One of the first questions prospective clients ask is “How much should I budget for a website?” I can’t give you an accurate answer on the spot for a few reasons. But I understand why you’re asking.
As a wise man once said, you’re curious about a ballpark figure because you want to reduce your risk. You’re asking to make sure you can afford it, and to make sure my number sounds reasonable when you compare it to other quotes you may have heard.
But every project is different. It’s impossible to know what your real pain points are, the best way to solve them, and how much work that will take until I start digging. But there’s more to it.
By giving you an arbitrary number without doing research, I’m giving you the number that you’ll expect to hear in the future. Then the interview process begins. We start talking in depth about your challenges, and details emerge that didn’t come up when you first asked for a quick quote. So, the number you asked for off the top of the dome is probably inaccurate.
It’s my responsibility to listen to your initial requests without taking them at face value. It’s my responsibility to keep asking questions until we get to the root of the problem. Only then will I get a better idea of what needs to be done and how much you should budget.
Opening The Black Box
You see, there’s a reason you’re wanting to upgrade your website now, and why it wasn’t on your mind before. Like a detective, it’s my job to investigate what’s really going on, and figure out how I can make things better.
Investigating leads to diagnosing. And like professionals in other specialized fields (doctor, lawyer, mechanic) those questions help me assess the situation, diagnose a solution, and prescribe a strategy that will guide the rest of the project.
Some of my clients have purchased website design before, but many clients have never purchased a website before. They don’t know what to expect. It’s my duty to guide them through the process and alleviate the fear of the unknown.
The Disparity of The Playing Field
It’s tough when a prospective client has purchased web services before, but done so from a bidding service. I have nothing against developers on eLance or Thumbtack. But selecting a designer on those platforms is like hiring a contractor to build a house based only on price. There is no communication between client and developer. This hurts both clients and design studios.
The reason clients seek a professional is to get specialized advice and guidance from an expert in that field.
Bidding sites remove the design process and communication entirely, making the quote the only factor in the transaction. This leaves the client responsible for the self-diagnosis, prescription and strategy of their problem, and the web developer is merely a set of hands to carry out the request.
Conversation As A Tool
There’s usually something going on behind the scenes that is driving the need for a new project. When I know why this project is important, and what will happen if we don’t do this project, then I have a better idea of what the real goals are. This gives me a better understanding of what will make this project a success or not once we’ve finished.
There’s usually something in the business itself that is making you unhappy/stressed/overworked/worried. Conversation brings those things to the surface. Then we can make sure the project addresses those conditions and change things for the better.
I use a structured design process to lower your risk and ensure repeatable success for clients. These stages include: Discovery, diagnosis, research, strategy, planning, visual design, development, quality testing, migration, launch, post launch marketing.
Many clients won’t have a shot at another web project for a while. Being a good steward of your investment is important. It’s critical that I figure out the right shot to take. Firing blindly is not a good option. Your business is worth more than that.
One Rule of Thumb
The larger and more complex a problem is, the more you should budget for it.
Lower price comes with greater risk. Part of the web consultant’s job is to reduce overall project risk for their clients. My job is to ensure that your investment bears fruit over time.
The firms that race towards the bottom on price are riskier for clients. They must take on more work to be profitable, without the resources to handle the extra workload. These firms may cut corners, rush through work, or burn themselves out in order to stay in business.
But many of these do not stay in business, forcing their clients to find a new developer to maintain, secure, and update their site. It is a service to a web firm’s clients that they remain operational. They should be investing in new techniques, training and equipment that will serve every client on their roster for the duration of their relationship. To do less than this is a disservice.
Laying Other Fears To Rest
You may notice that many web professionals ask about your budget early on. This isn’t a trick. It is a candid conversation, meant to save everyone time.
Some clients are reluctant to reveal what they are willing to invest, thinking that the cost of the project will “magically” expand to the size of their budget. But knowing what your budget is means I won’t waste time showing you solutions that are outside of your range.
Knowing your budget is finite means that instead of prescribing you a huge project all at once, we can break it into stages. It means we can prioritize what needs to be done first, and what actions will have the greatest impact. Later, we can come back and complete the other stages of the project as your business grows.
Return on Investment
Investing in your business is a big decision, but absolutely necessary. Remember to always ask these questions when assessing the price of any web design and development:
Will this investment bring a tangible return? Will my real issues be addressed and solved? Do I trust this consultant to guide me through things that I don’t understand about the web? Will this company be here to help me down the road?
Will this consultant tell me if my ideas are bad, and steer me in the right direction? Will they deliver what they say they will? Will the workmanship be good? Will this help me make more money, save time, or improve something about the way I’m doing business?