We are always asked to provide fixed quotes for new Websites. Whether they be for a small business looking to set up a site for the first time and start promoting themselves online or someone with a great idea who wants to build a Website to make that dream come true, almost invariably the approach is to tell us broadly what they are after, perhaps sending through a brief or a site map and asking for a quote.
The only problem is that a Website is not a thing. It can’t have a fixed price because it is not something to be bought and delivered. It is a complex interaction of design, content, creativity and business modelling, interacting with a potentially limitless array of connections on the Internet and the people who are logged onto it.
For someone looking to get a Website, what they are really after is the services required to make that Website come about. Even when looked at as a set of services, it is still not something that can be delivered for a fixed price – not without either the Website owner or the service provider losing out. Costing services is generally a time-based practice, so a fixed quote must be based on a fixed number of hours. The time it will take to build a Website is unknowable before the project commences. So, the service provider is going to have to overestimate to allow for the contingencies, or underestimate to try to get the job when the client is shopping for a competitive quote.
Another aspect to Websites is that they are very much dependent on the Website owner as to how much time they will require their service provider to put in. If the Website owner prepares their content meticulously, they save time. If they expect the service provider to create, edit or organise the content, they are adding more time to the project.
There are many theme and template-based, fixed-price Website packages available these days, but they still require input from someone to create them, modify them to suit your needs, maintain them and market them. Again, while they seem like fixed price objects, they are actually much like a lease on a real world shop i.e. a fixed price for the facility and space to run the shop, that does not give the shop owner anything else but that facility and space. It is up to the shop owner to do all the rest.
This is where people can get led astray. Websites are in many ways intangible and their functionality and code is often hidden or operating on levels beyond or behind the pixels on the screen. So, it is easy to be fooled into thinking that a Website will give you everything you need. Every Website we visit looks like it is doing just that, but behind the screen lies the code, the man hours, the creativity, strategic thinking, analysis and ongoing work necessary to make a Website succeed.
So if you are contemplating asking for a quote for a Website, perhaps the better question might be “can you help me do what I need to do for my business and if you can, what kind of arrangement would you be happy with?”
If you are looking for someone to help you with your Website, you are looking for a relationship with someone you will be working with on many aspects over many months, before and after launch. You might like to get your hands dirty or you might expect everything to be done for you. Either way, you will not be buying a thing, you will be creating a living, breathing, multi-dimensional business tool that you expect to make you money.
…and my guess is that the amount of money you expect to make is just as unquotable as the price of your Website.