The first question we hear as website designers and developers is, “How much is it going to cost?” To which we reply, “That depends on what you want.” And it really does! But sometimes we play along. “So just give me a ballpark. How much do you charge per hour?” What I hope to help you understand is that getting more specific without having identified the actual project just distracts you from the information you really need, and that you are the source of most of it. Not only will you get a better deal for your dollar, but you can save yourself the emotional rollercoaster of this baseless guessing game by doing the following 5 things before asking for a price and definitely before starting the project:
- Take responsibility for defining what needs to be on your website
- Find samples of websites or apps that match your style
- Focus on your most promising market and ignore everyone else
- Make a list of the people who will use your website and the bare minimum features
- Organize your logos, photos, marketing text, and all the contact information the designer will need
Take responsibility for defining what needs to be on your website
It’s a far-fetched example, but when your babysitter shows up, you’ve already decided where to eat dinner, right? First of all, you don’t want to pay her for an extra half hour to list her favorite restaurants. Secondly, you know what food you want, whether you want Romantic or Adventurous, and how much money you’re willing to spend. People often think that the designer is the expert but you are the expert in your business. You bring the “what.” The designer can tell you “how.” It can feel overwhelming so use the steps below to break it down.
Find samples of websites or apps that match your style
A painless way to get going is to simply look at websites in your industry or that serve the same customers as you do. When you see one you like, save the link or use something like Pinterest to capture it. It’s also great to make a list of sites you don’t like. After you’ve made your lists, go back and make a few notes about each:
- Make some specific notes about what you like, for example which color, which images, which fonts
- Try to put some words with each; simple, friendly, sophisticated, unique, premium, inexpensive. Do those match your brand?
- Consider whether the menus and functions fit your project
- “But not that…” Note anything about each that you wouldn’t want the designer to use, for example “I like the photos in circles but I hate the cartoony font.”
Focus on your most promising market and ignore everyone else
It’s easier said than done, but ignoring all but your most promising market will both save money and give you better results. We all have trouble letting go of that imaginary customer but there are a couple reasons this works. Most of us will say, “anyone can benefit from my product or service.” And it feels very risky to leave out “anyone.” It might help to realize that creating and implementing a design is really about making hundreds of decisions. It’s like the hundreds of decisions you make in planning a wedding or remodeling your kitchen where you rely on a theme or mental image of how you want things to feel. A clear image of your most promising market is the beacon. With a clear beacon, the correct decision is more obvious. Without it — or rather with 3 or 4 beacons — no single choice can satisfy all the needs and you can easily become overwhelmed with indecision.
Make a list of the people who will use your website and the bare minimum features
Your list of people should be the role they play. For example, in a doctor’s office the front desk person needs something different than the doctor or the nurse. If you make your list of features based on their different roles, you will have a much clearer picture of what needs to be included and the importance of each feature. Start with the bare minimum to keep your costs in line and so that you can get finished more quickly. It’s better to plan for an immediate revision than to try to included every “nice to have” in the first version.
Organize your logos, photos, marketing text, and all the contact information the designer will need
It might sound obvious, but being disorganized will waste your designer’s time and either cost you more or reduce your wishlist. My kids always complained that we had to clean before the housekeepers came. My response was always that I wanted them to clean, not move around piles of your dirty socks, little miss! Likewise, you don’t want to pay your designer to track down logos or text that you could have supplied upfront. In addition to wasting time, the whole project can lose momentum. And although you can’t put a dollar amount on enthusiasm, inspiration, and flow — as entrepreneurs — we’ve all felt the drudging absence of it. So it’s worth the extra effort up front to choose your system (Dropbox, Google drive, Trello) and provide everything you can in your most anal-retentive style.