Whether you’re building a new website for your company, looking to make enhancements to an existing website or tackling an add-on project, like a collaboration platform, starting a website project can be difficult. From deciding whether to handle the project internally or hire an agency, to managing quotes from outside vendors, there’s a lot to keep track of. Because website project estimates can range from as little as $4,000 to as much as $100,000, it is hard for decision makers to know if they are getting a good deal or completely ripped off.
At Duo, we’ve built hundreds of websites for clients across a variety of industries using Drupal, an open source CMS. Based on that experience, we put together an outline of things you should keep in mind and red flags to look out for when determining how much a website costs.
In our experience, the place where most website projects go wrong is at the very beginning, when an agency is setting client expectations. Too often, web development agencies say yes to everything in the early stage of a project. While this seems great to the client, it is often setting the entire project up for failure.
Instead, look for a development agency that can take your wish list and help you prioritize the needs to bring your site to launch. This includes the difficult job of de-prioritizing items needed for the initial launch of your site and identifying which needs can be moved to a parking lot to be worked on at a later date. This process is part of our Growth Driven Design philosophy. If you’re interested in learning more about the Growth Driven Design process, check out our recent post.
Red Flags to Look Out For
If a web development company says “yes” to your needs without doing the due diligence, they might not have even looked at your website yet. Before a real discovery or site audit takes place, all they are providing you with is a guess. We need to understand the variables of a project before we set a price, otherwise we’re not fully prepared to take on a new client. Understanding the requirements is essential for the start of the pricing process.
Setting a Budget
Setting and sticking to a budget may be the most difficult part of a website project. It takes discipline and active communication to keep a project on track. It’s easy for a project to spiral out of control, no matter what the initial size or scope. A great agency will be able to tell you what you can achieve with a certain budget before the project starts. By conducting a general audit to prioritize needs, they’ll be able to develop an actionable plan for your project.
Prioritizing client asks is easier said than done. Most people begin a project with an idea for a website that will cost much more than they’ve budgeted for. As a web development agency, it’s our job to help you understand how things are priced and how many hours it will take to get certain items accomplished.
Red Flags to Look Out For
If an agency provides you with a flat price for a project before prioritizing your needs and setting up an action plan, you’re not being set up for success. Look for a partner that explains what is included in each price, including the amount of hours it will take to get the project accomplished.
Building in Drupal
Drupal is an open source CMS; meaning there is no licensing fee to use Drupal. Because it is open source, you’re also not locked into building a website using a proprietary platform. There are thousands of developers contributing to the Drupal community every day, which means that new features and improvements are launched frequently and you don’t need to wait for someone else’s roadmap in order to implement them.
With Drupal, developers are able to add additional functionality to your site at any time with available or custom modules. Thanks to Drupal’s extremely active open source community, there are many custom modules available to developers to take advantage of when building out a new site. Because Drupal’s out-of-the-box framework meets most basic website functionality, developers should be able to spend more time building the custom pieces needed to pull your project together. Drupal has also just gone through a significant upgrade, the first in five years, and offers many new features out-of-the-box.
Red Flags to Look Out For
Because Drupal will always be free, pay close attention to any platform fees that are a part of an agency’s proposal. In addition, understand the development work outlined in your proposal. Are you being charged for custom development when there is a Drupal module available that may cut the developer’s work in half?
How Our Process Differs
At Duo, we include a Drupal developer in our initial calls to better understand our client’s technical requirements and their existing development environment. Working with our project management and development teams, we put together a pricing estimate based on real need, and the hours it would take our team to complete the client’s requests.
After an preliminary discovery phase, our project management and development teams work together to create a pricing document with line item tasks and a price breakdown for each piece of work. Before beginning work, we provide our clients with an execution statement, which is a project plan in an SOW form. From there, we discuss each line item with our client and determine pricing in accordance with an official project plan.
If you’d like to schedule a meeting with our team to put a realistic price on your website project, call me at 312-529-3014.