First let’s talk about what we mean by “accurate” proposal, what is that? Is there such a thing? We certainly think there is, and what we’re referring to is a web design project proposal that encompasses three things:
1) A Full accounting of your projects requirements
2) An estimate of the resources and timeline needed in order to fulfill those requirements
3) A cost breakdown that fully accounts for 1 & 2 without running the risk requiring more funds later mid-project
That third point is a doozy. If you’ve never gone through a web development project, that point might not jump out at you, or you might look at it and think “well duh.” However, the unfortunate reality is that most web design projects almost always come with extra costs during the project. As a small business owner, that is not something you want to have to deal with.
Every dollar counts for a small business, and budgets need to be managed tightly. It’s how the lights stay on and employees get paid. So the last thing you need is your new website project causing unexpected costs to creep up.
Imagine the alternative: as a small business owner you contact several website design companies seeking an estimate for a new website and end up with several proposals that are clear, transparent, and reliably priced.
All you would need to do at that point is focus on selecting the agency with the highest level of service, and the one you think you’d partner with the best. Sound impossible? Think again. Pulling this off is not as hard as you might think, you just have to plan ahead and come to the table prepared.
They key to vetting your web design options and getting competitively priced project bids starts with being familiar with the process, knowing what to expect, doing your homework, and being patient. In this article, we want to equip you to do just that.
Take a Look Within
Before you ever pick up a phone or fill out an online form, spend some time with your own website first. Get to know it again. This is especially true if your website is older than 5-6 years old. Over the course of a few years, websites change and elements come and go as the business itself changes. So, what you need to do is go through your site and get an accountability of how your website’s content matches up to your current business offering.
Is the full range of your severices represented?
Is the information about them accurate?
Are there people on the website that are no longer affiliated with the business?
Is there information on the website that is no longer relevant?
Those are just a few examples of the types of questions you should be asking yourself while auditing your website.
When you do eventually reach out to a web development company to get a quote, you will end up talking with a sales person who will be gathering requirements for your project. So, the better you can communicate information about what your website needs, then the more accurate your quote will be.
Specifically, look into these things:
Your site navigation is the menu that users interact with in order to get around and browse through your website’s pages. What you want to do is start by noting the top level navigation. In other words, the main menu items visible at all times across the top of your site.
Are there any menu items that don’t really pertain to your business anymore that could be removed? If there are, jot them down. If any entire part of your website doesn’t need to be accounted for in the redesign, then you don’t need it to impact your quote. On the other hand, can you think any business critical changes that should be added to the main menu? For example, many businesses expand their service offerings but never make necessary changes to their main menu to reflect those changes.
By starting with the top level navigation, you can formulate a pretty quick idea around how big your site will need to be, and that is something that will impact your quote.
Next you’ll want to spend some time clicking through all the sections and pages of your site. Don’t just hit a page and then move on to the next one. Actually read your own content, and audit the relevancy of it. How does it stack up against the current state of your business?
Try to forget your own biases and pride for a moment, and view your site through the lens of a perspective customer viewing it for the first time. Were your question answered? Could you find everything that you needed?
The reason to ask yourself these questions is because if you find that your website’s content is way out of date, that is something you will need to plan for. One of the components that gets factored into every web agency’s web design proposal is content entry. Don’t be fooled, it’s not a small deal. Content entry can attribute to big portion of a project’s cost. I’ve worked on university site rebuilds before with up to 300 hours of content entry involved. At the time the agency I was working for charged a typical high-end industry rate of $150/hr. That’s $45,000 in content entry alone. Yikes!
That is an extreme example, but it exemplifies the impact that the amount of content on a site can have on the rebuild costs. Therefore, you’ll want to be able to accurately gauge the amount of content your site has, and will need, this only benefits you.
Name That Functionality
It’s time to audit your website’s functionality. Websites do far more than just look pretty, they help users perform tasks that are often vital to your organizations main goals. For example, imagine your business sells products online. Do users create accounts? Can they log into their account to view their past orders? Can they search for products? Providing users with the ability to do these things helps them by providing convenience during the shopping experience, and in turns allows you to provide a better level of service.
However, building a website that can do those things is a stretch beyond just designing the way things look to the eye.
We must ask ourselves: how does it need to work and what purpose does it serve? Surely you’ve encountered a website that is frustrating to use before (cough cough, government websites). Maybe you just can’t find that damn thing you’re looking for, or maybe your trying to use a feature of the site and it’s not behaving the way you’d expect it to.
When websites aren’t natural to use, they don’t give the user a good experience, and like any business, a bad experience is often the customer’s last.
The best thing you can do as you prepare to begin seeking web design quotes, is step through your website as if you are a customer and make a list of any features you encounter. Take notes on how it currently works, as well as how you might want it to work differently.
These are critical things to be able to tell a web design company about. If they are a reputable company worth their salt, they will sink their teeth into these talking points and ask you questions and make recommendations. This is a good thing. You want them to dig that deep. It means that they are thinking about your business and what its unique needs are in a website. Again, the more details that are accounted for up front, the better defined your project quote will be, and therefore the most accurate.
In fact, a great web development company will come to the table with ideas because they will have reviewed your existing website first before getting on the phone with you. If you’ve given a web development company your website address and its clear during the conversation that they didn’t spend any time looking at it beforehand, you should proceed with caution and skepticism.
Does Accuracy Equal Affordability?
In web development, yes, absolutely.
When web designers and developers quote their work, they do it by accounting for the number of hours needed in order to get the job done. In order to do that, they need details (and lots of them) because they need to develop a comprehensive idea of what it is they are building and how much effort it will take.
The price in the proposal will be based upon such an hours assessment, and this is what we call “project scope.” If large or important details are overlooked and don’t make their way into the project scope, you better believe that no web design company on the face of the earth will build those things anyway just to be nice. What will happen is that you will be issued a change order mid project asking for more project hours, and in other words, more money. If this happens several times throughout your project it has a nickel and dime effect on your budget, and is endlessly frustrating.
So, the best thing you can do for your business, is come to the table with a nice familiarization of your website so that you can have a productive and thoughtful conversation with the agencies that you reach out to.