How much should your web project cost?

Answer: It depends.

Isn’t that just the worst answer? I give it all the time when Im asked that question and its always true! A web projects budget depends on a few things:

  1. Scope – how big the project is
  2. Timing – how fast you want it done
  3. History – what have we done for you in the past?

Also, with the way we price all of our work weve figured out a way to eliminate almost all of the guessing.

Let me be really honest with you, most of our web project are in the $15K to $70K range, were a studio of 7 and we do really great work.?? That?? being said, your web project should be anywhere from free to tens of thousands of dollars. Lets go through the three things I mentioned before to see how things pan out.

1. Scope

Scope is a fancy way of saying: how big is this project and who is doing what. When we estimate a web project we look at:

  • How many pages is the site?
  • Who is writing it (us or the Client)?
  • Features: Is there a resource repository? A blog? A huge staff directory? An intranet?
  • Any members-only sections?
  • Are there payment areas for donations, physical items or event registration?
  • Are we optimizing content for search (SEO)?
  • Anything third party like a CRM, newsletter or external database?
  • Does this site have to work with any other sites?
  • How extensive will the staff training need to be?
  • Are we building something from scratch or redesigning something that exists?

All of this stuff translates into time and thinking, which results in dollars and a production calendar.

2. Timing

In the design world people typically say: “good, fast or cheap” pick two, but you cant have all three. We tend to stay away from cheap and fast because that leaves out “good” and wouldnt do anyone any favors.

So if you want it fast be prepared to pay more for that. Heres the thing, when a project gets re-prioritized as first in line, then everything else has to move and we need to hire more freelancers to get the work done. Its simple economics.

3. History

When weve worked with someone for a long time there is less research to do upfront. We dont have to re-learn a server configuration or get everyone up to speed on how to use Basecamp. A project that builds off of ongoing training and maintenance is one that is off to a much quicker start.

Eliminating guessing

Heres how we work to eliminate as much of the unknown as possible:

First, we do an extensive Discovery and Blueprints phase that answer the two fundamental questions, what are we building? and how will we build it? We do a lot of research in four areas: audiences, technology, positioning/competition and marketing goals. Using that information we write the plan to build the site, including a time-based estimate with line-itemed costs which we call Blueprints.

This a flat fee anywhere from $12K to $20K.

Then the project ends.

If our client wants us to build the site we can certainly do that for the estimated cost, they are also free to build it in-house or take it to another firm. We follow the agile methodology for development, which well explain more in another post. Long story short, its incremental progress and reviews instead of a big reveal not as exciting, but way more productive.

Through many, many projects weve found that this is the best way to work. It eliminates almost all of the surprises that can come up toward the end of a project and royally screw up everything, which is the worst thing ever!

Of course we continue to fine-tune the process every time we work and it gets better and better. Who knows, we could have a totally different process in a few months. The goal is to learn and get better with every project.

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