The first question web designers generally get from a potential client is “How much will my website cost?” The fact that people ask doesn’t surprise us. What is surprising is that just about everyone wants to know what a website costs before they tell us what they want. That would pretty much require all web designers to have a crystal ball sitting on their desks. The closest thing to a crystal ball that I have is the snow globe my kids gave me.
Do you ask the clerk what your groceries are going to cost before you go through the checkout line? Do you ask the car sales person how much your new car is going to cost before you select all your options? I didn’t think so. So then why do you ask a web designer how much your website is going to cost before you tell us what features you want?
The Website Planner
Many designers have website planners on their web sites. Yet, even with specific instructions and numerous obvious links to visit their planner, people instead click over to the designer’s general contact form and type in a “How much does a web site cost?” message, click the SEND button and expect a designer will spit out an estimate based on very little or no information as to what that person wants for their site. I still haven’t figured that out and the only possible conclusions I’ve been able to come to are that:
People don’t actually read what’s on the page?
They think they’ll get a quicker? better? different? answer by bypassing the planner?
They can’t find the website planner? Ummmm, doesn’t that link to it on the general contact page get you there?
If you take a look at my contact page, I’ve tried to make it very clear that my general contact form is not for asking the cost of a website. I really don’t know how much more I can do to help people understand that bypassing the planner will only delay the process. Even with all of these warnings on the contact page, sigh … at least half of my website inquiries come from my contact form. When I receive an inquiry from my general contact form it doesn’t include the information I need to estimate the cost. By just asking “How much?” I then have to reply asking them to please submit the planner so I know what they want. Asking a web designer what your web site will cost before telling us what you want, is putting the cart before the horse. If there was a way to do this, I’d patent it, bottle it, sell it and make a few million!
How Not to Put the Cart Before the Horse
When you contract for a new house or remodeling job, your contractor will discuss your needs and wants with you before they can give you the projected cost. Estimating web site costs works in pretty much the same way. Like a custom made home, each and every web site has it’s own needs and an owner that has options or features in mind. Many factors go into determining what a web site will cost and your cost is totally dependent on what you want your site to have. I could shake my snow globe until it hits winter blizzard season and it’s just not going to snow your Wish List for me.
I once had a lady who wanted to know “how much” tell me that she was offended because I’d requested that she complete my website planner. She not so nicely told me this was nothing more than me trying to make my job easier. What she seemed to not understand no matter how I explained it was that estimates are based on what the client wants and if she didn’t tell me what she wanted, how could I give her an estimate? Telling a website designer something like “I want 10 pages with a shopping cart.” is not nearly enough information on which to base an estimate. I guess I could have dusted off that snow globe …
The planner does take a bit of time to complete, but in order for us to help you we need to ask the questions at some time or another. Sometimes people shopping for a web designer don’t know themselves what they want or what’s available. The planner helps you figure this out, it makes you think and then helps you tell us so that we have the necessary information to develop your estimate.
Planning Your Website is Like Going Shopping
I’ve found throughout the years that on the average, people are notoriously unprepared to enter the world of web site development. They somehow get it in their heads that all they have to do is contact a web designer, ask them how much, write the check and a few weeks down the road they have a brand new web site. Some clients are literally overwhelmed when they learn that they need to participate and what they need to do to participate. The planner helps you to learn more about your web site needs and to start the web site preparation process. Think of it as cruising the aisles at a 24 hour store where you can shop at your leisure and you don’t have to talk to a sales person until you’re ready. I don’t know about you, but I check the cupboards and the fridge and make a list of my needs before I hit the store. The planner helps you write the website shopping list that’s going to fill Mother Hubbard’s (website) Cupboard and the fridge, too!
If by chance the planner doesn’t do the trick for you, you can get more help from my Where Do I Start page.
What Happens After I Receive Your Website Planner?
I’ll generally have a few additional questions as follow-up to and clarification of the information you provided. I try to nail things down as much as possible in the beginning stages in order to provide you with the most accurate estimate that I can. The bigger and more detailed the initial picture is, the better it is for you. Why? Many times the estimate results in discount pricing because instead of charging you for each and every feature, I’m able to package some things. This enables me to cut development time and in turn reduces your cost. By planning ahead you may avoid costly add-on features that I may have been able to be include in the initial design process.
You may be amazed to learn that you as the client, have more to do with the final cost projection than you realize!