO skill so if you are talking to a web designer before you are speaking to an SEO specialist you could be on the wrong track.
Now the site itself. For the website to perform in the search engines it needs to be built in a way that makes it easy for the search engines to understand. The sites technical structure is a key aspect of this and sadly most web designers don't fully understand this, again you need a company who can provide SEO services to make sure your shiny new site can be spidered and indexed by the search engines.
Furthermore, it's one thing to appear in the search engines for a search phrase, it's another to appear in the first few pages or preferably the first page. Again this requires the skills of an SEO, not a web designer.
There are many skills that make up a web development team and it should now be clear that an SEO is a key skill and the sooner you start a dialogue with an SEO the better.