Pricing, estimation: How NOT to

Last December, we decided to redesign our website, and, due to lack of resources, wanted to hire and external shop to do it for us. After the requirement discussions and resulting budget calculation, we decided to design and implement our website ourselves. Yet some lessons were learned, which I would like to share below.

The brief

The problem — from the budget proposal it was obvious that the company we contacted was not very attentive to our requirements. Usually we perform services for our clients, yet in this case we served as a customer. In this role a supplier that does not care about our needs looked very strange indeed. I would like to hope that we can learn from this experience and not repeat such mistakes ourselves.

The brief of the project read approximately as follows:

The goal of redesign is to allow easier updates to the site and to refresh its look. The site is to be small and simple, best to use the structure of existing site, which contains 5 sections. We have in-house experience in working with CMS (Joomla and others), and would like to use an existing CMS for the site. Initially we require a visual design, and, based on our cooperation and the availability of our team, we can decide to implement it as a template and configuration for Joomla ourselves, or as the supplier to work on it too.

The budget

It is fair to note that this is not a big project, so may have been rather low on their radar. Yet the response that we received, after a week or so of “analysis and estimation” included some strange items, for example:

  • 1-2 weeks developing a Flash component.
  • PHP development of 15 pages (1 day per page).
  • HTML/CSS development of 15 pages (1 day per page, too).
  • Development of a CMS for the site (2 weeks).

The above items accounted for 55% of the total project budget.

The decision

I have to agree, there are all good and useful things, that we would be happy to pay for, if only we needed them. The decision to go with an existing CMS instead of writing a custom one was exactly in order to avoid the unnecessary cost and complexity of writing and debugging PHP code, developing HTML/CSS for each separate page, etc. The response from the supplier, to us, meant: “We are not interested”. Neither were we.

The lesson

There are always things to be said about customer-supplier relationships, they aren’t always as friendly as we’d like them to be. Yet, being a supplier, we need to keep in mind the following truth:

The customers know what problems they face. Our task as a supplier is to understand the problem, and propose a solution specific to the problem.

The design shop we talked with are nice guys, they produce some nice designs and sites, yet I am especially thankful to them for reminding us of importance of communication. Also, I am quite happy with the site we produced — TechWire makes our own team and our customers proud that they work with us.