Web Development Price vs. Value

February 19, 2019

Web development price versus website development value has been a notoriously difficult metric to quantify. More so now than probably at any time in the history of the internet.

Let me explain…

Pixelcarve has changed a lot since we embarked on an aggressive SEO campaign a few years ago. Now that we dominate the first page of Google for hundreds of keywords, it’s not unusual for us to receive half a dozen good leads every single day.

This is quite different than the business we used to run, when the vast majority of our new work was generated through word of mouth and referral.

When you’re talking to someone who was referred to you by a person or company they trust, it allows for a very different type of conversation – one based on goals, strategy, and the bigger vision. It’s exciting, because for the most part you’re able to jump right into discussions about the project. A lot of trust has already been established by the nature of the referral.

Unfortunately, in the case of cold inbound leads, far too often the conversation devolves into price.

Or worse, it starts with price.

The “Average Price for Web Design”

The most challenging way to begin a conversation with a prospective client, is trying to handle impossible questions about how much websites cost.

  • How much do you charge for a website ?
  • What’s the average price for web design ?
  • Is there an Average Cost of Website Design for Small Business ?
  • What’s the cheapest you can make a website for ?
  • Etc.

I get why people ask these questions. With the proliferation of open source software, free or cheap themes, and offshore labour, websites are now often seen as a commodity.

And in some ways, this is true. There are very inexpensive ways of getting a website done. And for many small businesses just starting out, it can be a wise move to limit your investment in a website in the beginning.

And everyone wants a deal. How irresistible it must be to want an incredible website experience, for a really cheap price.

And herein lies the challenge.

The Average Cost of Website Design for Small Business ?

That’s the point, an average requires a middle, and there is no longer a middle.

Much like in America, the middle-class of website design and development is disappearing. Less complex websites are racing to the bottom, and more complex custom websites are racing to the top. Because of this, there is no average price for web design. The “average price” completely mis-represents website development pricing plans and models.

The truth is that websites have actually become infinitely more complex and take far longer to design and build than ever before.

The reason for this is largely due to responsive design and an infinite number of devices and browser software configurations. But it’s also due to the capabilities expected from a modern website. Many companies rightly leverage their website as they do their employees. But this employee works 24/7, takes no sick or personal days, and doesn’t need a vacation.

Successful, growth-oriented companies weave their website into the entire DNA of their client lifecycle management process. It’s a core part of their sales, marketing strategy, and retention strategies.

For smaller businesses just starting out that don’t have sophisticated needs, templates and cheap software will likely do the trick fine. For those more enterprising DIY individuals, there are plenty of cheap options that let you build your own websites without the need to know how to code or design.

But as soon as you step outside of that box, and your business requires something even remotely custom or complex, then the research, architecture, user experience design, creative design, engineering, development, and QA efforts scale rapidly – as do the timelines and costs.

I equate it to Ikea. If your room’s dimensions and décor are exactly the right fit for one of their pieces of furniture, and your needs match its capabilities, then the value proposition for their cheap price is on point.

But if it simply doesn’t fit, then any dollar amount you spend is a waste, and there’s no value. You then require something custom be produced, and the skillsets and complexity to do so scale significantly.

Website design is no different, and this is where our value comes in.

‘Price Is What You Pay, Value Is What You Get’ – Warren Buffett

At Pixelcarve, we believe in value, not price. We believe that Sir Henry Royce nailed it when he said that “The quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten.”

If given the chance, it’s easy for us to explain the value that our prices drive – because we take a larger view to each project and pair it with business goals and return on investment. And then we deliver a much higher quality product that meets those goals.

Website Development Pricing Plans

But often, we’re not given the chance to do the hard work required up front, to actually quantify our value, and properly spec out a project scope and cost.

This is because most agencies have learned sales trick and have boiler-plate proposals that lay out basic website development pricing plans. I know this, because often prospective clients come to us with estimates and proposals for jobs, long before they’re able to even understand the scope of work themselves.

These proposals are dubious at best, and deceitful at worst. They are heavily estimated based on generic requirements, and often include sneaky provisions to quickly escalate costs as the true value of the work is revealed during the course of the project. We call this price creep in the industry and it’s very common. Pixelcarve only works on a fixed-price project model, but it requires us to have extensive information prior to quoting. Often prospective clients don’t want to provide this information, or don’t have it to provide.

So, the alternative route we take in those situations, is to avoid scoping the entire project all together, and instead simply engage in a Discovery Workshop session with the client. This gives us the information we require to create extensive and thorough documentation on not only the needs of the project, but on the long-term business, operations, sales, and marketing goals of the organization. This is then broken down by timeline and milestones. That document can then be used to produce reliable pricing – by either us, or any other qualified web design company.

But admittedly this Discovery Workshop process also takes time and money – and it’s not typically how people procure projects. The easier route that is far too common in our industry is to throw out a generic estimate, with a bunch of caveats that allow an agency to keep increasing the price as new “features” are discovered, and then work out the details later. I can tell you that after doing this for 20 years, clients are never more excited about a project than they are right at the beginning phase of procurement. Unscrupulous firms will take advantage of that by creating a compelling offer to close on before any of the due diligence is done. Once you’re locked in, then you’re stuck with them – and they know that.

Agencies tend to blame the subsequent escalating costs on “feature-creep”, but that’s lazy and hardly fair, since most clients don’t have the technical knowledge to fully understand their needs until they have been guided through an extensive Discovery process.

Most often in our case, we take a hybrid approach. We understand that most people need big bang proposals to satisfy the needs of their employer, their board of directors, a grant agency, etc.

Based on our extensive wealth of experience and knowledge, we can provide those types of estimates, but we will always start with the Discovery Workshop first and spell out all the details of the project in advance to ensure everyone is on the same page.

This process also allows for us to base the deliverables and milestones on budgets, should your organization be working with one. This will typically produce the best outcome, because it’s something tangible to work with.

Keeping these things in mind the next time you’re procuring a website design and development project, or any type of professional service, will help ensure you get good value for your money, rather than just spending the lowest price. After all, no one will thank you in a year when things are all mucked up. You want to make sure that you’re not just building something right, but also building the right thing.

Until next time,