Creating a new contractor website or re-designing your existing one should be a positive experience and successfully meet your objectives. In this article I will give you guidance on how to hire the right website designer for your construction business.
Topics we will discuss in this article include:
- How to find a construction website designer
- The language we web designers speak
- What to ask a website designer
- You get what you pay for
Finding a construction website designer
Most contractors along with the rest of the world simply pull up Google and do a search and start looking for designers that have a nice website portfolio. This is a good way to get started but there’s also some other ways to save you time from all the noise you run into on a search result. On a side note, if SEO is important, I recommend only contacting companies that rank in the top 3 positions with their own websites.
Similar to home improvement, word of mouth is king even when looking for a website designer. If any of your friends or associates have a website you like, give them a call. Ask them questions about their experience with the web design company and how the website is holding up. Make sure to ask them what they didn’t like about the web design company.
When searching Google, look for competitor websites you like and look on the footer (bottom) of the website for any links that mention who did the website design. Many website designers put something like “Website Designer Contractor Gorilla”. This is a little trick you can use to find out who is making those awesome sites you envy.
Yelp is a good place to search as well, especially if hiring someone local is important to you. When searching on Yelp if local is not that important look in more popular cities like New York or Los Angeles to get more results. To hire a local company or not is something we can do an entire article on but the reality is any established and “successful” web design company can do just as good a job from anywhere. We deal with construction companies all over the USA and have never had any issues with clients not being able to walk in our office. Even our local clients rarely come into our offices. If you are thinking a local company is important ask yourself this, outside of visiting the first few times before you hire them are you really planning on hopping in the car and driving over to the office much? What’s more important is communication and availability. Make sure the company you’re talking with is responsive and easy to get a hold of. If they are not that’s the first sign that they may not be the right web designer for you.
If you’re on a tight budget it never hurts to talk with a company even if their website appears like they would be a more expensive solution. Let web designers know your budget upfront, you might be surprised how they can help you or offer you advice on a cost effective solution. To save some money you can also outsource your project to freelancers on Odesk or Elance. If you have never done this before don’t be blinded by the prices because you get what you pay for. At the same time there’s lots of talent all over the world and you can find great people on these websites but we don’t recommend it if you’ve never managed a website development project yourself. We should probably write an article on how to hire a freelancer on Odesk or Elance. (comment if you’d like us to write an article on the topic)
Here’s a list of some other websites that can be useful to find a good website designer:
Take your time when looking for a website designer as it is an important investment for your company. This should never be a rushed process. While searching make sure you are keeping track of the designers you like and dislike and put them all on a spreadsheet. We suggest you talk with at least 3-5 web designers before making any decisions. Some things you should prepare before making the first contact include a sitemap, outline of your online objectives, branding guideline if you have one, a list of websites you like and dislike and any other information to help the designer understand your objectives and scope of the project. Most professionals will have a process for these items but being prepared can only help.
So once you have your list of 3-5 companies you’re ready to contact them and get the process started.
HTML, CSS, SEO, CMS – Do you speak English?
If a contractor started talking “construction” to me I would be lost and we know it’s the same thing when we start talking “website”. Here’s some terminology you will hear when you start talking with website design companies. Hopefully this doesn’t create further confusion but it helps to know what were talking about for you to make a good hiring decision.
- Front-end: When you hear someone say “front-end” of a website, what they are talking about is the part of the website that you can see and interact with. The front-end usually consists of two parts: the design and front-end development.
- Back-end: The “back-end” usually consists of three parts: a server, an application, and a database. For sake of ease, just think about a giant brain that makes what you see on a website function.
- CMS (content management system): A CMS or content management system, is a web application designed to make it easy for non-technical users to add, edit and manage a website. If you want to constantly update the content on your website it would be good to have a CMS.
- Content: Content refers to everything that is displayed on a webpage, the pictures, the words (copy), videos etc.
- HTML: HTML stands for, Hypertext Markup Language. Think of HTML as another language, just like English or Spanish, which tells the web browser how to display a website page.
- CSS: CSS stands for, Cascading Style Sheets. CSS tells the web browser how to render the style and format of elements on a web page. For sake of ease, just think of CSS as the thing that controls the colors of a website.
- Responsive: A responsive website is a website that automatically adjusts how a page is displayed depending on the viewers screen size. It’s highly recommended to only do a responsive website now a days.
- SEO (search engine optimization): SEO helps you position your website properly on the search engines to be found at the most critical points. We will not go into the endless details around SEO but here you can see we did SEO and Contractor Gorilla shows up #1 on the search results.
- Offsite SEO: Offsite SEO refers to SEO strategies that do not involve anything on your actual website or code. For example: back links or social media. A back link is another website linking to your website.
- Onsite SEO: Onsite is all about what you do on your website for your SEO strategies. This involves many things like Meta title tags, keyword research, link structure, content and so on.
- Website Template: If someone mentions a website template they are referring to a pre-designed website or page. See some templates in our Construction Website Templates post.
- Hosting: Website hosting in it’s simplest form is where you store your website files so when someone goes to your website they load. Godaddy is an example of someone who sells hosting. Hosting comes in all different shapes and sizes but for 95% of the contractor sites we do, a simple $6.99 a month hosting will do.
- Database: Think of a database as a spreadsheet that stores information and your web application can access this information. MYSQL is the most common database type since its free.
That should get you started on better understanding some of the more common website design/development terminology.
What you should ask when speaking to a construction web designer
Depending on what you’re looking to do these questions would vary. For this scenario lets assume you’re looking to build a new website for your business and focus on SEO (localized) and generating leads.
The below questions are not in any particular order.
- How long have you been in business?
The longer the better but this isn’t always true. Never under estimate the new guys because everyone was a new company at some point. This question is really not so important, if all the other stuff adds up. The point here is how much the designer understands your industry and have they delivered a similar solution?
- Do you outsource your work overseas or do it in house?
Just because they outsource it’s not a bad thing but you may want to stick with someone that does their work in house to avoid problems.
- What is your companies strongest capability?
The first thing they say is the companies strongest skill set. Compare that to what your objectives are.
- Do you work with companies that are similar to the size of mine?
This is an important question because you want to know if they understand your business and if they can work within your budget.
- Do you charge for regular updates to the website once it’s done?
It’s important to know this up front so when the time comes to add a page you know if it’s going to cost you or not.
- Do you offer any sort of guarantee on the website?
Websites do break as technology and browsers advance. Make sure they will stand behind their work longer than a few months.
- What are 3-5 clients you do SEO for and how long have you been managing their SEO?
Find out if they can actually deliver on SEO, if they can’t show you clients they have ranked then they may not be capable of helping.
- What keywords have you ranked these clients for?
When they give you examples, look for the competitiveness of those keywords. You can do this by looking on the top left of Google for the text like this “About 316,000,000 results (0.28 seconds)”. the bigger the number the harder it is to rank as more sites are competing for that keyword. If a company shows you keywords that are business names or under 1,000,000 results they may not really know SEO. Click here to see an example.
- Do you have any experience in localized marketing and SEO?
Localized SEO is a unique approach and different than non-localized SEO. 99% of contractors should be looking for localized SEO as it’s important to show up for keywords that include your target market. For example “General Contractor Los Angeles.”
- How do you charge for SEO services?
See how they breakdown their SEO service, does it include onsite and offsite and what are the monthly fees.
- Do you guarantee rankings with your SEO services? (if they do, consider running for the hills. No one can guarantee SEO because the search algorithm changes frequently)
No real SEO service can guarantee rankings even though we would love to it’s not realistic. What you can do though is ask about how they track SEO and if you do hire them they should be able to provide you keyword reports that hopefully show your website climbing the results.
- How do you acquire back-links for your clients?
This is important as you don’t want to end up getting the wrong back-links as it will hurt you more than help. Many companies will give you a canned answer to this because the truth is good back-links are not easy to create and require amazing content. If they say they do directory submissions and paid links only that’s a bad sign. You want PR related back-links, organic content back-links and social media sharing. For example, this blog post is hopefully considered amazing and people will link to it and share it on social media channels.
- Do you build your websites responsive?
This is very important and if you do a website that’s not responsive you’re getting an outdated website. Responsive design is amazing and pretty common now. Non responsive web design is like buying an 8-track cassette. Also, they should not charge extra for a responsive website but there’s a lot of gray area in this.
- What browsers do you test websites for?
Make sure they browser test in all browsers current and a few years old. Your website should look good on Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Opera and so one. Also make sure they browser test on Mobile and tablets.
- Will I own the source code of the website when its complete?
If you don’t own the source code then find another company. It’s your website after all isn’t it…
- How many designs will you provide and what is your design process? If they only provide X designs and X revisions ask them what they charge for additional designs or iterations?
Many designers will include a certain amount of designs and revisions, this is to make sure they don’t end up having to do a hundred designs if a client is picky. A good designer should be confident in their work and be flexible enough to get you what you need.
- If I want to update content on the website do you charge for that?
This is important because when you finally get that BBB A+ rating you will want to add that to your site. What if you start offering a new service you will need to add that as well. Many contractors have frequent updates to their sites and photo galleries, so keep in mind what’s written today may need to change tomorrow and you don’t want any surprises when the time comes.
- What are your payment terms? 50% upfront and 50% upon completion are the most common payment terms.
I’ve seen all different types of payment terms and it typically depends on the scope of the website. Never pay 100% upfront or more than 50%.
- Who will write the copy for the website, and is it included in the price or additional?
Some designers include copy writing it in their service some charge extra so it’s good to know now. If they do charge extra find out how they charge for copy writing.
- If my site crashes or doesn’t work after you’ve completed it, will you fix it for free?
It’s important to know your investment in a website will last. Sites do break on occasion and you want to make sure you’re covered. If a designer offers a technology guarantee it’s not uncommon to say they will charge you to fix something if you changed the original source code.
- Can you provide me with 3-5 references of websites you did in the last year and may I contact them?
This is probably the most important question of them all. You want to be able to talk to their clients and see if they had a good experience dealing with the designer.
You get what you pay for
Cost is often a deal maker or deal breaker but don’t let it make your decision for you. As with everything else you purchase, the phrase “you get what you pay for” rings true in the world of web design and development. If you begin to cut costs solely for saving a dollar now, you may not reap as much value in the long-term when it comes to delivering the results you planned for.
So how can you justify the costs of your project? It’s simple math really. What have you spent in the last year on your marketing and advertising? The past five years? How have those efforts brought a return on your investment?
Ask the website designer if they can provide evidence of the value they deliver through tangible results. Remember it’s about value, not cost. If the designer can provide a website or service that brings a good ROI, then cost shouldn’t be a deal breaker. Don’t let price shock blind you from your goals, if you do your research you may find that you’ve been spending money elsewhere without results.
Are you ready to discuss your next website project? Contact Us (888) 603-6695 and see how we stack up against this blog post.