How do I frame the question and look for help creating a website?
August 1, 2012 12:20 PM   Subscribe

How do I ask for help and where do I look for intelligent, experienced help in creating a user-controlled website for a wholesale company based in NYC? Any ideas about the ballpark cost to create a wholesale company website?

This is an example of the type of website that needs to be created, although this is, in my opinion, a really badly designed site. It's a basic idea.

Back story: I am going for a job interview this week for a wholesale jewelry company that would like to set up a website for their company with ecommerce.

For the last 11 years I have been writing the web content for another wholesale jewelry company's website. That website was set up by a person working at the company. I only wrote the content, the descriptions of the jewelry, and had nothing to do with managing or creating the website.

This potential new employer, also well established wholesale jewelry business in Little Korea, NYC, where I will go for the interview, does not have a website yet and they want one. They are in the dark about how to set one up. The person who recommended me for the job said I could help this company set up the website and that the best way was not to put all the control of website into the hands of a website creator at a distance but to buy a ready made package and set it up on their own, meaning getting me to set it up. The thing is I have no experience setting up a website and will need to say that in my job interview.

What I would like to do is offer this potential employer a practical solution and ask them to pay for a professional to help them set up a website, that they can control on their own and that I can add written content to for each item.

This wholesale site would need a lot of images, thousands, in different categories that would be added over time and changed as the items/fashion changed. It would need a database for customers, return policy, faxable order form. I can, privately, show a potential creator what the website needs to look like.

To put up an ad to find a website creator I do not know how to frame the question intelligently nor where to post an ad that would attract an ethical, experienced person, who knows how to do a good job in NYC. Likely this person will need to be able to create a logo for the company too, not sure about that though. Would an ad ask for a web designer? A web developer?

Not least, I do not know the ballpark cost of a wholesale jewelry website creation.

Please can you help me frame an intelligent ad, give me an idea of where I could post this ad where it would likely find an experienced website creator?

Thanks so much in advance.
posted by nickyskye to Computers & Internet (24 answers total)
Would an ad ask for a web designer? A web developer?

Both. If you need a logo then you need a top notch designer (although not necessarily a web designer), a web developer would be better placed to assess which software best meets your needs and its extendibility should you ever want features that don't come as standard. A web design firm will have both but they have overheads that freelancers don't have so will probably cost more.

There are a lot of very good e-commerce packages, some free, some premium. If you choose to go the route of installing it yourself, I'd recommend going with premium as it should come with some support to at least get you through the installation process (some even offer to do the install, for a small fee). Once you've chosen your software package, you'll want a designer with experience using the software (unless you want an off-the-shelf template too). They'll will be much quicker at implementing the template and will know the quirks, foibles and limitations of the software and the design will take into account those things.
posted by missmagenta at 12:41 PM on August 1, 2012

In terms of ballpark, it varies massively - like $2 - $20k.... even for the exact same thing.
posted by missmagenta at 12:43 PM on August 1, 2012

I would highly recommend finding a web developer who can set this up, and is willing to not only give examples of his/her work, but will also provide references or allow you to contact prior companies directly for a reference.

As missmagenta said, there are many different platforms/packages out there, some more complicated than others, but a good developer can make even the weakest platform better, and a bad developer... oh the horror. The Horror!

Many platforms (like Drupal for example) can be "successfully" set up and running in a seemingly infinite number of ways, but having something that looks good on the surface will be of little use/comfort if the back end is set up poorly (and that's often shockingly easy to do).

Finally, make sure that you have all the details in writing and all the account info/log ins, etc. for everything (hosting, admin accounts, database passwords, etc.) so if your developer goes missing or things go south, you aren't completely helpless.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 12:51 PM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Ok, so is this what the ad should read something like?:

"Looking to hire a web developer to create a wholesale website with ecommerce, using possibly Drupal, who can help me choose a software package to fit the needs of the company. You must have experience with the off-the-shelf template and be able to teach its use to the company.

Please offer examples of your work, provide references and/or allow contacting prior companies directly for a reference."

Any ideas of where to post an ad for a decent web developer in NYC?
posted by nickyskye at 1:10 PM on August 1, 2012

You need a project manager for this as well. Just hiring a developer and designer freelance is not really going to get you very far. The site you linked to is pretty complex, with account signup, ecommerce, social tie ins, lots of content -- I would say even without project management/agency overhead this would be $50K minimum and about three months minimum to build. You need someone to manage this on top of design/development.
posted by sweetkid at 1:12 PM on August 1, 2012

Response by poster: sweetkid, what do you mean by "social tie ins"? Could you explain a little, please? This website is not going to be "social". Unlike the website I linked, there will be no "Contest" stuff but basic business. Yes, account sign up.
posted by nickyskye at 1:21 PM on August 1, 2012

It has a Facebook plug in and youtube. These are simple enough in drupal but it's still more complexity and another feature to consider. Mainly though the ecommerce bit is going to be a beast. Has the company done ecommerce before?
posted by sweetkid at 1:30 PM on August 1, 2012

Drop the part about Drupal, you want a proper ecommerce solution, Drupal is a CMS. Its far easier to modify an ecommerce package to have CMS capabilities (if it doesn't already) than it is to add ecommerce to a CMS or blog platform.

The site you linked to looks similar to CS Cart (although based on the urls its not that). I'm working on a site at the moment using it, The software costs $345, I only know what I'm charging but I would estimate the end client is being charged around $6-8k - that includes design, development, seo and project management and a 6 week turnaround (it would only take a couple of weeks if the client was quicker at getting back to me with stuff and if I didn't have 5 other clients going at the same time!). The only thing I can think of in your requirements that it might not do as standard, is faxable order forms.

IANYWD, TINWDA - I'm not making a recommendation for CS Cart - I've only worked with it once, the software we were using was discontinued last month so we're trying out new ones and this looked like a good match for what we were using before (I suspect it was heavily influenced by it).
posted by missmagenta at 1:39 PM on August 1, 2012

Response by poster: Ah. Thanks for your reply sweetkid. No, this website will have none of those social link to YouTube or other website frills, just the company's own business.

I do not know what you mean by this wholesale website will "be a beast".

This company has never done ecommerce before. They have been successful in their non-web business, much experience with faxes, emails, phone, orders but not web biz.

I do have a simpler, better designed website as an example to offer the web developer but do not want to link it here for privacy reasons.

missmagenta, thanks so much for your replies. I looked up CMS. In this context the likely use of that abbreviation would mean Content management system? That sounds like what would be needed for this website.

Is Drupal not "proper" ecommerce?

Dear responders, I need you to explain a little to me what you mean, a little more simply. Pretty please. I'm sorry I don't understand web developer terms. I don't know what seo management means. Looked up SEO. This website is not to be an advertising site, to generate business from searches but where known or referred wholesale customers can go to log in, look at jewelry and place web orders or see what jewelry is just in and place an order on a downloadable fax. Most of the customers are not super web savvy, they are business owners, probably in their late 30s/40s/50s/60's.

I guess IANYWD means I am not your web developer? But I cannot find out what TINWDA means. I don't know what you mean by the " I'm not making a recommendation for CS Cart" paragraph.

So what might be an ecommerce package that is "proper"? To which CMS could be added?

Any ideas how to word an ad for a web developer for this or where to post an ad for one in NYC?
posted by nickyskye at 1:59 PM on August 1, 2012

I would suggest finding someone in IT/Web Development who can walk you through these things in much more detail and talk about options and pros and cons of using a Content Management System with a shopping cart as opposed to a shopping cart platform that offers page templates or whatever. (I know that's probably mostly Greek to you, but that's sort of the problem, this project is big enough that an AskMe post can maybe point you to better resources but probably not answer your question(s) completely.)

Talk to other (non-competitor) wholesale joints who have similar sites if you can and find out who they use/used and what their experience has been. Contact the BBB and/or maybe the local university if they have an Computer Science program and ask for references or the like. Try to find someone knowledgeable in the subject and offer to buy them lunch if they'll give you a big picture overview of the how/why/where of what you're looking at (both technically and from a process/business point of view).

You need to find someone who can be a bit of a consultant and help you get through this, whether it's a knowledgeable and honest dev who is doing the actual work for you, or just someone with experience in the development, build and management life cycles of a site like this.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 2:36 PM on August 1, 2012

Content Management Systems (CMS) are best when used in multi-author environments churning out large amounts of content frequently -- a great example is a newspaper's website. However, when chosen and implemented properly, a CMS will work well for a site with one non-technical author with infrequent content updates.

An e-commerce, e-cart, or shopping cart site is a site that is based off of selling merchandise -- such as Amazon or K-mart. Content creation is not its raison-de-etre.

CMS software does not imply quality e-commerce software or the other way around. But with proper research and implementation, the correct software package should work well for all goals.

Unfortunately, building from scratch a medium-to-large (I'm assuming large since I'm assuming a jewelry store will have lots of items for sale) website and doing it right is a thorny problem. You're unlikely to solve it by hiring a single employee (or if that's the route you go, when they leave it will likely be a major disaster for the jewelry store).

My advise is to spend some time researching how the website will be used by the jewelry store, the website authors, and the website users, and then find yourself a quality web shop company to build this site for you.

This is the kind of project that can lead to a lot of hurt feelings and the kind of project that I'd run screaming from as quickly as possible, so it's best to take your time and get all your ducks in a row first.
posted by BarnacleKB at 2:39 PM on August 1, 2012

Response by poster: Hi BigHeartedGuy, I thought that's what I was doing coming here, "finding someone in IT/Web Development who can walk you through these things".

I need to frame an ad to look for somebody to start this project, need the words for the ad. Now I know I need to ask for a web developer.

BarnacleKB, then find yourself a quality web shop company to build this site for you.

I googled "web shop company" in NYC and nothing comes up.
posted by nickyskye at 2:45 PM on August 1, 2012

I would suggest "web design new york city" as a search. We tend to refer to ourselves as web shops internally and try to market ourselves differently.

You'll see that there are a lot of results for that search. Take your time and look at their portfolios. Try to find examples of sites for companies that are similar to yours -- those are the web designers you want to talk to.

When you see a website that you really like or really dislike, try to figure out what it is that you like or dislike. If you're able to truthfully say to a web designer something along the lines of "I like how the color palette is repeated in the header and footer but there isn't enough white space for me" they'll love you for it; you'll make their job easier and the end product better. Don't worry if you don't know the technical terms -- being able to say that the pictures are too close together is just as good as saying there isn't enough whitespace around the photo assets.

Don't be afraid to ask questions about what a web developer means -- we tend to use a lot of jargon and often forget that the whole world doesn't understand everything we mean. (We also tend to use jargon that sounds like natural English but is loaded with layers of complexity.)
posted by BarnacleKB at 2:58 PM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Challenge accepted.

What you want is a Web site.
The type of Web site that you want is a shopping cart.
You do not need any special features.
You do need these standard things:
-The capability to create and manage categories
-The capability to create products
-The capability to upload images
-The capability to accept orders
-The capability to accept coupons
-The capability to configure shipping options
-The capability to add and edit content

I think one of the most important things is that whomever you work with needs to be able to communicate with you in English (or Korean) and not techno-babble. If something isn't perfectly clear ask to explain again and again until it is clear.

If you go with any of the mainstream opensource platforms like Wordpress, Magento, or Drupal then you can buy a well designed template that already exist - or maybe even find one for free. Don't waste a lot of money on the Web design or logo design.
posted by idealone at 3:04 PM on August 1, 2012 [4 favorites]

As for "finding someone in IT/Web Development who can walk you through these things", I think the general consensus here may be that you really need someone who can sit down with you for an hour or two at a time and answer questions like "What is SEO?" and help you figure out what you're looking for. This is harder to do in a forum format.

Ideally, you'd be able to find someone like this or this as a consultant for you, but you'll probably have to rely on the web designer you end up with.
posted by BarnacleKB at 3:09 PM on August 1, 2012

1. Find a company whose web site you think is really good, and a lot like what you want.

2. Ask them politely who did their design and wrote their code for them.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:13 PM on August 1, 2012

Alternatively, your business could subscribe to one of the pre-made e-commerce platforms like shopify and hire a designer/implementer to tailor it for you. Shopify is user friendly once set up and staff will have no problems uploading items and content.
posted by Kerasia at 4:19 PM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: THANK YOU idealone!! Thank you. If you were here I'd hug you. :) Really. You heard what I asked for! Thank you. I felt SO frustrated, not being heard. Honestly, I don't usually get on the verge of tears but this was hard.

It's so frikkin' humbling not speaking techno-babble and needing a website to go up. Ai ai ai. And my potential bosses in the Korean jewelry company will be way more old fashioned than I am. I will need to be able to explain to them, who will be investing in this website, what they need to do, basic price info, as well as likely arranging for a web developer, placing the ad for one in English or finding one. Where or who to approach I have no idea, yet.

But at least I have the basics for the ad and/or email to a web developer ! YAY!!!

Taking the orders over the web is not as important as having the images of the jewelry on the website for known customers to see and place their orders by fax, as that is how it is traditionally done in the NYC Korean jewelry wholesale businesses. Here is another example of a typical NYC Korean jewelry/accessory wholesaler website. Not so fancy, not flashy but lots and lots of images.

Is there a name for that type of website, the one I just linked. It's ecommerce. Any other words to describe that type of layout?

Yes, what you described, that's what needs to go in the ad! Or the request to a web design company. Or to a web developer.

The Drupal option sounds like a possibility, the ready template. The design is not what is so important for this company. The design does not need to be fancy. A simple logo or maybe none.

But I will need somebody to go through the process of setting it up for/with me. Is there a correct way I can ask for a web developer who can communicate with me?

BarnacleKB, those particular Craigslist ads you linked are not what I need. The jewelry company owner and I need to be able to manage the website on our own after it is created. Do you think Craigslist is a good place to put an ad for a web developer to create a website? Googled "web design new york city" and came up with sites who mostly do very fancy, retail store stuff, flashy, trying to drive traffic to the site - gather customers, not basic wholesale jewelry company websites. But with those words to google I was able to gather useful information, like this one with a menu of what people can ask for with prices. This web design company looks like a possibility with the portfolio of stuff they do. So thank you.

Chocolate Pickle, I've tried that but the wholesale jewelry companies in NYC are almost all Korean and VERY private with their information, no information forthcoming. Whoever gets this website creation job needs to be able to come to the company in NYC and shake hands with the owner, be able to communicate with the owner in person in plain and patient language.

Oh yay, great basic points. Would have loved to have found a person, a web developer, rather than a company. But maybe a web design company is the way to go?

Thanks for your tips. If anything else comes to mind I'd appreciate any other thoughts.

On preview, oooh, Kerasia! Very practical tips. Thanks.

What relief, it feels like this is getting into place.
posted by nickyskye at 4:33 PM on August 1, 2012

An ecommerce site without purchasing options is called a catalogue.

But maybe a web design company is the way to go

In your case I would say, definitely look for a company... to put it bluntly, you don't have the slightest clue what you're doing and you're really not in a position to manage this project effectively. Google "web design new york", go through each result, look at their portfolios, find 5 companies with an ecommerce site in their portfolio that you like. Send each of them a Request for Proposal with the information idealone outlined, don't talk about drupal or templates or any of that - let them make that decision, from your point of view it shouldn't matter what platform its on so long as it does all the things you want it to. A company may also offer hosting as part of the package (although you can get really stung on the price if you don't shop around) which is one less thing to deal with.

The other option of course is to google "ecommerce software", pick one you like then google "free software name templates", pick one of those and pay a student some beer money to set up a hosting account and install the software and template for you - shouldn't take more than 2 hours, max.
posted by missmagenta at 4:53 PM on August 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

I don't know anything about designing websites but I do know about wholesale. I work for a gift manufacturer. No one seems to have mentioned that you need your website to be set up in a way that the pricing is not available to the general public and that a customer needs to register for access and their access has to be approved before they can see all of the information. You're selling wholesale to retailers, right? So, you want to make sure that their registration includes their tax ID number and exempt certificate information.

I've seen some sites that show all the items but no pricing without the registration. I've seen other sites that are just a landing page and you can't see anything without registering so you'll need to think about how you want to set that up.
posted by 5Leepy! at 5:02 PM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Oh YAY more tips on setting this up! It's SO appreciated.

missmagenta, thank you for your bluntness. I love bluntness. Forthright and clear. I wouldn't say I haven't a clue though because I actually created the website layout for the company I have been working for, gathered from other sites what it needed to look like, the necessary functions, gave the information to a co-worker, who privately had somebody create the site overseas.

The problem with that is that the co-worker left the company and now if there are changes needed to make to the website they cannot be done by anybody in NYC, or in English. And there are glitches, which are stuck that way.

But for this new potential employer I didn't know - until this post's answers - how to find somebody to create a wholesale jewelry website in NYC, one that the owner and I could manage and, should there be glitches, is available locally to fix them with me and/or the owne.

One person has emailed me privately, who is a web developer, so that may turn out well too. But being able to frame the needs, that's why I came here, to be able to give the correct words to my needs for the website.

5Leepy!, excellent points. The website designer/developer needs to create the site as you mentioned, not for the general public but for wholesale customers only. A nice front page needs to be there, before the registering page.
posted by nickyskye at 5:28 PM on August 1, 2012

Response by poster: And thanks missmagenta for this: an ecommerce site without purchasing options is called a catalogue.
posted by nickyskye at 5:29 PM on August 1, 2012

Go for something that is meant for ecommerce. There's open-source solutions like Magento and Wordpress plugins, but you'll have more work down the road that will require a developer.

I would suggest a hosted ecommerce solution, even if you're not going to actually sell through it. You can still work with a developer and/or designer to get it set up, but you will be able to to easily add products, remove products, etc. The advantage of a hosted solution is you don't need to worry about downtime, upgrades and all the day-to-day stuff that can cost you a fortune (or require multiple calls to your developer). DISCLAIMER, I work for a hosted ecommerce solution, but honestly, it wil save you so much hassle down the road to be able to call their Support rather than tracking down your developer when you have a question. Googling "hosted ecommerce" will show you all the main players.
posted by dripdripdrop at 6:34 AM on August 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Got the job. thanks for all the help and suggestions in this thread. It was and is much appreciated.
posted by nickyskye at 1:43 PM on August 13, 2012

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