I would say that, while I can’t force you to choose one designer over another, I can tell you that when I handle the web design and build on my own, the results are much, much more efficient when trying to do SEO later on.
It may sound technical, but I have done SEVERAL on-site SEO audits and nearly every time someone comes to me with a site that is already made, there are issues to do with development or design that need to be addressed to improve SEO. It is a huge hassle, and a longer-term cost for the client down the road.
Since I started with SEO as my background, when I build sites and direct the design with my trained designers, I am able to take care of SEO from the ground-up. Then, when it’s time to start doing the actual SEO, the process is smoother and we can get to the real SEO improvements faster.
The designers I work with have to be trained by me as well to be able to deliver the correct file types and to design according to modern web standards. Most designers don’t know these things – they are often trained in print, which is static. Web design is dynamic – so designs that are static in nature become very difficult for site updates later on. This is not just for SEO, but for content updates as well.
Now – I’m not saying ALL designers don’t know how to do web design. That’s not it at all! Some are trained specifically to design for the web and take special courses and programs for this. And that’s excellent.
But many, many that I have worked with and seen out there do not. Even the talented ones.
So for example, the way illustrations appear on retina displays, will make a difference – I always demand files that will show crisp on iPads and iPhones. The ‘old’ or ‘print’ way of doing this makes those images blurry, because the designer or web developer hasn’t been trained or kept up to date with it. The calculation of measurements is also different nowadays, and the designer has to be versed in those calculations. 1 pixel to them is 16rem to me. So that’s a lot of conversion to do!
Plus typography has to be tested on screens to do well on the web. It has to load its properly available styles, with the right web-ready licenses. Sometimes designers who are new to web design don’t know these things and the fonts they use on their computer programs show up incorrectly on the web.
There is more to – when it comes to online conversions (turning visitors into buyers, sign ups, etc.), you need a good e-marketing eye for this. Many designers may not be trained in online marketing. So that kind of direction on my part is often what makes a site successful, in my opinion.
For example, a designer may like to use a large image at the top of the site. That would work fine in print, but it won’t do well on the web without a call to action, because that will force users to scroll to get to content. We know from infra-red eye tracking studies that people mostly skip images to get to text when browsing the web. It’s a different medium altogether – it has to take into account ‘events’ and ‘clicks’ and what people want to do on the web, not just look at.
I could go on, but I won’t :)
It can get technical, but there is a lot to it. It’s hard for me to work on development alone, or SEO alone, when there are too many cooks in the kitchen, if you know what I mean. I can do it in some cases, but often it’s such a mess that I tell people they would be better off re-doing the site because it will cost less and take less time to have me to do SEO on a properly-built and designed site than what they have already. Even if the ‘look’ is similar, sometimes just the back end development can be hard to work with.
Again – it’s not to say that this is always the case. Just that I’ve seen it many, many times before :) And I’ve not just seen it, I’ve had to report on the details of it in several-page reports again and again for multiple sites over the years. So it’s not a loose statement I’m making here – this comes from lots of research and looking ‘under the hood’ at client sites.
So while yes, it would be nice to handle it all for a website, I understand that sometimes that’s out of reach for a potential client. I’ll let you make the decision about a web designer :)