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WEBSITE BUILDING BASICS #3 – What to know before you start calling website builders for estimates

[Welcome to post #3 in a series of posts about Website Building Basics. Don’t forget to comment and ask your questions. I’ll answer them in future posts!]

Now it’s time to start thinking about who you’d like to hire for the very important job of building your site. Your neighbor’s sister’s kid may not always be the best website builder. As with any vendor, you’re going to get referrals, do some research and interview prospective designers to make sure your personalities and work styles are compatible.

Before we get into it, I want to clarify a bit of confusion in terminology. There are web designers, web developers, internet consultants and any number of other phrases that describe the person (or people) who help you get your site up and running (and keep it running). A designer might simply create a look for your site, while the developer may do the coding. Sometimes these people are one and the same. Keep this in mind as you’re interviewing prospective vendors.

Do you need help with:

  • thinking up and writing copy?
  • finding or creating graphics and images that convey your business visually?
  • creating a site structure that makes sense?
  • choosing and registering a domain?
  • uploading files, setting up email addresses and other technical chores?
  • getting the search engines to find you?
  • email marketing and social media?

You probably will need someone who knows how to do all of these things and more, or who has staff or contractors who may specialize in one more more of these tasks.


  • Has this person been doing this for long?
  • Does this person know how to hand code and is s/he familiar with HTML, CSS, PHP, etc.?
  • Is there a portfolio you can review?

Customer Service

  • Do you feel like a priority or is s/he too busy to talk to you?
  • Does s/he answer your questions with a fair amount of detail?
  • Ask previous clients if the developer is good to work with and if s/he puts customers first.

Photo credit: Aimee Low    Source: Morguefile


  • How much do you want to let your designer be involved in the creative aspects of the project and are they willing to be partners with you in this project?

Remember, you’re hiring this person for his/her expertise and knowledge and they will make recommendations based on a history of work experience. Many decisions will need to be made based on how the search engines work and what your goals are and how users interact with a site.


Look at your prospect’s website.

  • Do you like the style and layout?
  • Is this person showcasing past work?
  • Can you find the information you’re looking for?

These are all signs that, if the designer can do a good job on her own site, she can surely do a good job on yours.


This subject can get complicated. If a site builder gives you a price right off the bat, without thinking too much, be wary. Your needs might be complicated enough that you’d have to pay for a discovery session in order to get a bid. Ask for costs to be broken out into general line items so that you can make comparisons with other vendors’ bids. Never assume anything, especially when it comes to pricing.

Communication Skills

  • Do you need extra hand holding when it comes to technology?
  • Are your communication preferences compatible?

Make sure your web builder is able to translate the tech. If s/he mostly communicates over email, but you prefer the phone, it may not be a good fit. Likewise, the designer may have specific systems in place for communications, and you will have to adhere to those to have a good work experience and to get your job completed on time. Most importantly, both sides need to be clear at all times and any changes to the scope of work should be in writing.


  • Is this person a part-time or full-time professional?
  • What are his/her hours of availability? Do those hours jive with yours? Be clear on when this person is available to you and your needs.

Follow your gut. Like I mentioned above, do you have a good feeling about this person? That may be the most important way to go, but also do your homework. Be at least familiar with what you’re looking for, follow the above suggestions, and you should have no problem finding the website builder of your dreams.

Be nice. Be real. Be happy.