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how to get an accurate quote for your next web design (or redesign) project

Posted Jun 29 2011 11:57am

the first question i am invariably asked when someone wants to work with me is “what do you charge for websites?”. i unfortunately always need to answer with “it depends”.

to avoid this initial volley with any web designer or web design company, i’ve created a list of 6 key points you can prepare when you’re thinking about having your website designed (or redesigned).

although you might not know how much it’d cost to do your website, since that’s not a service you provide, you might have a budget you need to stick too – and that’s ok. it sets up parameters for the scope of features the site could have, and also determines how feasible the project is with a web designer. your upper limit for the project might be below the lower limit of a web designer – in which case, it’s best to know this right away so as not to waste either persons time.

current site
if you’re looking for a redesign, your current site, is a perfect starting point (even if you hate it). list out what you’d like to keep in terms of how it functions and what is going away or changing.

in a sentence, what are you trying to accomplish with the project? how will success be measured? this will hopefully lead the web designer to some ideas on how to reach your goals, possibly in ways you’ve not thought of.

not all pages on a website are created equal. some require a lot more work, both in terms of design and in terms of programming setup. for example, an about page requires nothing but content and photos, whereas a shopping cart page could require a complex program to make it work. so a web designer needs to know, in great detail, how your site will function. this can take the form of a plain english list – or even a reference to a site that has the functionality you’re looking for. some examples of common functionality are: e-commerce (anything from a paypal button to a custom e-commerce application that processes credit cards and deposits into your merchant account), mailing list (setup and template design), flash animations, user login and private access, forms that save to databases, and/or simply displaying content from a database or CMS in a unique way. it’s not enough to list what you’d like (similar to the list above), you’ve also got to be clear as to how want each function to work.

a template is a unique page, that’s different in the way it displays content (and not just different in terms of the content it’s got). most websites have a homepage that’s laid out differently than other pages on the site, so that’d be a unique template. if your website needs e-commerce, then there will be templates for individual products, a shopping cart, a checkout, and more. this is important to know, since every template needs to be designed and programmed.

overall aesthetic
giving a general idea (with examples) of what you’re looking for in terms of the style of the site is important because it might not be a style the web designer is comfortable with (or excited to do).

everything else
while the above points are required, the following are “good to know points” to move towards accuracy in a quote:

  • what’s the timeline? when does the project need to start? when does it need to finish?
  • do you need logo/brand design as well (if yes, this opens up a lot more questions)?
  • who is the competition and what do you like/dislike about them (a list of 5-10 with URL)
  • what sites do you like the look of, and why (a list of 5-10 URL with notes)
  • the technical details of your current web host (operating system, software versions, space/bandwidth – this can be the URL of your current hosting package or the contact information to the host with your account name for reference)

since no website is the same, no website will cost the exact same amount. but if you provide details for each of the 6 points above, then a potential web designer should be able to give a much more accurate quote than if you just asked them “what do you charge for websites?”.

ps: i’ve setup a twitter account for myself where i talk a lot about the topics i speak to here – so please follow @pjrvswp .

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