Finding a good Web site designer is like finding a good remodeler: You get what you pay for.

"I was shocked once I found out the price of Web sites," says Greg Harth of the $730,000-a-year Harth Builders in Spring House, Pa. Harth ended up spending $5,000, and he's delighted with his site (

Alex Dahlgren, whose Acheron Construction of Dallas brought in $2.2 million this past year, spent $10,000 to revamp "Most people would be comfortable spending less," Dahlgren says. But he was willing to spend a third of his marketing budget because "when people spend what they spend on our products, they should feel like it's a first-class operation." If prospects link to his site through the local NARI site, he wants it to look unlike any other.

Here are a few tips that Harth and Dahlgren learned.

Good designers = good ideas. Dahlgren's search took him national. The company he chose,, works with ExxonMobil. Still, they took his company seriously, had good ideas, and listened when he described the image he wanted. In the six weeks it took the designers to develop the site, they presented five options on how it could work. They interviewed Dahlgren to develop text. "They got a good handle on what we were trying to accomplish," Dahlgren says. "That service goes with that cost."

Good sites don't look (or sound) like everyone else's. "$1,500 sites look like $1,500 sites," Dahlgren says. He wanted his site to "behave" like a television show. To that end, designers helped him select from a music library to make his site more effective.

Good reputations and quick work are worth paying for. Harth learned of The Walsh Group ( through a NARI presentation. He got the sense that they shared his business values. After a handful of meetings, the designers had the site working within a month.

The best have a process. Harth says The Walsh Group walked him through phases, which included flow charting and diagramming ideas and concepts. Harth adds that it's wise to know what's covered in the contract. How many development hours are there? What are the deliverables? Who gets the files? At what cost (if any) can you make revisions? Also, you'll need to know costs for data and Web trends tracking. Harth pays $35 monthly to see a report of who's looking at his site. Dahlgren will spend $2,000 a year for site updates.

Top 10 Features Found on Remodelers' Sites

Portfolio, previous projects 76%
Firm profile/history/bios 68%
Outlines of work processes/what to expect 50.7%
Design philosophy 46%
Links to manufacturer Web sites/ product detail pages 37%
References 35%
Articles about remodeling 28%
How to choose a remodeler 27%
Cost estimating tool 1%
Some other feature 11%

Source: Home Improvement Research Institute, 2003 Remodeling Professional E-Business Research, June 2003.