How an agency should price a website

How an agency should price a website

If you’re a business owner you always have an eye on the bottom line, and you want to get what you pay for. Website pricing is a peculiar thing, on the one hand there are those who seem to charge a very low amount, and on the other there are those who seem extortionate. Why do prices differ so greatly in the web design industry? Much of it is focused around time. Some clients have a budget for what amounts to 100 hours of work, yet the functionality that they need from a new website is simply unachievable in 100 hours. If you are a web design agency, you realise this, but it can be hard to calculate how much your time is worth, and even harder to communicate this to your clients. If you are a client, you need to understand how differences in agency pricing affects the end product.

Like the businesses they represent, websites are not all created equal. Websites serve various purposes, feature different technologies and therefore they can vary greatly in cost as the level of design and functionality increases and becomes more complex to suit your company’s needs.

In this post I’ll break down the various steps that we like to take when going through a project, in order to clarify the work that goes into creating a website. Projects can vary hugely in scale, and there’s really not a one size fits all approach to designing a website, but ultimately the end goal is to satisfy the clients needs. If you’re considering a new website, this should help demystify the process. If you design websites, this should help you understand how price your services accordingly, in a way that’s fair and affordable, but doesn’t leave your services undervalued.

Brief

It all starts with the brief. Regardless of the type of website, you’ve got put together something that clearly states the requirements of the project, what you think the problem is, and what sort of solution you’re looking for. Usually it takes a while to draft a good brief, one that is explicit enough, but also allows for it to be pushed and explored to find the best solution. Include facts (no assumptions or embellishments). Describe your business and it’s goals. Use plain speaking English and include as much detail as possible. It’s easier and quicker for a designer to cut out waffle rather than have to fill in some gaps. Ultimately you’re trying to create the most complete picture of your business and its needs, because we almost certainly don’t know your business as well as you do.

Another reason that it’s crucial to spend time crafting a detailed brief is to avoid scope creep, and ensure that all requirements are recorded. Scope creep is bad for agencies and also bad for clients, as it forces deadlines back and causes disruption in what should be a fairly straightforward process. For us as an agency, we believe that a collaborative approach is needed, between us as a service provider and the client. The service provider works with the client to establish what they need in order to achieve their goals, as they know their business and we know digital.

Tip: A well managed project benefits both the provider and the customer.

If appropriate to the project, we discuss the need for branding. If the clients is already established then they’ll likely have their own branding already in place. Start-ups on the other hand may have a name, but lack a formalised identity, which is crucial for creating a unified brand across multiple platforms.

For more information on writing a brief read this useful article.

Research

Before any design work can be done, you need to undertake research, and it takes a good chunk of time in order to do this. We spend time looking at your competitors, finding and analysing data for your business or industry. We check existing traffic for your current website, and test for SEO. In order to design a website that fulfils a clients requirements we have to look at their customers. What content interests them? Where do they go for information. All of these things help to build out an idea of audience, and impact the way that a site is designed and implemented. Every website we build fits the inbound methodology and ensures that the websites work hard for customers, as they need it to generate leads and convert them into customers.

Presentation of research to client

It’s important to us that we present our findings to the client. It helps them understand their problem better and puts our insights into context. Ultimately it means that when a design is presented, the client understands how you arrived there.

Discussing competitors is important, as it helps to highlight ways that the client is different. Identifying points of difference and exploiting them is valuable to creating something that stands out.

In this presentation, designers can discuss the scope of the project. Discussing the scope of the project tells the agency what sort of ideas are feasible, and affirms what the client wishes to achieve.

At this stage, initial ideas can be discussed. Usually there will be a few things that pop into our heads as soon as we read a brief, and it’s good to vocalise them, as they could become the foundation for a final design.

After this, a more accurate quote for the job can be calculated, as we have explored the brief, and both we and the client have a more informed idea of what we’re trying to achieve, along with possible ways to get there.

Wireframes

With initial ideas and starting points created, wireframing and designing can begin. This is an essential part of the ideation process, and can involve sketching, paper prototyping and mocking up ideas digitally. It enables web designers to see a picture of how a website is going to come together and how the user experience and user interface will work. Usually one or two ideas will stand out as being the most appropriate and these can be developed into something more detailed. 

First Draft

With a clear vision of what idea is strongest and what needs to be done, we’re ready to create our first draft. It resembles a finished website more than a wireframe and as well as looking more complete, it also enables the client to understand and feedback on the look and feel of the design. They are presented with clear information on how their new website will navigate, appear on various devices and integrate social media, eCommerce, animation, multimedia elements etc.

Tip: A picture is worth a thousand words so at this stage it’s all about visually communicating the idea to the client.

Build Spec

Once the design has been signed off, and the client is satisfied that it’s a good solution to the brief, designers are able to put together the build specification. This enables the developers to understand the website’s functionality and key features, such as specific scrolling actions, responsive aspects, fonts and colours.

The more information included in the build spec, the easier it is for the developer to build it correctly. As in the brief writing, information needs to be explicit and avoid the need for developers to have to try and fill in any blanks.

Tip: Like a brief, ensure that it is detailed. If you looked at it with fresh eyes, would you understand it?

On a website with lots of pages, designers need to be very clear about the user journey, and ensure that the user navigates as intended. If developers are not working alongside the designers, then you need to make doubly sure that they understand it.

Development

We’ll send the website design of to be built, and work closely with developers to ensure that it fits the build spec. Testing is vital, and several stages of revisions and bug fixes are carried out. Once both the agency and the client are satisfied that it meets the design and is fit for purpose, then the project is signed off.

Hopefully this gives you a clearer picture of the process that we go through to design and build our websites. Again, project size and requirements varies, and there’s never a one size fits all solution, but we’ve found that this workflow is most efficient, and is suitable for all projects. As other agencies know, there are hundreds of tiny steps that the purchaser or client will never know about. Things like making sure analytics code is correctly installed, making sure the best plugins are selected, sorting out SSL certificates. And if these aren’t done you will get a sub-par product and if they are done correctly, even a simple website will still take many hours to fully setup.

Download our free costing template

In order to help you work out costing we’ve prepared an Excel file, comprising job roles that are involved with most web design project and hourly rates based of average pay in London. This is a useful tool if you’re a service provider looking to review your pricing, and likewise if you are interested in paying for a new website, it can help you calculate an estimate of what you can expect to pay.

modedaweb-costing-document

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Paul Sullivan
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