How can I get a good deal on my website?
Let’s assume by “deal” you mean
1. a website that makes you money
2. a website delivered at its most competitive price.
The process is the same for any project, whether you’re building a house or buying a car. First, figure out what kind of website you want. Do this by interviewing more than one website vendor.
Then, make a request for proposal (RFP). A request for proposal needn’t be long, but it must contain specifications that every single vendor will eventually bid on. I usually recommend paying one of your vendors to help you write an RFP, once you’ve spoken to each potential website designer/developer.
An RFP might contain, for instance:
1. 15 pages (not necessarily in this order, and perhaps in a different hierarchy)
- Calendar (can be displayed in daily, weekly, monthly, and agenda formats)
- Contact (email that is sent to a particular address)
- Special events
- Join (member benefits with online sign-up)
- Buy (our association offers member artwork for sale)
- Profiles of member artists (perhaps 4 to start)
- Artists blog (so that each artist can create blogs for our review and posting)
2. We provide info, you provide finished writing
3. Three forms (contact us, join, and buy)
4. This is not a membership site, so we don’t store info from buyers; no one needs log-in credentials except the artists and our administrator
5. Ecommerce (Join and buy — we will provide information necessary to build size, weight, and shipping)
6. We will provide photographs but do appreciate input as to how to illustrate artist’s blogs
7. Training for artists and administrator, to occur in one sitting
8. You provide on-page search engine optimization
In all, this isn’t a bad RFP, although generally there would be some background about the organization as well as a few more specs. For instance, if you put out an RFP, you will certainly get questions from each vendor, which you should answer and make public to all vendors before they submit estimates.
Doesn’t seem so difficult, does it? I had a few calls over the past two days from a client for whom I made a gift of a website (which took 30-40 hours to create, and I did so happily, because my involvement continued a 60-year tradition in my family of helping, if not heading up, this organization).
The client wanted to know if I would be interested in bidding on fleshing out the website. I told her I was. But somehow, during the conversation, it became clear that she didn’t understand my need to have an RFP. “The other vendors have just come in and talked with us,” she said.
I said, “Well, then you’re going to get apples and oranges for estimates. You’ll never know which vendor is actually giving you the best deal.” The client said, “Well, we feel we’ve explained our needs to everyone.”
At which point I suggested, again, that she put her needs on paper, and consider the time spent with vendors to date “research” for the RFP that she could follow up with. I had to repeat this three times, because she kept asking me whether I’d be interested in coming to see them next.
Finally … I said, “No. If you’re asking me to drive to your location, spend an hour or two talking about possibilities, then submitting a bid that may be unlike anything offered by your other potential vendors, I am not interested. It isn’t a wise expenditure of my time.”
I offered to make her an RFP. That didn’t work, either.
The client accepted this. I believe her task was not to discuss anything with me on the phone, but to simply get me to the table.
And I felt quite powerless to help her understand that she was not doing herself or her nonprofit organization any favors by operating without a clear RFP.
And so it goes.
Another bullet dodged? I think surely. Any organization who is trying to hire creative talent without doing their homework is a ticking bomb. And I would surely find any creative ideas quashed by this nonprofit, which had already shown me that it was inflexible to working to industry standards.
I welcome feedback.