advice

But I can get it for less!

By Vicki Ball

Chances are, if you look hard enough, you can always find a cheaper price. Sometimes we go into this situation with our eyes open: we go Virgin Blue not caring about an inflight meal, buy something second-hand, or obsessively search and bid on eBay for the chance of a bargain.

Sometimes, though, we don’t go in with our eyes open…


Maybe we’re inexperienced with a particular topic or product, trying to cut costs without really being able to afford the drop in service, or we’re persuaded by a slick salesperson.

If you’re not familiar with the industry or product, it can be hard to tell if someone is over or under charging you. It even happens in the web development industry- and it’s not necessarily deliberate.

In my time as a web developer I’ve seen it all- from mailbox pamphlets promising a website for less than $100, to developers drastically under-quoting because they want the job, need the job or undervalue themselves, all the way to the other end of the scale where the customer is viewed as a blank chequebook.

While it always pays to shop around, especially when it comes to your website, it pays to think about why a quote is less than another- and what it’s going to end up costing you.

The sting is in the tail

Sometimes a developer or service provider will drastically discount the initial costs because they plan to recoup the difference later on. This could be either through hosting fees or charging significantly to update your website. An unscrupulous developer might even be aware that the current proposal isn’t adequate for what you need and is banking on later development charged at a higher rate.

So if you see someone offering to build you a website for less than $100, be sure to ask about the costs of hosting, and how much it will cost if you need to change something. If you’ve received a quote that is significantly less than others, ask about charge-out rates for future work.

Get what you pay for

The old saying is true, even when it comes to web development: you get what you pay for. Found a “friend of a friend” who makes websites after hours? Sure, he’ll charge less but he’ll have a narrower skill set than a web development team. He might be more of a programmer than a graphic designer, so your site functions well but lacks polish. Or vice versa might apply: the site will look beautiful but be difficult for your customers to use- and you better not look at it in Firefox or Internet Explorer because it’s just incomprehensible!

If the quote is much less than you expected, or much less compared to others you’ve received, ask yourself what you’re not getting for that price.

Wait for it, wait for it…

A freelance or hobbyist web developer will often charge less than a web development company to produce your website for you. While you are still likely to get a good result and excellent customer service, you might have to wait a while to actually get your website. Freelancers and hobbyists often work after hours, in their spare time or are juggling a full schedule with no one to delegate to.

Alternatively, a web development company that really wants your business might discount the price but extend the development time. After all, they’ll need to keep paying the bills while making your website, so other (better paid) work might get prioritised higher.

If you’ve received a cheap quote, then ask for an estimate as to when it will be delivered. Double or triple that estimate and ask yourself if that’s still an acceptable time line. If it is then go for it! Just be sure to keep on top of the project and ask for regular updates.

Starting all over again

If you’ve received a surprisingly inexpensive quote, carefully considered all of the consequences, and are still happy to proceed, then perform one final check: what if it all goes wrong? What if you never get your website? What if it’s built using some obscure tool that no one else uses? What if the developer won’t hand over the code or your data?

Of course, there are always legal avenues you can pursue, but ask yourself if your business could survive a setback like this. If not, don’t just go with the cheapest quote- it’s not worth it.

Money trail

Of course, a higher quote or paying more isn’t a guarantee for quality, or that you’re getting the best. You could be paying for overheads that you don’t want: your developer’s rent, large retinue of staff, proprietary technology.

You should also look closely at what money is being spent on what parts of the project- and if those priorities match your own. Is more money being spent on the visual design than the functional “back-end”? That might make sense if you need your website to be visually engaging but not actually do a lot of complicated things; but make sure that this is the case.

If you want to cut back on your spending for your website, think carefully about the different components and how you prioritise them. Make sure you communicate this to your developer and, if necessary, negotiate a price based on a design you create together- then you’ll know where and why the cost savings are being made.

The bit where we blow our own horn

Yes, yes, we’re blowing our own horn here but really, this article is the reason we started our own web development business in the first place. Throughout our careers we’ve either witnessed, experienced or been unwilling participants in some of the above situations, and as a result, our guiding principles are being fair, open and transparent about what we do.

When we quote for a project, we strike a balance between the amount of effort we’ll need to expend, the skills we’ll need and the costs we’ll incur, with what the value of the project is to our customer. And if our customer can’t afford a lot, then we’ll adjust our prices or design to a budget.

And that’s what we call a fair price.

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How do I tell if a developer is right for me?

By Vicki Ball

Your website is important. Your time is important. Your money is important! So finding the right developer is important too.

Below I’ll explore some questions you should ask and things you should consider when finding a developer for your website.


Making the right match

A good match is about matching expectations. Small business? Then find a developer who can give you the customised service and dedication you need. Big national brand or company? Then find who has the resources to meet your needs.

Matching experience can also be a plus. Developers will often get work through word of mouth, most often through word of mouth in a particular industry. If you sell bmx bikes and the developer has done a lot of cycling-related websites, then they are likely to understand your industry and your needs.

Matching values is also important. Look at the developer’s website and what values they believe in. Do they value customer service? Speedy delivery? Economic or environmental concerns? Your return on investment? Your customers’ needs? Do these values match yours?

Analysing their portfolio

Take the time to analyse their portfolio. Does it include websites similar in nature to what you want? In a similar industry?

Visit some of the websites and really experience them. Do any errors occur? Is there anything that doesn’t look or work quite right? Really test the sites out- submit a query or use a feature: how did it feel? Was it clunky or smooth? Be sure to try out the sites in different browsers- do they still look and work OK?

Sit back and look at the general visual style of the sites in their portfolio. Do you like it? Does the style suit your business? Be honest about what kind of look/feel you want: classic or cutting edge? Does their portfolio have examples of this style?

Customer service

Good customer service is important not only while your new website is being developed, but later on once it is live and needs support or maintenance.

You can test and evaluate a developer’s customer service by making an enquiry. Send an email or website query and see if you get a response in a reasonable time frame. Create some important questions you want to ask and measure how quickly and how adequately they are answered.

Check out their website to see what their attitudes to customer service are, then see if you can determine how these words are put into action.

All the other things

Don’t forget the things you can’t necessarily see on a website or in a portfolio. Is hosting provided- what are the costs and services provided? Can the developer provide other services such as search engine optimisation and marketing, email campaigns, website and visitor stats and reporting?

If the information is on their website, take a look at the tools and services they use. Have they been chosen for a reason? If so, do you agree with those reasons?

You’re allowed to ask

Anything! If it’s important to you, then you should always feel free to ask your developer about it. Ask for testimonials or if you can contact one of their customers to discuss their service (be prepared to return the favour if you become their customer).

You can ask them to prepare a customised portfolio of their work that matches what you’re looking for. You can ask what their charge rates are, if they can give you a ball park figure or estimate for your site or idea. You can ask for advice or recommendations. If it’s important to you, you can ask to meet them, their team or to see their offices.

 

Because websites are important, we think it’s important to take the time to find a developer who is the right fit for you. And your developer will appreciate it too- we take our work seriously and we always appreciate someone else who does as well!

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