If you phone a local builder and ask them to build a conservatory, it’s quite likely that they’ll know what’s involved and provide a quote, easy. If you ask a builder to build a house or extension, they’ll probably go away, do some research, and then come back with a price, again easy.
However, if you plan on building a skyscraper like The Shard then the process isn’t as simple. To start with the construction company couldn’t even being to quote for the work until they have a detailed set of architectural plans, and of course the architect would need to continually liaise with the council in order to ensure the build meets planning and building regulations. The finer details such as fixtures and fittings, although sketched in the artist’s impression, wouldn’t necessarily be considered until further on in the build.
With large construction projects the design and build involves several parties, and involves detailed research and capital outlay before any construction company can even begin to fix costs, after all the architect will want to be paid even if the project doesn't go ahead.
The same is true with websites. A web designer can usually quote for a smaller website using their instincts and experience. For slightly larger builds, a bit of research and discussion with their web development team will usually provide most of the information needed.
But for large websites a cost can only be approximated, and a feasibility study needs to be performed in order to iron out all of the details. Depending on the build this feasibility study could take anything from a few days to a few weeks, and on very large builds there may be several separate studies.
Just as a construction company would research engineering methods and possible suppliers, the web developer would need to think about all of the technical aspects of the website. Similarly an architect would produce building plans and a web designer would produce wire frames and site maps detailing how the website will look. An artist would give an impression of the building, and a web designer would produce mock ups or style guides of the design.
Only after all of this research has been done could a web agency or the client start to fully understand the complexities of the project in hand, and even start to fix on a price.
These feasibility studies can take some time to produce, and therefore it’s probable that a web agency will charge for them, but this is money well spent. If the construction company starting erecting a skyscraper without plans, it’s very likely that the structure will need to be changed or modified at cost to their client. The same is true for a large website.
The purpose of a feasibility study is to provide the web developers and the client the full scenario of the project before they jump in the deep end and start building. Investing money from the outset either prevents the client wasting their money on an unsuccessful build, or means that the build can be structured in a cash efficient way from the outset.
If performed correctly, this feasibility study will enable the client to see the end result in much more detail, and allow web agencies to quote with a far higher degree of certainty and accuracy.
With very large projects the web agency are likely to estimate the final cost, but only provide specific and fixed quotes at each stage of the build.
The skyscraper analogy also works here; the construction company could estimate how much the fixtures and fittings will cost, but couldn’t provide an exact cost until they were certain on the size and quantity of the rooms, that the structural plans wouldn’t change, and that they knew the exact fittings to be used. It’s quite likely that the project will evolve during its build, and also that the client may want to save money on fixtures and fittings (if the project has overrun), or provide a higher quality finish (if the main structure has been cheaper than planned).
This is how a web agency should work; after the feasibility study, they should provide an estimate for the complete build, but only a fixed quote for each phase as the project develops. This allows both the web developer and crucially the client to keep control of the project as it grows and evolves, and also allows flexibility for change.
Back to our original example of a conservatory, it’s likely that the client will choose their conservatory, windows, floor and roof from a catalogue and then leave the builders to their own devices until the project is complete. However with a sky scraper the client is likely to be involved with the build throughout, and consulted at each stage.
This is also comparable to a large website build, the client is unlikely to provide a specification and leave the web developers to it, but should be involved throughout the build to ensure that the end project is everything that they expect.
It may seem a strange concept to start a website build with only an estimate of the overall cost, or to pay a web agency for a feasibility study before costs are even discussed. But this is a must for large builds, and allows the client to get the most out of their money with minimal risk. Everybody wins.
If you would like to discuss a website build, small or large, then please contact our Salisbury based web development agency, Webbed Feet UK, and we’d be glad to help.