Have you ever gotten a couple proposals for having work done, and the prices are wildly different? We all have at one time or another.
Many times we are at the mercy of those presenting the proposals to decipher the difference. When they explain it, everything they tell us makes sense yet doesn’t help us differentiate and make a decision.
With our web design business, our proposals occasionally have distinctly different costs than our competitors. Sometimes higher, sometimes lower. We’ve written about how not to buy a website, and we see our potential clients struggle to differentiate between the proposals and making good business decisions about whom to pick.
Here’s a quick guide to analyzing website prices and selecting between multiple web proposals.
- Establish your key criteria before evaluating any proposal. Write the criteria down and rank them for importance. Website price will obviously be a necessary criteria, but it’s not going to be sufficient to make a good decision. If there are several of you involved in the decision, agree on all the criteria first. Determine if there are some criteria that are non-negotiable. For example, maybe you got burned by a fly-by-night operation in the past, and now you want to set some absolute criteria about the long term viability of your next partner.
- Educate yourself about the key website price factors for the work. Let’s use a simple construction project as an example. There are really only two price factors, the materials and labor costs. With websites, it’s about features, the associated wireframes or templates, and the design approach. Get a good list of these items, and make sure you understand how the design process works and that it matches your criteria. Ask for explanations of the pricing structure.
- Compare the key website price factors across the proposals. I’ll bet the lowest priced proposal is missing something. This doesn’t mean they are being deceptive (i.e., bait and switch), but it does indicate that they are prone to being optimistic and expecting the minimal amount of effort, which will likely lead to unanticipated charges later. The highest cost proposals may have included some nice-to-have or unnecessary items that could be left out. For websites, compare the feature and wireframe lists to see what they included (or didn’t).
- Evaluate the differences in project management, testing, and support. The higher cost proposals often include more appropriate amounts of project management and testing time, and consider that, realistically, things aren’t perfect so you’ll need a little extra support. The companies that are really good at what they do can articulate why they are adding in these costs and why it’s your best interest. Ask them to explain it
- Understand their organization. Ask how many employees? Who works on the project, and what’s their expertise? How many past clients bought the same services? How do they plan to support you after website is built? What’s their financial situation? Are the owners involved? How long have they been in business? Make sure all these are aligned with your expectations and criteria for a partner company. Remember, an established company that is in it for the long haul will typically have higher costs because they are committed to their clients, employees, and services. Are you looking for a partner or a vendor?
- Give extra bonus points for like and trust. I rank this higher than any of the other criteria, especially website price. First, don’t hire anyone that you don’t like. If you aren’t comfortable with them during the sales process, walk away. It will never get better. After you know that you like them, do a gut check on their trustworthiness. Do you trust that they will always do what’s in your best interest? If you can answer yes, that will overcome almost any other concern.
- Last, but not least, check references. You can always ask for them, but you know they’ll give you the good ones. Try looking at their client list or portfolio and start calling the companies directly. Tell their clients that you went rogue but wanted an honest perspective. Focus on finding out if they have effectively delivered the same services you want to buy.
The best process boils down to a balance between working with honest and good people, doing a little homework to compare apples to apples, and making sure they have a track record of doing the work you are hiring them to do.
Don’t buy the cheapest just because you think it’s a deal, and don’t buy the most expensive assuming that it must be the best solution. The real answer lies in the proposal details, the character of the people, and the organization commitment level to your business.