Guest blog: How to estimate for web development projects

If you offer web development services then you are aware of the challenges faced when trying to keep a project in scope. Here’s a guest blog with lots of ideas on how to estimate a web application project by Thanh Pham, CEO of a Vietnamese software development outsourcing company.

A good number of web developers price projects based on the specs initially provided by the client. Unfortunately, most clients do not understand what they need/ want until after you have scoped the project.

This leads to many web development companies engaging in unhealthy arguments with clients so that they can pay for additional features and functionality of the website.

It’s hard to estimate

Why estimating the cost of a website development project is tough for even experienced web designers:

  • Customers ask for more revisions than scoped since they keep looking at the website for more ideas.
  • Some customers think that it is easy to incorporate anything they see on other sites on their websites.
  • A few customers think that they do not require further support once they launch the project. This makes them to disagree with the web designer when it comes to paying upfront for that.
  • Some customers do not agree with what goes into designing a website. The lack of knowledge makes them to think that the process is simple, which is not the case.
  • Customers do not visualize the site they want prior to its development. Therefore, they keep changing their needs throughout the entire project making it even harder for the web designer to work within the initial budget.

Collaboration is key

Web development is not like an evening walk at the park with your spouse. The process requires collaboration of different professionals, with each of them playing a different role. Some of the most important positions include:

Project manager
The project manager helps in managing the project by coordinating the entire team. He comes up with the budget for the project by establishing the required resources, delivery time as well as cost.

Development team
Depending on the size and complexity of the web development project, the team can include the following positions

  • Web concept designer – gives the shape of the project right from the initial idea, communication strategies and objective.
  • Web designer – Takes care of the layout of the entire project. He/she cures the look, user interface, main navigation tree and colors just to mention a few of them.
  • Graphic designer – the expert takes charge of the overall graphics of the website including the page layout.
  • Web developer – Structures various web pages by transferring the web designer’s ideas into the page using a series of codes including XHTML, CSS, PHP, JSP and SQL among others.
  • Marketing team – In charge of marketing the website and ensuring that it has enough number of visitors.
  • Contents team – This team uses the notes from clients that create a language that will facilitate the process of designing the website.

How to make estimating website development projects easier?

Despite the complexity of the process, you can simplify things by doing the following before you start the project.

Use a standard list of questions for the project.

Having a list of questions that you can send to the client will assist you to find answers to important elements of the project. The questions will also make the person who wants to create the website to think about the project upfront. You can refer to the answers throughout the project if you find the need to do so.

Some of the important questions that you can ask include:

  • Do you an internal IT expert who can help you update your site?
  • Who will provide you with web hosting services?
  • What is the dateline of your project?
  • Who will help you to create the website design, content and architecture?
  • How many pages do you need for your project?

Meet the client physically

Meeting the decision makers of the project is very important. It is good to know each other before you embark on the project. Web development will be easy if you have a good relationship with all the decision makers of the project. Finding time to build a relationship with the decision makers will give you an easy time when it comes to solving some of the problems that come along the way.

Create an initial proposal for the project

Use information provided by the client, match with their recommendations, and create assumptions; then price each of them before embarking on the process of creating the website. Some of the areas that you can give much attention include

  • Design, content and architecture
  • SEO
  • Hosting
  • Post Launch support
  • Website build

The proposal will help the client to understand some of the important steps undertaken during project development. Don’t take long before walking the customer through the proposal, get them involved early.

Set expectations for your client

During your meeting with the client, you have to set your expectations. You can do this by explaining all the important areas of the proposal. Outline what they include so that the client knows what you want from him or her.

Complete the web development proposal

Take everything discussed in the previous meeting you had with the client and finalize on the project. In case the client will provide the content for the project, ensure that you include the same in your proposal so that you do not perform double work. Take your time and think through the project before finalizing the proposal. Once you do so, things will be very simple on your side the moment you begin the project at hand.

Planning the project

These are things that you should consider when coming up with a web development project:

  • Project objectives- what you need to do (in this case, developing a website)
  • Stages involved- how to do it (steps required to complete the project and their details)
  • Skills needed for the project- professionals you need to hire for the project
  • Division of work- who should take care of what and why
  • Project schedule- how long will the project take
  • Budgeting- calculate the cost of the project basing on the resources and deadline provided

Above is the summary of what you need to do in a web project estimation. Good luck and don’t forget to share/comment on this post!

The author of this guest blog post Thanh Pham is the CEO of Saigon Technology, a mobile app development company.

Better estimation

Estimation is hard but there are ways to do it as Thanh explains. The agile manifesto suggest “Customer collaboration over contract negotiation”; working together and being transparent on what needs to be done and how much work that involves is essential to deliver value to your customers.

You might want to quantify the value that you are delivering to your customers: Agree what customer value is and start measuring it. Doing the right stuff helps to build a long lasting relationship with your customers.

Thank you Thanh Pham for writing this Guest Blog Post for BenLinders.com!

If you’re using agile, there are several books that I can recommend on working with user stories:

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About Thanh Pham

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  • Ben Linders – Independent Consultant Agile, Lean, Quality, and Continuous Improvement

    Ben Linders
    Ik help organisaties om effectiever software te ontwikkelen. Neem contact op voor mijn diensten.

    I help organizations to effectively develop software. Contact me to hear about my services.