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Heritage Web Solutions / take the money and run!

1 United States Review updated:

I wrote numerous alerts about Heritage web solutions internet fraud schemes on Hostdiscussions.com, dozens of e-mail responses were received by me substantiating Heritages business practices including fraud, bate and switch tactics, sub-standard web design, and failure to deliver web sites paid for. Hostdiscussions alerted me that I was not allowed to post any comments made by people who e-mailed me about Heritage (I posted the entire e-mails that were sent to me) most were from people who responded to Hostdiscussions postings. I asked Host to supply me with a copy of any rules that prohibited me from posting the e-mails I received and their site adm. responded with "I make the rules" and " I said no", I asked him about the freedom of speech rights in this country and their response was to shut down and delete all reference to Heritage Web solutions.

Soon after all links to Host discussions went to another site and guess who popped up as a sponsor of Hostdiscussions. Heritage web solutions.

Now it's evident that host discussions.com has no respect for our freedom of speech rights, and are willing to trash those right for a buck. At the same time promoting a company that has continuously ripped of consumer after consumer by either scamming them into contracting for a web site design that is either never delivered, told that the site will cost more and more money, take 8 to 10 months to deliver (promises are 4 to 6 weeks), employees call this company a sweet shop, with a requirement that custom sites be completed at a rate of 4 to 5 custom sites a day. Turnover is high at the company and customers are contacting law enforcement and lawyers.

Hostdiscussions for the almighty dollar has sold our freedom of speech rights and promoted a horrible horrible company on the net. Do they care about the public or are they just in it for the money?

Gi
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Comments

  • Em
      2nd of Mar, 2011
    +1 Votes

    Utah County, State of Utah is one of the leading places nationwide in white collar crimes that go un-prosecuted due to a lack of funding and allocated resources.

    The Utah County Attorney cannot or will not investigate nor prosecute a crime without a police report. Once they receive a report, they must choose which cases to pursue. NSF checks payable to employees or consumers are low on the list. They refer the lack of payment of wages to the Utah Labor Commission. They refer the NSF check to customers to their local police department. The local police department refers the victim to the police department where the business does business, which in this case is Provo Police Department.

    Consumers must file a police report before the County Attorney can even consider the case regarding the taking of funds from account without authorization, the promise to deliver services and the keep of funds paid even though the services are never delivered or delivered satisfactorily.

    The Utah County, Provo Police Department discourages the filing of police reports, claiming that the victim has to prove intent. They have also informed individuals that they can take the report, but that the County Attorney will just send it back to them and do nothing.

    The Attorney Generals office gives out this response:

    “Thank you for writing to the Utah Attorney General's Office. The Attorney General’s Office is counsel to the state agencies. A case would have to be referred by a state agency in order for this office to get involved as we can only advise our client agencies. The Labor Commission is a state agency and they would have to refer a case to our office in order for us to get involved and we would represent them in court.

    I trust you will find this helpful.”

    The BBB take reports, it does not resolve them nor does it possess any authority to do anything about the complaints. It has been under investigation for buy outs for improved ratings, though this company has the lowest rating it can get. Filing a complaint with the BBB make the complaints available to anyone using the BBB as a reference, however the marking of the complaint as resolved does not necessary mean to the satisfaction of the Consumer.

    EMPLOYEES WHO HAVE NOT BEEN PAID:

    You can continue to work for the company and file a wage claim. If you have not been paid, we encourage you to really think about why you work for free. The claim that you will not get paid any faster if you file a wage claim is simply not true. In addition to your wages, you will also be entitled to receive ½ of the 5% daily penalty. You can contact the division of labor at 801-530-6801 if you have any questions. You can fax it for $0.98 at http://www.gotfreefax.com/. Even if you work outside he state of Utah, you should file your wage claim with the Utah Division of Labor as the company is within its legal jurisdiction. Other rules may apply to your state, we suggest that you contact your states labor division for any questions.

    If you live in Utah you can file for unemployment benefits for just cause of non-payment of wages. A partial wage is not a full wage and therefore qualifies as non-payment of wages. Contact the Utah Unemployment Services at 801-373-4067 or Apply on line at https://jobs.utah.gov/ui/InitialClaims . You will need to register for work through the Department of Workforce Services at https://jobs.utah.gov/sso/login.aspx?application=UWORKS&returnurl=%2Fjsp%2Futahjobs%2Flogin.do

    The unemployment office will tell you that they need to review your case before making a decision to see if you qualify. You should be aware that the unemployment claims of those who have left this company for Non-sufficient fund payroll checks and/or, non payment of payroll have been approved. There is usually a 1 week delay before benefits begin. The amount of benefits that you may receive is determined on a case by case basis. You may speak with a representative of the Utah Unemployment Services to help you determine the amount of benefits you will receive.

    Many employees who have left the company have found new jobs and are much happier due to the elimination of the stress of not know if or when they will be paid.


    CONSUMERS THAT HAVE NOT RECEIVED THE PRODUCT or ARE DISSATISFIED WITH THE SERVICE:

    You may file a civil suite for failure to deliver services/product in a timely and workmanlike manner with the Utah County Justice Court. The small claims court address is:

    310 West Center Street
    Provo, UT 84601

    Main Telephone: (801) 852-6878
    Main Fax: (801) 494-1091

    Forms are available at

    http://www.utcourts.gov/howto/smallclaims/

    Filing Fees

    Small Claims
    $2, 000 or less (1)(c)(i) 60.00
    Greater than $2, 000 and less than $7, 500 100.00
    Greater than $7, 500 and less than $10, 000 185.00

    Amounts over $10, 000.00 are filed through a civil proceeding in the Utah County District Court, located in Provo Utah.

    If you live out of state or cannot travel to appear in court, contact the court and request to appear telephonically. You must appear either in person or over the phone. If you fail to appear the your case may be dismissed.

    Contact your credit card company and file a claim for reimbursement of non-deliver of a product. Ask for a new credit card to prevent any further payments for being debited.

    If you used a debit card, contact your financial institution and request a stop payment on any transaction from this company. Request that your account number be changed due to unauthorized debits.

    Keep in mind that this company will use the contract against refunding any payments.

    The (TOS) Terms of service that states

    7. Intellectual Property Policy

    Domain names purchased by HIT and website designs, databases, stores, or programs created by HIT are the property of HIT until Client has paid all fees including one full year of monthly hosting. (See Domain Names Purchase/Hosting Agreement

    11. Completion Timeframes
    Client understands, agrees and acknowledges that HIT does not guarantee a time frame for completion of ANY website.

    34. Cancellation Fee and Refund Policy

    MINIMUM CANCELLATION FEE – Client agrees that a minimum cancellation fee of 50% will be retained by HIT on all cancelled accounts even if no work has been started.

    100% cancellation fee will be retained and NO REFUND will be issued by HIT if Client cancels after 90 days from the initial sale

    No Refund will be issued on any website cancelled after services have been rendered, including but not limited to, the design work having been completed and/or the website taken live.


    Beware of any contract that states:
    • cancellation fee of 50%.
    • does not guarantee a time frame for completion.
    • no refund after 90 day of initial sale.

    Such a company is not under any pressure to perform, they postpone the work as long as they like and then claim that it is past the 90 days and you are not entitled to a refund. There are plenty of developers out there that will not have you sign a contract such a contract. An ethical company would provide a full refund, if services are not rendered, they would also deliver a product to the full satisfaction of the purchaser.

    Be advised that this company does not own the web servers that the sites are hosted on. At present they lease the server space through Fibernet, they use freeware OS and server software. Their contract locks you into payment of one year of web hosting through them or you do not own your site.

    This contract is too one sided and not for mutual benefit of all the parties. Stay away from it.

    OTHER INFORMATION:

    This company owes more than 8.5 million in taxes running back to 2006. They owe approximately $340, 000.00 in back wages with a bimonthly payroll of $120, 000.00 or $240, 000.00 per month. Plus they have a judgment against them for $44, 000.00 from Aetna Health. They have no assets and lease a run down bowling alley.

    They receive an estimated $600, 000.00 in monthly merchant transactions.

    The inside set up resembles a boiler room. It does not presently look like the pictures on its site. It is fairly dark inside because most of the lights are off. Carpet is torn and unclean. The treatment of its employees has been described like a sweat shop. Several employees have lost everything and have become homeless due to the non-payment of wages.

  • Pr
      14th of Sep, 2010
    +1 Votes

    I agree. I paid HIT (formerly Heritage Web Design) in full web all requirements, content, and descriptions. Once they received my funds follow up ended, responses ended, everyone blamed everyone else and no one took ownership. THEY ARE A RIPPED OFF. I will be reporting them to the BBB. It has been 5 months after my payments. Customers be aware of the SCAM...

  • Ch
      11th of Dec, 2009
    +1 Votes

    Beware of HIT Web Design, this company advertises a website built for $199 on the website, BUT NO ONE CAN BUY A WEBSITE FOR THIS ADVERTISED PRICE. This is a violation of Deceptive Trade Practices - Consumer Protection Act.

    Any consumer that purchases this advertised website will be billed to pay an additional 12 months of internet hosting with this company, with or without your knowledge.

    The terms of service document referred to in the communication below was not presented prior to payment and never explained by any agent of HIT Web Design.


    The Communication

    Consumer: Are the my account manager for my account? If so I have 5 hours of design time that I would like to use to design a new site, and update my logo.


    HIT web Design: your account is in collections for one month of hosting or $9.99. If you call our accounting department then you can get that cleared and we can move forward.

    The design time that you are referring to is used to make changes on the account for no cost. So yes, you can submit an update request and make changes to your site and logo.

    However, update time is not sufficient when you are designing a new site. This would take a redesign package and is an additional cost which doesn't use update time.


    Consumer: Your company is not hosting my site so I should not be in your collections department. Please call asap to resolve the matter.


    HIT Web Design: Your website is indeed on our server so yes you are hosting with us. I am not an account manager.

    I am a cancellation specialist and again your account is in collections for one month hosting and will stop everything on the account until you speak with our accounting department.

    Me speaking with you would not help until after you speak with accounting.
    If you need further help in this matter just call customer service ext. XXXX


    Consumer: 9.99 has been paid, please please release my website information so I can move to another vendor.


    HIT Web Design: After reviewing the account for the release of information, we found out that you have only paid for 3 months of hosting.

    You had purchased a year of hosting but had it canceled and refunded back to you shortly after. After that we didn't resume the hosting fee of $9.99 each month because of an unfortunate billing error in our system. Along with the $9.99 that you paid today, you have only paid for 3 months and per our Terms of Service (TOS) we require 12 months of hosting paid before we can release any information.

    This would be a remaining balance of $90 if you want to do that right now. You can also wait for 9 months or buyout the hosting at anytime in the future.

    I cannot release any information to you.


    Consumer: Please see attached invoice that shows the paid hosting, also I have never purchased 12 months of hosting from your company although an account rep with HIT Web Design did charge my credit card without my authorization, is this the cancelation you are referring? Also, I would like to talk to your manager about my account asap.


    HIT Web Design: The invoice shows the year of hosting that was canceled. That is the hosting that I was talking about in the previous email. This was reviewed by our accounting department and is does show that the year of hosting was canceled. As for speaking with a manager, I report to a board of managers.

    I am the highest person you can speak with concerning this because it is the job of my department and this is in accordance to the TOS that you signed agreeing to these terms.


    Consumer: When I purchased my website. The terms and conditions were not represented to include a year of hosting to “own” my site. HIT has been nothing but a headache to deal with and I’m tired of dealing with a story that keeps changing depending on who I talk to, I am going to offer you one more chance to solve this issue.

    Please have someone at your company who has the authority to resolve this issue contact me asap.


    HIT Web Design: You will have to pay the 9 months if you would like the website files.


    Consumer: When I purchased my website the HIT representative told me that I would own my site and it could be moved to any hosting provider at my discretion, also I was explained to me that I could use the design time at my discretion.


    HIT Web Design: It is true that you can do what you would like with the files after you pay 12 months of hosting and complete that requirement per the TOS. It states this in our TOS very clearly.


    Consumer: Attached is an Bill of Sale which details the purchase details of my account, the billing invoice which includes all items purchased & terms of service does not indicate that I am required to purchase 12 months of internet hosting.

    Also, where exactly in the TOS you keep referring does it specifically state that I am required to purchase hosting with HIT for 12 months in additional to the package I purchased to own my website?


    HIT Web Design: This invoice does not help me. And yes, it states it twice within the TOS. Sections 24 and 25.If you want the files than you must pay for 9 months of hosting ($90)


    Consumer: I never agreed to the terms of service that you keep referring, in fact I did not receive any information regarding the terms of service until after my purchase was made and payment issued. The sales agents I worked with did not ever mention or review these terms of service or provide any details of the terms of service in written from prior to my payment.

    The terms I agreed to are include in my invoice of payment, the invoice indicates 2 webpages, server set up and 3 months of hosting which has all been paid in full.


    HIT Web Design: We have your acceptance here on record with your IP address so you did accept it. The TOS that you accepted are not sent in an email.

    If you have paid for the site in full than that is great. But TOS states you need to have 12 months paid to have anything released.


    Consumer: Show me...


    HIT Web Design: I can't show you the exact place you accepted it because it only comes up when a new customer goes into the web center for the first time before going into the Online Design Packet (ODP). I have given you the link to view the TOS and we have documentation showing that you did indeed accept it. 9 months need to be paid


    Consumer: Please stop telling that I accepted these terms because I know what I agreed to and what I did not, 12 months of hosting to own my site was never discussed.

    Are telling me that additional fees are assumed by any customer with or without their knowledge is your business practice, which is proving to be my experience. When I ask for proof that I accepted these terms of service you cannot provide evidence to support your claim.

    Are all HIT clients required to host for 12 months with your company regardless if they understand the terms or agree to the terms?


    HIT Web Design: I do not need to discuss this further. Here is your proof:

    IP address: XX.XXX.XXX.XX

    This is a unique number that you have and is received through our TOS acceptance for future use for cases just like this. This is all we need as proof in any system.

    Any customer who accepts the terms are obliged to this and it is their responsibility to read the TOS just like in every other terms of service in any company or organization.

    I have told you what you need to do to get your files so you can do so or not.


    Consumer: I will be filing a formal complaint to the Utah Division of Consumer Protection, and The Provo Chapter of the Better Business Bureau, and the Provo Chamber of Commerce regarding HIT business practices specifically sales misrepresentation of product pricing and services offered to consumers.

  • Cr
      1st of Nov, 2009
    +1 Votes

    Doing business with a fraudulent company like Heritage, is like being robbed, and having the thief tell you that if you call the police...he'll sue you for "defamation of character." This has to be the worst business in the United States.

  • Et
      28th of Oct, 2009
    +1 Votes

    People with complaints with Hit Web Design should check out, and comment on this thread https://www.complaintsboard.com/complaints/hit-web-design-heritage-web-solutions-c268692.html

    A lot of ex-employees and people in the know are writing on there and sharing their insight and experience with Hit Web Design and Heritage Web Solutions there.

  • Ag
      28th of Oct, 2009
    +1 Votes

    I have a client that uses Heritage Web design. This is the very worst company I have ever witness on the web. From the lies, to the totally inept staff and designers. They must be hiring only college interns with no web experience. I am amazed that a web designer had never heard of optimizing an image. These guys are crooks. They prey on the inexperienced retail business person. They are terrible to deal with, terrible customer service and totally inept staff.

    STAY AWAY! STAY AWAY!

    Again STAY AWAY from these people they will ruin your web experience and make your business look foolish.

  • Ho
      21st of Sep, 2009
    +1 Votes

    I paid almost $3000 for custom programming, they keep on saying they have people work on it, after half years nothing was ever done, and they are charging hosting fee everything month. we cant wait for any longer for our website to go live, business has to run. we called to cancel the service and get money back for the works which not finish, but they said THEY DONT HAVE TIME LIMITE TO FINISH THE WORK ON THE CONTRACT, AND THEY HAVE RIGHT NOT TO ISSUE REFUND, and they said they will cancel our website, we need to look for other company to host it. we cant file dispute with credit card company after 3 month, WTF we lost $3000 for nothing. We are looking an atterney to sue this company, I can join you guys if anybody else want to sue this company, please contact me [email protected]

  • Ag
      10th of Sep, 2009
    +1 Votes

    I encourage everyone to contact Mr. Matt Nelson ([email protected]) to try and resolve your disputes. This is what I did and we were able to reach an agreement.

  • Ag
      20th of Aug, 2009
    +1 Votes

    Has anyone noticed that all the responses posted by Hit Management are identical? They have one or two form letters that they slightly modify to fit whatever complaint they are addressing at a particular time... One starts "it is in our best interest to work with customers..." and the other one starts "At Hit Web Design we are committed"... Just check the messages s/he has sent and you'll see!!!

    This is yet another proof that they couldn't care less about the customer... Not even for this they take the time to really dig into what's going on...

    Anyone for a civil suit?

  • Hi
      18th of Aug, 2009
    -1 Votes

    At HIT Web Design, we are committed to maintaining the highest levels of honesty and integrity. We have been able to resolve most of the customer’s complaints from this website. However, there is no such thing as a complaint free company. Research any large company and you will find they have complaints posted about them on the internet, whether justified or not. There are simply a handful of individuals who, regardless of the merits of the issues, post slanderous and/or negative comments. Let me assure all who read this that those few who complain are less than 1% of our total volume of business. Heritage has been able to satisfy every complaint posted, given that customer gives us the opportunity to do so.

    I appreciate the comment by "Hayley". HIT has worked hard to advance in the market as well as we have. We also recognize the limitations we have and continue to create and innovate new ways to improve our product and customer service. Regardless of our efforts, and no matter how many people we try to please, some people don't like it.

    If you have a specific complaint or concern, please communicate directly with me at [email protected] or [email protected]
    My personal promise to you is that HIT Wed Design will be completely fair and equitable with you.
    Warmest Regards,
    Quality Control Administrator

  • Ag
      14th of Aug, 2009
    +1 Votes

    I wish I too did more research before hiring Heritage Web Solutions (AKA Hit Web Design). It is now two years since the process began. I just got my website up and running this month. However, there are things on it that still don't work. I too paid a year's worth of hosting without being live. I complained enough to get them to freeze the account until the work was complete. My site was suppose to go live in April so I started paying hosting fees again but it took till August 5th to go live. They nickle and dime you for everything. The latest complaint I have is that they want to charge me $30 to restore the Adore picture gallery (which I paid $450) that never worked in the first place. A tech support person walked me through Adore (only after trying to charge me for a first time walk through of an added program I paid $450) and unfortunately I hung up before the files were finished loading. Well it never worked. I called back the next day which lasted 45 minutes (mostly on hold) just to be told to email a supervisor. How is this great customer service? They could not give a time frame as to when the problem would be fixed. I am assuming a year since they don't seem to want to finish things you have already paid for. I can't wait for another year of constant calling and bugging/demanding them to finish. Words of advise: Run Run Run! Don't fustrate yourself dealing with Heritage Web Solutions or Hit Web Design. I'm sure the name change is because of too many complaints.

  • De
      20th of Jul, 2009
    +1 Votes

    Heritage web solutions took me for $397.50 and when i tried to cancelled the next day, they said it was 50% of the fee and they had the right to keep my money. They are a ripp off company and will say whatever it takes to get your money. They will do a bait and switch on you when they get your money. Do not trust them for a second. I'm contacting the ftc, attorney general and better business bureau about getting my money back from them.

  • Ca
      14th of May, 2009
    0 Votes

    We have gotten many calls and emails from individuals complaining about other web developers and their practices. The following article may help anyone seeking web page development. It is entitled "Choosing a Web Developer".

    http://blog.calabrix.com/?m=200904

  • An
      22nd of Apr, 2009
    -1 Votes

    Many times, potential customers do not know what quality they will be receiving. That is why our company, Avanix Web, offers free draft designs.

    Please visit www.avanixweb.com and fill out our simple form if you are interested. We have created many websites for small businesses and we start from $299. Unfortunately, we cannot match Heritage's rock bottom $199 ;)

  • Ji
      12th of Dec, 2008
    -1 Votes

    I am one of the many people that have been skrewed over by this company. I sent emails to the CEO Brad just like what he says to do and it doesn't change anything he is a lier just like the rest of the people that work fo him. He has taught them well. It is time we organized a classaction lawsuit against this company I am sure we can find mor than enough people for that.

  • Ha
      8th of Dec, 2008
    0 Votes

    I have a very different experience with Heritage Web Solutions. I found them to be really helpful from the beginning to the end. The Website Designers were really great, answering my questions and helping me find the best design possible for my site. The Tech Support team was wonderful! Everyone I've talked to at Heritage has been helpful and friendly. I love my website and would have them design anything for me.

  • Mi
      13th of Oct, 2008
    0 Votes

    This company is the truest of crooks... PLEASE SAVE YOUR SELFS. There is no lower ### then a company that feeds and steels from new small business owners. Heritage Web Solutions specializes in getting your money and frustrating you until you leave. I have hundreds of emails and documents and over 200 hours of wasted time to end up out $1, 300 to Mark Strong who has stolen tens of thousands of dollars from people like you and me. He will simply send a copy of his terms of service. HERITAGE WEB SOLUTIONS TERMS OF SERVICE is over 50 paragraphs of your out of luck. It even says they don’t have to finish the site at all if they don’t want to. I am not kidding. AND BE CAREFUL!! THEY SLIP IT BY WHEN YOU DESCRIBE WHAT YOU WANT FOR A WEBSITE... AFTER THAT YOUR OUT AT LEAST $59 PER MONTH FOR 12 MONTHS IN HOSTING FEES PERIOD!!

    I will paste a letter he sent me below that says if you want to go to small claims court you need to come to Utah. You See he knows its not worth the trip and bam he keeps on steeling!! This ### offered me and my business partner $200 because the other $1, 100 should be his for having to email me???

    AGAIN SAVE YOURSELFS FROM PURE HELL AND ###!!

    SEE LETTER FROM CEO MARK STRONG BELOW.

    Mark Strong Thu, Aug 28, 2008 at 4:04 PM
    To: michael rose
    Reply | Reply to all | Forward | Print | Delete | Show original
    Dear Mr. Rose,

    When you accepted Heritage's Terms of Service http://www.heritagewebdesign.com/tos.html on April 2, 2008 you accepted the essence of the third (3rd) paragraph in the Account Termination Agreement. See Section 41.

    The purpose of the Account Termination Agreement is simply to put in concise terms the provisions of unwinding our relationship. Heritage doesn't need an additional signed Account Termination Agreement. It is as much for your protection as Heritage's.

    It is now your call as to what you want to do. Our position has already been stated: $200 refund and release of Heritage's work to you. If this is not acceptable, then have your attorney communicate with Heritage at:

    Heritage Web Solutions
    1460 N. Moonriver Drive
    Provo, Utah 84604

    Attn: Legal Department

    As a professional courtesy, please make your attorney aware of Section 43 of the TOS. It establishes the courts in the State of Utah as the courts having jurisdiction in all legal matters. It states:

    43. Jurisdiction.

    This agreement shall be governed exclusively by the laws of the State of Utah, USA, without regard to any conflicts of laws provisions thereof, as a contract entered into and performed entirely within the State of Utah. The parties herby expressly disclaim the application of the United Nations Convention on the International Sale of Goods. Any disputes between the parties relating to the subject of this agreement shall be submitted exclusively to the jurisdiction of the state or federal courts located in the State of Utah, Counties of Utah or Salt Lake, and the parties expressly consent to personal jurisdiction and venue therein and waive any objection based on forum non convenient or otherwise.

    Should you decide to litigate in any other jurisdiction, HWS will engage legal counsel in that jurisdiction. However, HWS will not litigate the merits of the case. Our legal counsel will have the jurisdiction referred to Utah. This “Jurisdiction” provision has been challenged in the courts before and the courts have consistently upheld this provision.

    It is hoped that we can terminate this relationship amicably and promptly.

    Please advise.
    Respectfully,
    Mark Strong
    Chief Quality Officer
    Heritage Web Solutions.

  • No
      24th of Jun, 2008
    0 Votes

    Heritage is a rip off. The are simply horrible. Do not do business with them. They cannot be trusted.

  • Sh
      5th of Mar, 2008
    0 Votes

    PS - I am not a web designer. I came across this page because I was out researching Heritage Web Solutions for a friend of a friend who is more of a coder than a designer, and was looking for some extra work.

  • Sh
      5th of Mar, 2008
    0 Votes

    Yes, I do know of a reputable company. If you follow these suggestions, you'll find one very much like it.

    Price matters, to a point. As others have pointed out, it is unrealistic to expect a professional website done for $200. Think - you want a website to present the totally on-top-of-it image you'd expect if YOU were out shopping for your merchandise or service. Be prepared to spend a little something on it, and be prepared to be involved in the process if you want your site to reflect your look and feel. A good web designer will do much more than put a site up. S/he will code cleanly and well so that updates are easily accomplished, will incorporate good principles of search engine optimization so that people actually find you, and will not try to nickel and dime you into simple page elements that cost them nothing and take 5 mins to implement.

    A coder is not a designer. Don't go to your buddy because he "knows php." My 18-year-old knows enough php to run his own social network website, complete with a forum and polls. But no one needs to find the site in a search engine, he doesn't care about look and feel, no one is shopping off of his site, he doesn't deal with affiliate programs or ad placement - you get the drift. YOU are after more than coding here.

    If the answer to your question of "How much?" is "What is your budget?", run.

    This is a different question though, than when you approach a web designer and say "I have a $2000/$5000/$10000 budget and I need to accomplish the following things - what do you suggest?" Ask that question of several web designers.

    Examine their portfolios carefully. Make sure that the clients they claim really are their clients, and if they are no longer, ask the designer AND client why. It may not be for a bad reason. Or it may... Don't just click through from the designer's portfolio, and don't just type the URL into the browser. Google the company.

    When checking out a site, does the site work well? Can you find what you need? Does everything load quickly? Does it appear to be through-designed, and not cobbled together with a widget from here and a snip of code from there? Of course, it WILL be written that way, but how well can the designer integrate those pieces so that the site itself is seamless?

    Is the copy clean and free of spelling and usage errors? Do all the links work? Can you get to places you're not supposed to be by manipulating the URLs? Do you EVER see a generic error page (like a 404), or Apache server error page, or any kind of an error page that spits out SQL? Do you see "This area under construction"? You should never see any of those things.

    In your initial communications with the designer, are your communications answered or returned promptly? If they're flaky about getting back to you before the sale... well, it won't get better after you're already committed.

    Provide and own your own domain name. If coming up with a good domain name is part of what you want help with, fine, but when that's been accomplished, you should own it. Many (but by no means all) web designers sell web hosting services, but I don't know a single reputable firm that locks you into a hosting plan unless you specifically want a hosting plan.

    Don't be bullied by waves and waves of scary acronyms. A good web designer will be familiar with most web technologies, even though they probably work chiefly with only a few. Obviously, if your website requires a specific technology, find a developer who specializes in it. But s/he should be knowledgeable in others too.

    Google your designer's name, and if applicable their company's name. Google it with "scam" or "ripoff" in the search.

    See if you can find your designer in the appropriate development forums, and/or Sourceforge. Not everyone is active there, but those people who are active in the developer community have good networks of people from whom to draw inspiration and occasionally answers - no one person has ALL the answers. Have they ever given to the community? An example would be "Hey - I wrote this little widget in Java and it's really useful - here's the code." People who go the extra mile and give to the developer community are more likely to go the extra mile for you, and not nickel and dime you to death.

    FInally, get a good maintenance contract in place that clearly spells out what sorts of things the developer will fix for free, what the developer may charge for, and what you can do to keep those costs down. Typically bug fixes are free - errors in coding do happen to even the best, and that risk should be borne by the developer. Who refreshes content? If you're going to have a lot of content changes, make sure you have the tools included in your project that will allow you to do as much as possible yourself.

    I hope this helps. Good luck!

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