Whether you're dealing with auto repairs or website construction, pricing is never easy. Whichever business you're in, the key to a successful outcome both for client and supplier is to be transparent and honest about what's possible for a given price.
In another lifetime, I didn’t build websites, since they didn’t actually exist. Instead I fixed cars and spent a lot of time welding them up to get through the MOT test (UK road safety test). At the time there was a bit of a trend for doing up Morris Minors, and one day a customer came to my garage and asked for a quote for welding up the rear wheel arch where the suspension was breaking away.
Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/sherlock77/
We had a look and reckoned it would take three hours so we’d charge £25. She was a bit surprised at the quote because the local Morris Minor restoration specialists had quoted her £150 for the same work, and understandably enough she was confused about how there could be such a difference. So we actually phoned the other garage and asked them what they were going to do.
Their estimate involved taking out all the interior fittings to avoid a fire, burning away all the underseal and rustproofing, cutting out the corroded panels and replacing them before painting, resealing and reassembling – maybe 20 hours work. Our estimate involved welding it up with a patch while the apprentice sat inside with a wet towel to douse the flames - three hours. So, both quotes were accurate, and both were honest, and both were about fixing her car. But the specification we were working to and our method were completely different.
And what’s all that got to do with websites? How much will my website cost is a question that has a lot in common with how much to weld my rear suspension. The answer is, it depends. Do you want a complete design or can you live with a template? Do you want a simple electronic billboard, or a fully-featured content-managed tool for handling your communications? Do you want a truly responsive site that works on all devices or can you live with a single layout ? Do you want a site that's optimised for fast performance or will you live with slow-loading pages? Do you want a customised admin interface with complex workflows or will you take what comes out of the box?
There are plenty more options that could affect the price, and the point is that there isn’t a right answer to any of them. The essential thing is that our clients make a well-informed business decision about what their priorities are, and how those match up to the available budget. To achieve that match of business priority and budget, we use the Agile model, where the client’s product owner produces a set of user stories and ranks them into essential, desirable or possible. Using this approach it’s possible for a client to identify things that need to be done now, and things that can be pushed into the future. It also helps the client to identify what really matters, in order to create a web application that advances the goals of the business.
The challenge to this approach is that clients may decide on their functional specification without any real reference to price, and then you end up in the nightmare scenario – doing the expensive coach-building work for the price of a quick fix. However you order priorities, what you can’t do is deliver the £150 job for £25.