Your website expectations need to be realistic expectations given your budget. Probably the best way for us to articulate what we mean by, “unrealistic expectations” is to provide a couple of examples.
Unrealistic Website Expectations Examples
“I want users to be able to upload video so site visitors can stream the videos from my site. I don’t want embedded YouTube or Vimeo videos, I want the videos hosted on my site and streamed from my site. However, I do want the video upload tools to work like YouTube does, dealing with different formats and sizes seamlessly, simple to use upload interface, etc. Oh, did I mention that my budget is $2,000.”
Umm … if you’re citing amazing functionality that’s been developed for the website of a globally known brand that no one else seems to have, your budget needs to be six or even seven figures. Just because it only takes you two sentences to describe a given functionality that you want doesn’t mean it only takes us two lines of code to make it happen. Consider these two sentences:
Somebody spent hours and hours designing Ralph Lauren’s website, not to mention curating the perfect images to use everywhere throughout the site. And, the LLBean.com site is the product of hundreds of millions of dollars of investment by the people at LLBean over the past 15-20 years. If you want a masterpiece, you need a masterpiece budget.
How to Prevent Missed Website Expectations
Please do not mistake my examples above as Berkshire Direct blaming the customer for unmet expectations. That is not the case at all. If we as the website builder fail to fully understand your expectations, it’s on us. It would have been easy to get sloppy over the years because CMS systems like WordPress now provide so much of the functionality that we almost feel like we don’t need to discuss it. It’s so easy to just assume that native functionality in WordPress handles this, a WordPress plugin handles that, etc.
Most small- to mid-sized business website projects are offered up for bid without a clearly defined statement of work. There is no single document that captures every last detail like larger companies with IT departments or municipal agencies with purchasing departments and procurement regulations tend to produce. Creating a high quality statement of work would be a huge advantage for every project, but budgets don’t always allow it and small businesses don’t always have the internal resources to do the work. People who write high quality IT project SOW’s regularly are typically senior level tech company employees, experienced agency staffers or external IT procurement consultants.
For smaller projects ($6,000 and less) presented for quoting without an SOW we tend to conduct a a brief discovery session in person or over the phone PRIOR to developing and submitting our quote. This is the opportunity for us to ask probing questions to try and get our arms around the design (layout and styling), the content and any functionality requirements (i.e. shopping cart, members only area, ability to take donations, etc.).
For larger projects (over $6,000) even if an SOW is presented, as step one of the project we prepare a demo site. The demo site includes the actual tools we are going to use to deliver the requested functionality. Our client can test the functionality before we build the site around it. An example would be a client who wants to have a drag and drop form builder tool so they can add new sign up forms for events on their own. We built a demo site that included Gravity Forms and allowed them to test it first.