This article outlines some basic principles that will help guide you through decisions you will need to make in getting a website developed. But the same principles will also guide you in building a stronger business and managing projects! The purpose of this article is to provide a plain English explanation of the pricing factors involved in any website development project. In addition, this article outlines some basic principles that will help guide you through decisions you will need to make in getting a website developed. “I wish I would have read this article twelve months ago… I would have avoided some massive frustration and saved thousands of dollars.” This article covers: How Much Does it Cost to Develop a Website? Why Plan? The Three Circles of Truth Planning and Discovery The Three Pricing Factors Selecting a Web Designer / Developer NULL How Much Does it Cost to Develop a Website? Answering this question is like trying to answer the question “How much does it cost to build a house?” Anyone that is familiar with the home building process knows that there are many factors that impact the price of a house. Some of them include the location and size of the property, the square footage and layout of the house, the exterior building materials, the interior building materials, the appliances, the interior fixtures, and the landscaping. Ultimately, you have to clearly define the scope of what you want before you can get an accurate price. The same concept is true for custom website projects. The primary difference is that…
- Most decision makers don’t understand the factors that impact the price of a website, and
- Most web design firms don’t understand the factors that impact the price of a website
Unfortunately, this truth leads to a “blind leading the blinder” scenario.
Because decision makers typically know less than the web design firms (or individual web designers) to whom they talk, they rarely recognize that they are being led off of a cliff until it’s too late.
Fortunately most web design projects are simple, so the cliff is short, and the fall doesn’t hurt that bad. However, if your website project is business critical (i.e. it’s a tall cliff), you have to take your blinders off before you select a firm. You can remove the blinders through education, and this article will give you a great foundation from which to start. Note: The “decision maker” is the person who is ultimately responsible for determining the high level scope of the project, the budget for spending, and the web designer that will do the work. Why Plan? websitepipeline™ has been involved in the development of over 400 custom (software and database driven) website projects since 1999 ranging in price from hundreds of dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars. We have seen many successes and failures, and our experiences have convinced us that poor planning is the primary reason projects have problems. Planning becomes more critical to the success of a website as the size and complexity of the project increases. As a website development firm, two of our biggest challenges have been:
- Convincing clients to invest time in the planning process
- Disciplining ourselves to refuse taking projects until an adequate plan is established
Overcoming these challenges will only happen when all parties are convinced planning is worth the time and effort. To help explain the importance of planning, we developed a concept called “The Three Circles of Truth”. These circles of truth exist for every technology project, including web design and development. The Three Circles of Truth
- Circle #1 – What the web design firm thinks they are selling
- Circle #2 – What the client thinks they are buying
- Circle #3 – What actually gets built
On a perfectly successful project, these three circles will overlap exactly (with no variances). In the real world, there are areas in each circle that do not overlap any of the other circles. These are called communication gaps. In the practical world, communication gaps exist on every project. The size of the gap (and the importance of the portion of the scope that is in the gap), will determine whether or not the project was “an overall success” or a “bitter failure”. If the gap is large, there is a problem. The developer thinks they did their job, and wants more money to do additional work… the client thinks the job was not complete, and wants the balance of the work done at no charge. In these cases, all parties think they are losing. And they are all right… to a degree. It is important to realize that it is extremely rare for web design firms to intentionally create communication gaps on projects they sell and execute. The reality is that the processes and methodologies they use to sell and build websites are flawed (or they have no formal processes and methodologies, which pretty much guarantees the project will have large gaps). Note: If you are executing a business critical website project, and the designer or developer you are talking to doesn’t have a formal, written process to sell and execute websites… you should find another firm to execute your project. There are many things you can do to minimize the communication gaps. The following is a good start:
- Understand the Circles of Truth
- Clearly define the scope of the project (see Planning and Discovery below)
- Understand the pricing factors that need to be addressed on the scope (see the Three Pricing Factors below)
- Ensure the web designer you select understands the scope (see Selecting a Web Designer / Developer below)
- Ensure the web designer you select is capable of executing the scope (see Selecting a Web Designer / Developer below)
Note: If you are currently in the middle of a bad technology project (one that has a large communication gap), your best bet is to try to resolve the issues with your current developer. In order to do this, you have to very clearly define the gap. Defining the gap may involve spec sheets, punch lists, mockups, etc. Do anything within reason to provide absolute clarity. Once the gap is defined, try to work out a compromise to get it resolved. If the compromise involves you paying additional money, make sure you have a way to keep the vendor accountable for what they are doing. If you have tried repeatedly to resolve the gap, and you feel there is no way to make it work, feel free to contact us to discuss an alternate resolution. We have rescued many companies from these unfortunate situations. Planning and Discovery Now that you understand the Circles of Truth, it time to start developing a clearly defined scope of work for your website project. websitepipeline™ has developed a formal, structured process to help you define a “business driven” scope for your website. We call this process “Planning and Discovery”. The following outlines the basic steps of this process. Notes:
- This process works for websites of any size and complexity.
- This process works for all sized companies.
- This process works for companies with single or multiple decision makers.
- Because business models and priorities change, this is an ongoing process that should be revisited / done at least once per year. For new websites, the result of this process will dictate the scope of your website. For existing websites, the result of this process will dictate the scope of your redesign efforts. The redesign typically involves some reorganization of your navigation, a redesign of your home page, some new content that needs to be generated, and in some cases new functionality.
- For companies or organizations that have many stakeholders / decisions makers, we suggest that one person take the lead on getting the process
done. It typically works best if the lead person puts together a list of everything they think applies to Step #1 and then circulate it to the other stakeholders. These stakeholders then make additions and modifications as needed until the step is complete. Then the lead goes to the next step and repeats the cycle.
- Web design – Yes but so much more… by Brian Seidel - April 1, 2006