A question often heard in the internet industry is how quotations for web design and development services can vary so drastically from one web design consultancy to the next.
People, quite understandably, get very confused when one quote comes back as $800, another for $8 000, and many big-brand sites can easily cost millions of dollars to create and maintain. Why the vast disparities? How can you assess if your $800 quote is a bargain or if you're paying for the glorified equivalent of a cardboard cutout?
In order to understand things in laymans terms, let's look at construction from a more traditional perspective. When you contract a builder to build you a home, you will get the same disparity, depending on who you ask and what you specify. Ask two builders to build you a home and tell them no more, and one will build you a budget one-bedroom home 200kms outside the city to meet a perception of extreme budget constraints, and another will build you a mansion on the beach in a highly-sought-after suburb in line with a completely different perspective. At the end of the day, the more clearly and specifically you detail what you are looking for from any kind of engineering endeavor, be it software engineering or architectural engineering, the closer to a common understanding you and your contracted partner will be.
Of course, not being either an architect or technology guru oneself, how can you know in advance what to specify? After all, as I often like to say, you don't know what you don't know. Here are some tips you may find helpful.
1) Start High Level
At a high level, what will your website need to do? Is it the proverbial online marketing brochure with the electronic equivalent of a product information pamphlet and your business card on it, or is it the internet duplication of your entire business? Here are some general website classifications you may want to start with:
- Online business card
- Online marketing brochure with contact capabilities
- Online shop
- Customer relationship management portal
- Internal business communication and documentation network (intranet)
- Online application
- Public service portal
- Content portal
- Community portal
- Search engine
- Directory service
2) Break It Down
As you can imagine the levels of complexity of any of the above will vary substantially, so you then need to break your high-level categorization down. How many rooms in your house are you looking for? This is where you need to be a little bit realistic. You're not, after all, going to be able to have twenty rooms in your economy low-cost housing development, and neither do you want just one bathroom in your high-rise office block. Try these common building blocks:
- High quality professional layout, graphics, photography and navigation system
- New page creation and text and image editing features
- Database to store content, product information, application data
- Search functionality
- Product management tools
- Payment facilities
- Customer feedback and contact capabilities
- Software programming
- Email routing
- Customer surveys
- Site statistics measurement, monitoring and reporting
A good tip here is to find a couple of sites that offer similar capabilities to what you are looking for, and document the features you like and need. The same as a mechanic will give you a more accurate quote to repair your car if he knows which parts need replacing and repairing, web design and development quotes will be much more comparable if they are point-for-point for specified requirements.
3) Speak To An Internet Consultant
If even the above seems daunting, don't feel bad, many people struggle with technological concepts, just as many people struggle grasping business accounting, legal issues, marketing and any other important business fundamentals. Just the same as you would speak to an accountant, legal adviser or marketing expert, internet consultants have the qualifications and experience to point out the things you wouldn't even normally think to ask, and help you devise a business strategy around your business' online presence.
The internet is a much newer field of expertise than law, accounting, sales and marketing are, but the parallels are the same. Just as you would be well advised to seek out the advice of a chartered accountant rather than a junior clerical person for your business financial planning, an internet consultant will help you devise a sound strategy first and ultimately save you a small fortune on wasted development that may be technically brilliant but nevertheless a proverbial square peg in a round hole.
Unlike graphic design, such as creating business cards, where the price is going to be similar for a similar looking product, web design usually entails some level of programming. As a general rule, the more intricate the graphic design, and the greater the depth, interactivity and application programming the site needs, the higher the cost, because those are the labour-intensive aspects of site development.
In other words, the more like an online brochure your site is the cheaper it will be, and on the other end of the spectrum, the more like a powerful software application it is, the more expensive generally.
Your business is an expensive investment, in time, in effort, in every way that you look at it. If you set out to ensure that your online office premises is an accurate reflection of your offline business, chances are that you will start becoming skilled at valuing the worth of every new aspect of each.