How much does a website cost? Or why we need a project specification

Athlete Websites


Project Specifications Save Money

Read how.

[UPDATE] Here is a sample project specification for a fictional website to illustrate the level of detail that goes into a project specification.

Such a simple question, yet it causes so much confusion.

Obviously, it’s one of the questions we hear the most, so we’ve had plenty of experience answering this complicated question.

“It’s a straight forward question. What is so complicated about it?”

We hear you.

First off, we’ll just be honest. If you’re looking for a bargain website, Gunner Technology is the wrong company for you.

We’re not a cookie-cutter company – in our design or development.

If you’re willing to sacrifice on quality, functionality and branding, you can save a lot of money by taking your project overseas or to a U.S.-based chop shops. We’ll even be happy to recommend some for you. These companies have a place but that place is not for individuals and companies who are serious about long-term commitments to a presence in the digital world.

OK, now to demystify pricing, so get ready for some analogies.

As you might have noticed, Gunner Technology has three divisions: Marketing, Technology and Web Design. For the purposes of this discussion, only the Technology and Web Design departments are relevant.

Our Technology department is responsible for building and extending software. One such software is our Content Management System, which our Web Design department uses to create websites for clients. Often, this software is more than enough to satisfy a clients’ requirements for a publishing or e-commerce site.

While there are different components to the Content Management System, the pricing is pretty straight forward, depending on what modules are required. For example, if you need a website that requires a storefront, it’s going to be more than a website without one. And if the storefront needs affiliate integration, that’s going to cost a little bit more.

But for the most part, it’s pretty ala carte. The only other price point is the design (logo, site layout, branding, color, typography, etc).

So, if your requirements fit within our existing software’s capabilities, we can give you a quote pretty easily and quickly.

However, often, the client requires custom components.

For example, maybe the client requires being able to filter a listing of physicians by geographic location. That’s too fine of a requirement to make into a generic software component.

It’s at this point that we need a written product specification in order to give you a quote.

A product specification is not a simple outline. It’s a detailed document that spells out how the application needs to operate from different perspectives.

If there will be a site admin, we need to know how the site will work from the admin’s perspective in addition to a guest’s perspective.

Maybe there will be a super admin, too. And a moderator. How does the site function for them?

Unfortunately, this is often where potential clients get frustrated.

They’ve told us they want a site that will be a directory for physicians and expect us to be able to give them a quote.

It’s not that we won’t. We can’t give a quote on a project without great detail.

Here’s why.

Let’s just say that based on the skimpy information, we tell the client that it’ll cost 10 Ears of Corn. The client says “Great” and signs our MSA and SOW.

We put together a development team and they built out a “site that will be a directory for physicians.”

They build an application that allows physicians to visit the site, submit their information and be listed in the directory.

Visitors to the site can filter the directory by city, state and type of physician.

The team is stoked. They tested the product and it works great. Time to show the client.

The client sees it and says “That’s not what I wanted.”

Go on.

The client didn’t want other physicians to automatically be listed in the directory. The client wanted an email from applicants first.

Also, the client expected users to be able to rate the physicians and then be able to sort the directory by rating.

Oh, and where is the zip code search? And why can’t visitors create accounts and save their favorite physicians?

Here comes the dilemma.

We now have two choices. Tell the client that those are major, out-of-scope changes that are going to require more money and watch the client turn beet red. Or we can make the changes and a hefty loss to the business.

That’s why we require a detailed, written product specification.

Yes, other firms will give you a project quote without one. And if the above situation never comes up, you won’t have a problem and your project will have never needed a product specification.

However, more often than not, clients who demand a project rate and refuse to write a project specification come back to us because they took it to a firm that built something that wasn’t even close to what they wanted.

We’re then in the uncomfortable situation of telling them that they wasted their money, because the strong likelihood is that we won’t be able to re-use anything that the other firm built.

So does that mean the we won’t work on a development project without a project specification?

Absolutely not.

It means we can’t give you a price quote on the project.

Clients still have the option of contracting with us at our hourly rate or lease a team from us on a monthly retainer.

We also have team members who specialize in writing project specifications, so clients can hire us to write their project specification – regardless of whether they end up contracting with us for the development.

And, yes, of course, we will freely offer written feedback on a project specification. If you email Gunner Technology your project specification, someone will let you know if there is information lacking or that needs clarification.

As a final note, project specifications are not technical documents. We’ll make the technical choices. Think of it this way. You tell us what you want to eat and we’ll decide how best to make it.

2 Responses to “How much does a website cost? Or why we need a project specification”

Tom says:

I am not a programmer, an accountant is my profession, but since I have been out of work for the last three years I decided to learn Ruby on Rails during that time. Essentially, I am learning ROR through buying online tutorials, posting questions on ROR forums and reading books.

I have taken a number of breaks during this period. I wanted to have a working model of my application so I developed it in Microsoft Access, it has a larger base to draw from and one can get help far easier and more focused than anything I have experience in rails.

Well, I would get one section or two of my app working in Microsoft Access and I would then switch over to Ubuntu and work in rails until I had a rails version working. Well this has taken some time because at times I would test out features in Microsoft Excel then translate then to Microsoft Access and then finally try then out in rails.

This sounds a lot more sophisticate than what it really is … you most probably will laugh when I finally get down to describing the actual problem I am facing. Well back to my long winded introduction … remember I am not a programmer but an aspiring web developer with a particular application or two..three..four in mind, (with an accounting bias). I happen to know my market and I am confident I can sell into it if only I could get this application working.

I finally got to a point in my application where I needed to develop a deeply nested form in rails.(I use this name since all the information I found in designing this part of the application was listed as such). Hey, I got it working and it is different from all the working examples out there on the web and as a result the solutions for “link_to_add_fields”, do not work with my particular configuration.

My nested form is centered on a join table with an extra attribute, I am not sophisticated enough in programming to modify or even to write my own definition of a “link_to_add_fields” function for that extra attribute on the join table. The problem though is a little more complicated in that I need to be able to add three other attributes that happen to be on a different table that has an association with the join table. Finally, it would be more professional if only one button were on the form that allowed all four of these attributes to be added to the form when clicked and one button that would allow all four of the attributes to be removed when clicked.

I would gladly write up a specification of the feature I would like you to develop for me, but I am curious to know if you would take on this type of an assignment? Of course if you would I would gladly write up the specification so that you can give me a quote.(I have posted this same question on professional for hire sites and Professional Tutor sites and I have had no luck when it comes to a firm quote … only open ended contracts … namely, we will work with you for a hourly rate until we solve the problem)

I do have this question posted at :
http://groups.google.com/group/rubyonrails-talk/browse_thread/thread/515cd04ce977d738/787d3f5f61e35754?hl=en&lnk=gst&q=nested+form+and+link#787d3f5f61e35754

Hopefully you find that even though this is not a large contract that it is very important to me, since without a solution my nested form is of no use without the ability to add extra attributes.

Thanks,

Tom.

Thanks for the comment, Tom!

Our minimum Rails project requirement is $10k, so I don’t think we’re the right shop to take this on for you.

However, the problem you are trying to solve is a common one — dynamically adding associated models to a parent model.

Here is one such example: http://stackoverflow.com/questions/4812003/adding-fields-dynamically-in-a-nested-model-form-in-rails-3

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