how to brief an agency

Agency Briefing: How to get a Comparable Quotation

There are plenty of different ways and prices to build a new corporate website, from in-house projects to freelancers and agencies. It’s hard to find the perfect partner, so here are a few tips on how to brief a web development agency and get a quotation that is comparable.

Get a quotation that can be compared indeed

As an agency, we have been doing professional web development with WordPress since 2006, and we have had thousands of requests for quotations in that time. We learned from all of these inquiries and emails that it can be pretty hard to answer them with a quotation the potential customer can use for comparison.

Why is this so hard? Good question!

Most requests for offers lack the information we need to hand out a serious and professional proposal – including a comparable price. We totally understand that clients need something to compare different agencies and solutions with each other and that a price is quite handy for doing so. However, in our opinion, it would be untrustworthy in most cases to answer just with a price.

A website can cost 10.000€, it can cost 50.000€, or it can even be a 1 million Euro website. This depends on the technical requirements, how quickly the project has to be done and how exactly the features should be implemented.

Comparing a 10k with a 50k offer would be like comparing apples with oranges. The agencies in the pitch are talking about entirely different website projects here.

If you ask an agency for a quotation, make sure you can compare the offers you get.

Alexander Frison, CEO at Inpsyde

How much does a car cost?

We like to explain this with a little metaphor. Buying a website isn’t entirely different from buying a car.

If we just go to our local car dealer and say that we want to buy a green car, we find ourselves looking at many cars that are not in our price range or relevant to us. We first have to define our total budget, interior equipment (e.g. cheap radio or expensive), horsepower, or extra features (e.g. parking assistant, navigation system). To put it in a nutshell: We have to narrow down the range of possibilities to get a proper offer.

When talking about websites, many potential clients don’t even ask for a “green car”. They ask for a “green vehicle” or “green transportation”. That is why they end up with offers for a green Scooter, which probably drives like a car (a questionable minimum viable product), a green compact car with or without extra features (the standard and a bit more), a limousine (what they asked for but more expensive) or a green racing car (which they maybe do not even need).

car metaphor
The price and outcome for “transportation” can differ vastly – depending on the needs.

As a result, clients have to deal with a vast price range, and it’s hard to tell from only a few pages why the offers are so much different. In the worst case, they choose the cheapest option and accept an offer that doesn’t meet the requirements, or they start building the website while the project gets bigger and bigger over time and creates a lot of trouble and higher costs than expected.

Starting a new website or relaunch by talking to internal stakeholders & defining requirements early

Creating a Requirements Document with all specifications that are necessary for the new website or relaunch is the best way to start such a project. This document gives clarity to all internal stakeholders, and it can also be used as a briefing for external stakeholders, like the web development agency. The requirements should for example contain the following general aspects:

  • Information about the company & business unit
  • Starting position and goals (e.g.dissatisfied with the old agency, a new team focusing on change, interested in best practices)
  • Clear definition of requirements, features and framework conditions (e.g. product sketch, technical data, financial challenges, short-term realization)
  • Desired outcome

On top of those general aspects, there are a lot of detailed technical requirements that have to be thought of. Not all of those questions can be answered completely and by far, this is not a complete list either. But as a good starting point, those questions will help to narrow things down a bit:

  • How extensive is the menu/sitemap? How many main pages/subpages do we need?
  • What is a clear structure for our website? Is it user-friendly?
  • What kind of web design elements shall be integrated on the website (e.g. sidebar, buttons, image slider, gallery, blog)?
  • Does the agency consider building the website in responsive design? Is it included in the core tasks?
  • Shall we embed videos and social media platforms on our website? 
  • Do we need to implement external services for marketing functionalities (e.g. Google Analytics, Piwik)?
  • Do we manage our web content (text, graphic) by ourselves or shall we outsource it? Need our staff to be trained?
  • Do we need a contact form?
  • What’s the extent of our imprint?
  • What else shall we keep in mind regarding agency services, i.e. page-load speed optimization, browser optimization, SEO, logo design, training and/or manual, QA, support?

Ask consultants for help if needed

When contacting web development agencies to create a quotation for a new website, it is utterly important to have the requirements nailed down as precisely as possible. Having a comprehensive briefing is the only way to get a quotation that is comparable.

In doubt, it’s better to spend money on a  professionally held workshop to narrow down the requirements together, than to drown that money in a project that suddenly becomes bigger and more expensive as originally planned. And because this is a win-win situation, we prefer this solution the most and start nearly every project with a workshop. Customers who do a requirement workshop with us, are even able to use the Requirement Document we have created together with them in order to get offers from other agencies – so they have a fair overview of the market.

So if it’s not yet clear what to expect from a new website or how to brief an agency properly, we can contribute our know-how and give tips in our workshops.

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