Pricing a Pre-Designed Web Development Project

I remember coming across this designers’ meme a couple of years ago. It was a pricing list that went something like this:

    1.) Price for me to design your website – $1000

    2.) Price for me to design your website with your input – $1500

    3.) Price for me to design your website with your provided design – $2000

    4.) Price for me to sit and watch while you design your website – $10,000

Funny, right? And, for designers, a mentality that points to some very real negative experiences.

Because there is no universally agreed upon sense of what constitutes “good” design, that leaves things wide open for interpretation. And even if a layman creates a design that 9 out of 10 people would cringe over, that won’t necessarily prevent them from moving forward with it. After all, when it comes to design, people just don’t know what they don’t know. I’ve written about this before.

Today I’d like to discuss a related experience, that this time involves the role and experience of the developer.

In my case, being a two-hatter – meaning I do both design and development, I’ve become aware of something I too could “meme-ify”. It goes something like this:

Imagine a scenario where someone approaches you with a design for a project. This rendering is very specific (good), and is also high on aesthetic appeal – in your own humble opinion, of course (good). How should a developer approach pricing a project like this?

On the one hand, considerable time and energy is spared, because the design specs are already done. So you get to avoid all that this time out. In addition, just as if not MORE importantly, there is no design approval process to go through (very good!). You’ve already got the approval, because the design is being offered by the client himself/herself.

Does this mean you should discount your regular price? After all, now you’re just responsible for the development, not for the design. Elementary, right?

Well, in my experience I’s say – not so fast, Sherlock.

Yes, you do save time in not having to craft the design yourself, and then get it approved. However, as a developer, when I craft the design myself, I do so with an expert’s sense of what it will take to render said design in an actual live website – one that is responsive, cross-browser friendly, and the rest.

Believe me, that definitely affects how I design. After all, why make the process harder for yourself than need be?

If I can design something that follows common conventions – for a platform like WordPress, for instance – then it makes sense for me to do so. Doing so saves me time and energy, without taking away from what I ultimately deliver to the client. And of course this allows me to design and develop from start to finish in less time – and this saves the client money. And that’s generally something they really appreciate. It’s your classic win-win.

But when someone without a developer’s mindset is designing a layout, they may be unconsciously designing outside the common conventions of a particular platform – without knowing it. And regardless, they likely expect you to deliver an end-product that looks exactly like their Photoshop mockups.

Bottom line: I’ve learned that these experiences can be just as energy-intensive and ultimately time-consuming as the scenarios reflected in the opening designer’s meme.

So, all that is to say, if you’re a developer, be careful to think through how you price a project when these challenges might be in play. And if you’re someone looking to get a website built, keep this in mind, too. Being flexible on certain elements might save you time and money – and end up being closer to the conventions unconsciously expected by end-users anyway.

Again, when the meeting of two minds happens in situations like this, it can result in the classic win-win. Maybe even win-win-win? After all, the client, developer and end-user can all benefit when this kind of collaboration takes place.

Posted in Musings, Web Design, Web Development Tagged with: , , ,