- February 01, 2016
Over the past few years at Vin Design Works we have received a large number of enquiries from customers requesting a new website.
People are often surprised that one of the first questions we always ask is “Can you tell us your budget?”. So why do we ask this question?
In this article I’ll explain the reason that we take this approach and we’ll discover how it has helped one of our clients ensure they maximised their return on investment on a recent site build.
Why we ask for a budget – the truth
At Vin Design Works we’ve found that being upfront about money is best for both us and our clients. Engaging a web design agency is a business transaction. For that reason we want our clients to know that we’re comfortable talking about money and we’ll always be transparent and fair in our dealings.
So why do we ask for a budget? The simple answer: knowing your budget enables us to guide you toward a solution which is appropriate for you and helps you avoid solutions which are outside your price range.
It’s that simple.
If we know your budget we can work with you to adjust the scope of your project, adding and removing features to ensure that it meets your financial expectations.
Analogy: buying a car
When working with a new client, we sometimes like to draw an analogy between buying a car and buying a website.
When buying a new car we all have different budgets and this dictates which brands, models and features we can afford. For example, there would be little point in my test driving a top of the line Audi when I know I have only budgeted for a Ford Focus.
To find our which cars he/she should show me, the dealer will ask me for my budget. He/she will then show me a range of cars I can afford and allow me to pick and choose which features I want to add/remove to tailor the cost.
For example, I may not have the budget for a supercharged V8 today, but the dealer can advise me on more cost effective engines that will still get me from A to B.
It’s really no different when buying a website.
Problems we find when asking for budget
Nonetheless, whilst this seems straightforward, more often than not when we ask our clients for a budget things are rarely so simple. A client will often imagine that we will try and charge them 100% of their available budget no matter what their requirements are. Others simply have no idea how much they should be spending (the “You tell me” situation).
We understand these problems and we appreciate the client’s underlying motivation which is to ensure a maximum return on their investment. For this reason we’ve worked hard to find solutions which enable us to work with our clients to help them feel confident enough to discuss budgets whilst allowing us to assess the scope of their projects in a way which minimises risk for all involved.
To help us and our clients the two primary tools we use are the:
– Budget Ballpark
– Scoping Phase
We know how difficult it is to come up with a definite figure for a web design budget. Therefore, instead of asking for an exact budget, we now ask our clients to indicate an approximate budget that they have set aside for their project, from a set of predefined ballparks.
We completely understand that not everyone will know how much a website should cost, but by providing guideline amounts our clients can communicate to us what they have available to invest, enabling us to select solutions which are appropriate to their needs.
We find this approach is far more accessible for our clients than simply demanding that they pick a figure out of the air.
The Scoping Phase
The second string to our bow is the “Scoping Phase”. Many clients do not have the time, expertise or even the inclination to provide a complete specification for their project. Without this however, it is often difficult for us to provide an accurate cost analysis for a given web project.
To work around this we often ask our clients to purchase a Scoping Phase. Paid upfront, we work alongside our client to produce a complete specification for their project inline with the indicated ballpark budget. Features are added and removed as required and design budgets are allocated inline with the scope of work required.
At the end of this collaborative process, our clients receive a complete specification for their project and a cost analysis from our team. They can then choose to engage us to complete the work, or alternatively they are at liberty to take the project specification to another designer.
It’s simple, straightforward and fair.
The motivation behind the Scoping Phase is simple. We want to reduce risk for our clients. By working with us to scope a project upfront, our clients can be sure that they receive a fair and accurate cost for their project. They can also feel assured that it will be delivered on time and on budget.
Not convinced? Read on to learn about how Cotswold Archeology experienced the benefits of our approach…
Cotswold Archeology – a real world case study
Cotswold Archeology came to Vin Design Works to request an online directory for their archaeological reports archive. Whilst they were familiar with the web and the process of engaging digital agencies they were unsure of:
– Scope of the work required
Similarly they did not yet have a complete specification for the work required and there were many areas still requiring further discovery.
Agreeing a ballpark
The first thing we did was ask Cotswold for their budget ballpark. In order to do this it was necessary to work with the Cotswold team to establish a rough scope of work. This enabled our team to put together some approximate budget ballparks based on example solutions of varying complexity. Cotswold were then able to indicate a price point that was within the budget they had earmarked for the project.
Establishing a budget at this stage enabled us to scope our solutions to meet Cotswold’s requirements.
This was obviously extremely valuable to our client, who later commented:
Our team knew exactly what to expect because the costs and feasibility of the project were established at the very beginning.
Getting things in scope
Having established a budget, we then worked collaboratively with our client producing several draft specifications and accompanying wireframes to illustrate the final product to be delivered.
During this period our team undertook significant amounts of discovery, uncovering several potential pitfalls which we were – thankfully – able to resolve well in advance of the build. New features were added whilst other items were deemed unnecessary in light of the dialogue between our two teams.
This process helped to focus the project, eliminating unecessary features and distilling the system down to its core components. A collboarative approach also enabled Cotswold to be in control of the project budget adding and removing features in order to remain within the approved cost.
Cotswold had the following to say about the Scoping Phase:
The VDW team tailored their solution to meet our particular needs and this is largely thanks to the detail laid down in their Scoping Phase. We are convinced that it was this approach that helped Vin Design Works to deliver such a high quality product exactly on schedule.
Delivery on time and on budget
Following the approval of the Scoping Phase, Cotswold elected to engage Vin Design Works to produce the archive system. And why not!
With a clear specification and cost analysis Cotswold could be confident that our team would produce the exact system they required at the right cost for them.
Here’s what Cotswold had to say about the final product that the VDW team delivered:
Vin Design Works’ attention to detail and expert advice in the early stages ensured the smooth running of the project from start to finish.
Feedback on our site has already been overwhelmingly positive and we will certainly be keen to use this method [Ballpark budgets and Scoping Phase] again in the future.