Estimates: Comparing Apples to Apples

By admin, October 29th, 2009

We don’t get every job we bid on, but generally speaking we’re fairly successful at securing projects. When we lose a bid it hurts, but that’s life. Losing for us usually comes down to one of the following factors.

  • We couldn’t do the project in the timeline required
  • Our past work wasn’t suited to this type of project
  • Our process isn’t suited to the project or client
  • Our price came in substantially higher or lower than other bids

The most frustrating one is losing based on price. Here’s why:

  • For a similar quality and experience, most web companies rates are in the same neighbourhood
  • This means price is usually based on the amount of time and what’s included in the project
  • Often (not always), the client doesn’t understand going with a lower priced bid usually means they’re compromising on features or quality. Stuff that may affect how effective their site is

People who aren’t familiar with building websites (understandably) assume all websites are created in the same way with the same tools. In fact, it’s possible to follow a completely different process or use completely different tools to get something that on the surface looks quite similar.¬†For example, let’s talk about the actual design of a site. For most people, designing a website is coming up with the look and feel and actual interface of a website. Here are a few ways web design companies approach that:

  • Some use a free website templates with little or no customization
  • Some will customize a pre-built template to a client’s needs and requirements
  • Most open Photoshop and create something from scratch
  • And a few have elaborate design processes that go through creating wireframes, mood boards, prototyping, etc

These all are “creating a design”, but aren’t equivalent and the results can vary substantially.

What To Do

There are a few steps you can take to make sure you’re hiring the right person:

  • Take advantage of any free consultations. Use this to find out what sort of options are available for your website. After you’ve done this, create an RFQ and invite 2-5 companies to bid on your project based your requirements.
  • Learn the lingo – Web design has it’s own language, but it’s not as difficult as say organic chemistry. Try to learn specific phrases. If you’re stumped, ask one designer to explains the other’s terms.
  • Understand each companies process. Some may omit steps to save money. Make the designer spell our exactly what’s included
  • Learn the advantages and disadvantages of each approach. Does the designer use a specific Content Management System? Find out why?
  • Set your budget first, then compare what you can get for that money. Many companies don’t disclose their rates, so it’s the easiest way to compare what sort of value you’re getting. Remember it’s not all about features. Consider the quality of the work they produce, their professionalism, and the experience of the designer.
  • Take your time. It’s better to take a bit longer than to hire the wrong person or company. Web projects typically happen over months (not days or weeks), so no need to rush the process.
  • Communicate with the companies involved. Allow them to tweak their estimates. It’s important that everyone is bidding on the same project with the same features.


  • People use jargon to confuse you and hide details. If you can’t cut through the crap, move on.
  • Don’t allow people to use overly general words like “solution” or “system”. Make them explain what they’re talking about.
  • Be wary of designers who aren’t firm on features. The big reason for not being firm is they don’t know the actual time involved. This can result in:
    • Projects over budget and behind schedule
    • Features implemented poorly or without proper planning
  • You should be skeptical of bids that pack in substantially more features than others. There’s a reasonable chance they aren’t judging the amount of work correctly. Either that or they don’t properly understand the scope of the project
  • It’s unethical to share details of one companies proposal to another. Proposals often contain sensitive information about their process and sharing this information can create an unfair advantage while undermining the whole bidding process.

Category Icon Posted in Effectiveness, Picking a Vendor

Discover and Share

  • StumbleUpon
  • Digg
  • Technorati
  • Reddit
  • RSS Feed