Comparing website design quotes – in detail

Websites can vary hugely in scope and so can interpretations of how to effectively quote projects. Make sure you’re prepared and comparing like-for-like cost proposals from website designers.

Having recently lost out on a project we were pitching for we delved a little bit deeper. It turns out the client chose to go with an agency that were approximately one third of the cost of our proposal. So it was a decision based on price. That’s fair enough, budgets can be tight and it’s important to shop around. However. Are you comparing apples with apples? In this instance the scope of work was not the same so the costs didn’t translate.

We often work with clients that have already been through a process with a previous supplier and the relationship hasn’t worked out or the expected product just hasn’t been delivered. This can be down to a inexperience when buying professional web design services.

So when comparing proposals from web design agencies what should you do and look out for to make sure everyone is offering the same thing?

Write a good brief!

It might seem obvious but so many people seem to bypass this step in the hope that a verbal overview is enough to go by. It doesn’t have to be the most detailed document but it does need some basic structure. Here are some suggested headings to get you started.

Business or project background

It’s always useful to understand the context of the business. Whether it may be an established organisation with an existing client base or whether it’s a startup and a completely new project.


Define the services required. Is it just a rebuild project, does it need to be designed from the ground up, do you need branding, dedicated SEO, retained monthly support or even IT support such as Email management.


It’s not always easy to get down in writing what the key objectives for a project are but try to communicate the expectations you have for the website. Try to visualise it as a finished product and even use examples of other websites that you think are effective.

Proposed audience

This can really help when putting together a cost proposal. It gives the supplier an idea of the technology and devices the audience might be commonly using as well as the type of web browsers, available bandwidth and the extent to which the website needs to be accessible.

Specific technology criteria

Some clients have a particular idea about a framework or system they may prefer. For example lots of clients want a WordPress website because they’ve worked with WordPress before. We might try to talk them out of it but never-the-less it’s useful to know.


When do you need it? Is there a particular event that you have scheduled that it needs to be fully operational for. Even if there isn’t then it’s a good idea to work to a fixed schedule to avoid things dragging on which can be bad for both parties. Keep everyone focused with a clear schedule. This might also have an impact on the cost. If it’s a particularly tight deadline then it might cost you more.

Some other thoughts for consideration are:

Who is providing and populating content

Quite often we’ve found this is something that falls through the cracks. We work on the basis that if we are designing and building a website then we are not writing the content and sourcing images unless specifically requested to. If the client has a requirement for a CMS (Content Management System) then the assumption might be that you will be managing content including the initial population. So make it clear who is responsible for this as it can affect the cost.

Amendments and snagging

There are always going to be changes to projects as they pass through the approval process. But to what extent and for how long after can they be updated within the original budget. If you want to make changes to the content throughout the website it’s understandable but what if you’ve sent a list of corrections to be made to your designer or agency, then you find some more, and more after that. Can the supplier be expected to endlessly revisit the project and make minor changes or is it fair for them to start charging after a point.

Ongoing costs

All websites need hosting. Usually charged annually, most agencies will provide a hosting service but just double check whether it’s included in the cost. If it’s not and you want to use your own hosting service then check that there are not costs involved in migrating the website project to a third party server. It’s perfectly reasonable for this to be passed on as a cost and it may be cheaper to use the provided hosting service.

Also, most CMS’s require ongoing maintenance. Updates to plugins, modules and even the core application help to keep them secure. It might be assumed that this is included but is rarely the case and responsibility should be established.

Don’t forget the VAT

Very obvious but it does sometimes get missed. Don’t get caught out.

Of course there are a whole host of things out there to trip you up but a good supplier relationship is all about responsible management and keeping you informed of the options. If you work on the basis of minimising assumption and providing a sensible amount of detail then you should at least receive project costs from multiple suppliers that are based on the same project scope.

Project budget guide

Wondering what it would cost to have a shiny new website designed and built professionally?

Website Budget Guide