Buying a Website is Like Buying a Car, But Worse
You walk into a car dealership with high hopes of purchasing a new vehicle. The dealership you picked is an amazing store that comes highly recommended and sells everything from economical Ford and GM cars, trucks, and minivans to luxury brands like Jaguar, Infiniti, and Ferrari. Everything under one roof! What could be better?
As you walk through the door, you approach the salesperson and ask him or her to provide you a quick quote on a new vehicle. It’s a realistic request right? No not really.
It’s hard for the dealership personnel to provide an estimate, because there is so much information they don’t know about you, your needs, and your wants. You could be a minivan driving soccer mom or an adrenaline junkie who needs speed. But honestly, at this point the salesperson doesn’t know who or what you are and therefore cannot begin to ascertain what you might need or want.
To illustrate my point, let’s consider some basic criteria for purchasing a new vehicle. We’ll explore these in the form of questions so as you read them and pretend you are the buyer.
- How many people does the vehicle need to transport?
- Will you require additional space for sports gear or animals?
- What type of climate will you drive the vehicle in?
- What features are important to you?
- What type of vehicle do you find attractive?
- Is there a particular body style you like?
- Do you have a color preference?
- Do you have a brand preference?
- How important are safety ratings?
- Is gas performance an important part of your decision?
- Will you lease or buy?
- How’s your credit rating?
- Do you require new or are you seeking a used vehicle?
- How soon do you need the new car?
- What is your budget?
- How long do you plan on owning this vehicle?
- How many miles do you plan on driving each month?
Right now you’re probably asking yourself why on earth does there have to be so many questions. The more the dealership knows about you the buyer, the more it can steer you into the right purchase.
If the dealership doesn’t know about your needs or wants, it cannot successfully guide you into making the right purchase decision.
Still think I’m over the top? Let’s review the question about climate. It matters and in some areas of the country it matters a whole lot. If you are in Florida you might need tinted windows due to the extreme heat. If you in Michigan and forced to live through long winters, you’ll require a heated steering wheel and four-wheel drive. Trust me – I cannot survive a Northern Michigan winter without my heated seats, a heated steering wheel, and four-wheel drive to get me through a foot of snow.
I give this example, because I run into the same situation daily when I receive inquiries from people who are buying a website.
I receive requests from well intentioned people asking me to provide a quick estimate on redesigning their website. In making this request, they many times fail to provide details because they simply don’t know what to offer. And that’s entirely ok if the person buying a website understands I’m going to ask a lot of questions so I can help guide them through the buying process and provide them a digital solution that meets their buying criteria.
Now let’s look at some common mistakes made by consumers when they’re in the car buying process. Mistakes are easy in this process, because buying a car is something you only do every five or so years. Well, unless you are my husband, and you can magically find a reason to turn in your truck for a new one every other year.
But I digress. Most people stumble on one or more of these common mistakes.
- Not knowing what they want or need
- Not asking what is included in the vehicle
- Not asking about financing and interest rates
- Shopping at only one dealership
- Looking at only one brand or manufacturer
- Shopping based solely on a monthly payment
- Not taking a test drive
- Getting caught up in empty promises
- Forgetting to ask for recommendations from friends or family
- Forgetting to check the dealership’s online reviews
- Forgetting that the right salesperson will help guide you into a solid decision based on your unique need and wants (if they are reputable)
- Forgetting about insurance (in website design we call this ongoing maintenance)
Walking into a dealership unprepared, is like buying a website without first documenting your needs.
If I ask a car dealership to simply look at me and give me an estimate on a new vehicle, it would be impossible. Purchase costs could run from $20,000 to $200,000. Buying a website is no different. The costs and criteria can vary just as much.
Just like the dealership, a digital agency needs to know what is important to the buyer, their requirements, goals, and esthetically preferences before it can begin to provide suggestions and budgets.
How Much Does it Cost to Build a Website?
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of being a guest on the Rainmaker.fm podcast calledTechnology Translated which is hosted by Scott Ellis. Scott’s topic for this episode was How Much Does it Cost to Build a Website?
I’ll warn you in advance that the discussion went far beyond pricing. In this 30-minute episode Scott and I chat about the following items:
- How does one answer the question “How much does it cost to build a website?”
- What are the considerations that clients most often overlook when considering the price of developing a website?
- How can one differentiate between the broad range of bids to rebuild your website?
- What key things should an individual who is buying a website look for when choosing a vendor?
- What key things should a website developer look for when choosing clients?
- How does Web Savvy Marketing price their website design projects?
- Should a website buyer establish a budget and share it with the agencies they are interviewing?
- What recommendations should website buyers have in mind before engaging in a search for a solution provider?
Listen to the podcast How Much Does it Cost to Build a Website? on the Rainmaker.fm network.
An Overview of My Podcast Q & A
If you don’t want to listen to the entire thirty-minute podcast, you can skim through my answers below.
How does one answer the question “How much does it cost to build a website?”
I don’t quickly answer it and that’s because I simply can’t.
Instead, I try and educate people on why that question is impossible to answer without further information.
It’s like me going into a car dealership that offers everything from a Ford Focus to a Mercedes Benz for sale. If I ask the dealership to simply look at me and give me an estimate on a new vehicle, it would be impossible. Costs could run from $20k to $200k.
A pricing out a new website is no different.
A web developer needs to know what is important to the person buying the website. This includes their functional requirements, their project goals, and their esthetically preferences. No agency can truly be to provide solutions and budgets, without first digging into the project requirements.
And if they do throw a price at you, consider it a red flag.
What are the considerations that clients most often overlook when considering the price of developing a website?
I think there are a number of them and they include core project elements such as:
- Project goals
- Features and functionality
- Design requirements
- Content creation
- Content migration
- Search engine optimization
- Target demographic
- Website personas
- Call to actions
The best website buying process will include complete documentation of the project before a theme is selected or a custom website is quoted.
If you document the known project requirements before you get emotionally attached to a theme or designer, you’ll have a controlled and methodical process that is geared towards success and not immediate gratification.
How can one differentiate between the broad range of bids to rebuild a website?
I encourage them to make sure all vendors are quoting to the same deliverables so they have an apples-to-apples comparison available. Call it a website RFP or something else, the name doesn’t really matter. What is important is that there is a document that lists deliverables so that all potential solution providers quote to the same specifications.
This helps provide structure to the process of differentiating one proposal from another and it helps eliminate assumptions that may or may not be accurate.
What key things should a website buyer look for when choosing a vendor?
I consider honesty to be a major deciding factor. This includes honesty within both present and current actions.
Reputation matters so anyone who is considering buying a website should make sure they review client testimonials, online reviews, industry comments, and community involvement.
All of those data points help showcase who is trustworthy and who could potentially take the money and under deliver.
What key things should a website developer look for when choosing clients?
- Fit – Can we provide an excellent solution for them with our current level of expertise?
- Personality – Are we a fit emotionally? Can we communicate well?
- Technical Aptitude – Does the buyer have a basic understanding of technology and realistic expectations for existing scope and change requests.
- Budget – Can they afford us?
- Timeline – Can we deliver within their desired due date?
- Fun Factor – Is the project different? Will it be challenging?
- Long-term Success – Can we help make a difference and produce tangible results?
How does Web Savvy Marketing price their website design projects?
- Design – How many custom design templates are needed to make the project a success?
- Functionality – How much development time will be needed to create custom post types, plugins, templates, etc?
- Size – How large is the website in regards to content migration?
- SEO – Are we providing SEO consulting as part of our quotation?
- Risk – Does the project present any risk that we need to consider?
Should the company who is buying the website to establish a budget and share it with the agencies they are interviewing?
Transparency in the sales process is important for both the buyer and the seller. The more both parties know about each other, the easier it will be to qualify each other in or out.
As your potential solution provider, I do not want to scope out and present a solution that is $40,000 if you have only set aside a budget of $400. I want to have an idea of your budget so I can scope and present a solution you can afford and one you’ll be happy with long-term.
What recommendations should website buyers have in mind before engaging in a search for a solution provider?
Document what you need before you start interviewing agencies. Make sure your requirements list is fluid and add to this list as you speak to vendors and learn more about what can be provided.
Over-communicate with potential vendors. No agency will ever tell you that you’ve over communicated in the sales process. The more we know about you and your website design project, the better we can set expectations and make sure we are presenting a solution that meets your needs and paves a path for success.
Remember that this is a business decision and not one that should be taken lightly. Make a logical decision based on a number of factors.
Don’t just go with your sister’s son-in-law because he once opened a WordPress.com account and blogged about his cat. We developers run into this all the time. In the end, you waste months of time with your sister’s son-in-law and you’ll be no farther ahead then you were when you started. I promise! There is a huge difference between creating a free cat blog and developing an enterprise website.
Are You Considering Buying a Website in the Near Future?
If so I’d be happy to chat with you, but remember, I’m going to ask a lot of questions about you, your project goals, and your requirements.
It’s my way of protecting you, your time, and your money. And it’s also my way of preventing you from encountering buyer’s remorse.
If you’d like to chat, head on over to our contact page and tell us about your project.