Clients, Budgets and how to Cost a Website

Dealing with clients,budgets and how to cost a website has always proven to be interesting in my experience. I have come across a radically mixed bag of perceptions regarding what clients want, what they need and what they expect or are willing to pay for creating an online presence, no matter if its a simple brochure website, an SEO campaign, or a complex multi-user, multi-functional, multi-lingual corporate giant.

One serious issue I always have is establishing a website budget with new clients.  Its usually in the first questions I ask after:

“What is your business”

“What is the present situation”

“What are your aims?”

“What is your budget?”

I have mentioned the importance of budgets in a previous article, although this was in relation to Search Engine Optimisation specifically. As soon as I ask this question the barriers and defences immediately rise up as they enter uncharted territory and I can almost guarantee the response is going to be along the lines of:

“Well you tell me what its going to cost to build a website?”

Now, don’t get me wrong here, I have no real issue with this question, its certainly not out of order as the largest issue confronting people or business who are addressing their online presence is that their is no real or established “price range” for anything related to websites. (I’m using the word websites to cover anything online at the moment, from hosting to SEO, to databases systems, anything you can think of really.)

But I do get annoyed when people who need to take this seriously waste my time with ridiculous notions of spending a s little as possible and then expect it to make them millions overnight because they haven’t taken their budget seriously.  Worse still is the people who agree to a project then question the services and works provided after having them clearly defined.

But EVEN more than that are the people who come with a budget so ridiculous and then haggle over its value by citing the amazing opportunities the project will provide in the long run in an effort to push through an agreement on cost and project spec.  I will not tell you what I say to these people as I might get sued but its along the lines of “Get real” with a few explicative phrases thrown in for good measure..

So much so that this video from NO SPEC! brought a smile to my face as its the perfect example of situations I have come across personally over the years.

The Result of unrealistic budgets

How would you react if someone treated you and your business in the same way as the people in the clip. Making crazy assumptions and expecting work done on a pro bono basis or with the promise of future payment? Not very nice is it? Asking to see the work then decide if they wish to pay for it later depending on someone else’s opinion?

That’s not the way the world works and its not the way web design operates.

The relationship with business and web design companies needs to be solid and both parties have to work together to reach the required goal. This means respect for the individuals involved and the work involved. People need to realise that its not easy simple stuff.  Its a skill that has taken time to master and takes dedication and practice to develop.

Its not some kid whos doing a computer course at college and will do the site for pocket money.

Remember we are talking about YOUR business presence online and its how you will be branded and represented to eah and every visitor.  So lets take it seriously.

So why is budget so important?

Lets clear this up shall we.  Websites can be simple or they can be vast.  Hence to cost a website can be very difficult and the prices will range in comparison. Designers and developers will all offer a range of options and solutions to any particular project depending on requirements, their skills, experience, and the goals of any given brief.  The only consistent factor that can possibly dictate the extent of the project is the allocated budget assigned to it. Its that simple.

I have continually advised clients, upon establishing that they have no set budget, to do so and explained the reasons why. Lets say they need something relatively simple,  a 5 page website with a database to display products and a contact form.

How to Cost a Website

If a client was to approach three different companies for quotes on this project they would get back three different solutions and three different prices.  They might be roughly similar in cost but the differences are proportionate.

Company 1 will cost a website at €1000

Company 2 will cost a website at €1500

Company 3 will cost a website at €2000

That’s a difference of €1000 between companies 1 and 3, or double the price (imagine the difference with one extra zero on the end of those figures).

All three companies will offer different hosting packages, email solutions, design fees, database creation, CMS solutions etc.  This ultimately leaves the client completely confused because of the techno-jargon involved and no real idea which one of these quotes actually gives the best VALUE.

This is the key essentially, its about the BEST VALUE.

Establish the budget and then ask the question.

Now lets consider approaching all three companies with the budget set. Your budget is €1800.

The question is then “What services and solutions can you provide for me at this maximum budget?”

All three companies can evaluate the solutions in a more realistic manner as they have a set amount to adhere to and a limit on what solutions they can offer to achieve the desired result.

This also means that a comparison between services is a lot simpler and more concise to the client as the bids will be evaluated for the best value.

Its not the perfect solution I know, but it helps everyone in the long run and leads to a more constructive working relationship once the decision has been made an expectations and requirements have been addressed against the budget.