Get an accurate quote for web design

25 Apr Get an accurate quote for web design

How to spec your website. 12 simple steps.


One of the most often heard complaints about working with website design and development agencies, is the difficulty in getting an accurate quote.

The problem here is that websites come in a huge range of types, with each new feature or design element adding a new layer of complexity and expense. Asking, “How much does a website cost?” is no different to asking, “How mush does a car cost?”

From the agency perspective, there is one thing you can do as a prospective client to make it possible for us to quote accurately and efficiently. Write a killer specification.

If you approach agencies with a good specification you will not only make it easy for them to give realistic prices and timeframes but you will also be much more likely to get what you want, rather than their interpretation of what you want. This saves time, money and a lot of frustration for all parties involved.

[Tweet “Your specification doesn’t have to be technical. “]

Your specification doesn’t have to be technical. This is the first thing to bear in mind. Agencies do not expect you to be a programmer or to know the right technical language for things. Write your specification in plain English that anyone can understand; your developers will work out the technical stuff later. You may also find that writing this specification will also really help to crystallise your ideas and form a more accurate picture of the website that you are hoping to build.

So how do you write this killer specification? Below are the 12 things your web designer will want to know in order to provide a quote for you.

1. Main goal

Why do you need a website? What outcome do you want to achieve? Are there problems with your existing site? Try to highlight one core business goal such as, to generate leads or, to increase online sales.

2. Secondary goals

You may or may not have additional goals, list them here. They might be things like reducing admin when receiving enquiries or brand development. Try to limit these to two or three.

3. Key audience

Who will be using your website. This may include prospective clients, existing/returning customers or different groups of staff within your organisation.

4. Site map

It is likely the structure will change during the design phase but it is useful to have a starting point. Try not to just copy an old site layout over to your new project. Changes could yield massive benefits. Start with your HOME page and expand from there. The easiest way to do this is using a bulleted list under page headings as in the example, but you could also use a table.

• About
• A service
• Some products
• Contact

• History
• People

5. Technical specifications

In other words, what should the website do? If it is basically an online brochure site then content will be mostly ‘static’. If it is an eCommerce site how do you want customers to be able to interact with your shop, how do they search, how to they manage a cart of products. If there is anything more advanced or unusual or a specific system that you use, make sure you include it in your specification.

6. User stories How will various users/roles interact with your site?

This also helps to define roles for different groups or individuals such as customers, staff and managers. Example: As a customer I want to add items to a cart and save them to buy later. I want recommended additional products. I want to receive SMS notifications of dispatch.

7. Websites you like / don’t like

Have a look at websites you like or don’t like. Collect links and write some brief thoughts about the site.

8. Your competitors

Who do you consider to be your main competitors? Provide links to their sites. This will allow us to see what they do well and make sure your site can match it. It also helps us to design something that will stand out from the competition.

9. Budget

Many people don’t want to disclose budgets when they contact us. This is counterproductive. If the agency knows your objectives and your budget they can find solutions that meet both.

10. Timescales

If you have any deadlines or internal timescales make sure to include them in your specification. As a rough guide, web development projects take anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months depending on scale.

11. Your procurement process

Do you have a response deadline? Who will be the point of contact for the project? When will a decision be made and when do you want the project to start? Here is a great place to list important names, numbers and email addresses.

12. Anything else

Put anything not covered in the rest of the document here. Again, remember to keep it brief and only include things that have a significant impact on the project.

So there you go. If you follow this guide and produce a really great specification, you will get better quotes and feedback from the various web design agencies that you approach.

I will leave you with three final tips.

  • Try to avoid writing overly long specifications – detail is important but people need to actually read it.
  • Try not to focus too much on how the website will look or be structured, this will be defined during the design phase of your project.
  • Remember, not making a decision is a decision, a bad one, so try to avoid using “TBC” and make a decision now. You can always change it during the project if you need to.

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