As website designers, where do we invest your budget?

As website development experts we handle all sorts of budgets, from huge to small and everything in between. So what do we spend your precious money on, and how does it benefit you? Here’s a look at where we invest your budget and why it matters.

Why is a web design agency budget necessary in the first place?

When you come to a web design company like us, you’re actually buying time. There are many ways to solve problems. Your budget dictates how much time we can allocate to solving those problems by planning effective solutions, then designing and building your site. In that respect it’s fairly simple – more budget means more time.

Covering the 3 stages of website creation

Most good website design agencies won’t list the fine details of what costs what like a shopping list, but you can usually expect the prices you’re quoted to be broken down into three stages, the planning, design, and development. In our case we use the three Ds: Discovery, Design and Development.

Your web design agency might also let you know the hourly rate of all the various people involved in the project, giving you an indication of how much time they think it’ll take to complete each stage. You will probably also receive a ‘scope of work’, a document detailing exactly what the agency intends to do for the money.

Why all that planning?

Planning is never a waste of time or money. It’s crucial, the bedrock upon which everything else stands, and usually, involves senior agency people.  Get the plan wrong and your project will suffer throughout. That’s why we refuse to do creative work for pitches. A pitch is no place for creativity & planning has to come first.

If you think, as a client, you’ll be running the planning side of things, it really is best left to your agency. While you will understand your market and the landscape you operate in better than us, the chances are you need people with the right digital experience to tease out the details. A fair few web agencies won’t quote you for a project until they’re into the planning stage. In fact, you should expect at least a third of the project time and budget to be spent in planning.

Separating the design and delivery

Most agencies will separate design and delivery, with each allocated its own chunk of budget and involving different members of the team. The design and delivery should be broken down into deliverables, each with its own clear sign off points. A good agency won’t spend your money designing every single page in the site. At some point it becomes a classic bell curve, where it makes a lot more sense to build pages iteratively based on the core design you’ve agreed.

You can expect roughly half to two thirds of your budget to be spent on design and delivery, and it shouldn’t go over budget as long as you stick to your side of the bargain and make swift decisions.

Should you pay for project management?

A good web design agency will have a suite of proven management processes that work, which means you don’t have to get involved in project management. Let your agency take charge. They’ve seen numerous projects come and go, they know how things work and they’re able to anticipate issues before they arise.

Some agencies see project management as a paid deliverable, others don’t. But if you want your website built on time and on budget, chances are your agency will have to do a fair amount of managing. Even the smallest website development project can generate hundreds of emails and decision points.

Are content and images included in the price?

Most agencies will either have copywriters in house or put you in touch with a recommended freelancer. You might want to write the copy yourself. Either way design should follow content, but it’s a symbiotic relationship. If you’re holding your agency accountable for great design, you should also invest in making sure the site’s content is up to scratch, and that there’s enough of it. Whether you invest time or money in content, or both, it’s an extra investment you need to be prepared to make.

Photography is usually charged extra, and many of our clients have preferred photographers. You should also set aside a small budget for carefully-selected stock photography, which has come along in leaps and bounds recently, no longer the poor relation. In the right hands stock shots can be even more powerful than those you take yourself, or get a photographer to take. Imagery is a design task, so if you haven’t budgeted for a photographer, expect to pay a little extra to the agency to pay for stock photos – and for the designer to choose the right ones.

Fixed term projects versus retainers

Understandably, fixed term web projects are usually carefully controlled by the agency. There’s a tendency for clients to add more work but when the agency has based their price on a clear brief, it isn’t fair to change the boundaries or scope. When we work on a fixed fee project you can expect a set number of revisions, which we anticipate in advance. If we run over time, we charge extra another reason why keeping a close eye on your budget at every stage, and allocating it sensibly in the first place, is something we insist on.

Retainer based work means you buy an allocation of time, and it’s much easier to move that time around. These are usually larger projects or include more marketing related services, and they deliver a great deal of flexibility. Having said that, you should still expect clear deliverables and a breakdown of where the time is likely to be spent.

Different payment schedules

Most agencies will break their fee into bite-size chunks for you, invoicing on set dates throughout the project or according to deliverables. We operate date-based payments because the deliverables side of things can be pretty fluid in the later stages of a project. Remember you are buying time, and that comes with an opportunity cost. Because web projects can last several months, expect to pay your agency along the way, with perhaps a small payment held back until the final working website has been delivered.

Web development Oxford – How we work

We’ve worked on one-off projects, but we tend to prefer much longer-term relationships. Designing and building digital experiences that make a real difference to a company’s bottom line means long term involvement.

Whether it’s the occasional one-off project or a long term partnership, we work closely with you to establish a realistic budget that has been properly thought-through, to the right level of detail, appropriate bearing in mind your wider context. Then we make sure you know exactly where that investment is being spent.