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Why are clients shocked by the price for web development?
78 points by rbsn on May 11, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 85 comments
In my experience as a web developer for the past year, it seems that many clients are shocked by the price for a website where they want specific functionality created just for their business. Why is this?

Because a wordpress[1] site with a $20 template is all most small businesses need for their brochureware site.

The average small business needs a website with their hours, phone number, some pictures, and maybe a blog that they'll never actually update, but they don't really know the difference between paying someone to set up wordpress and paying someone to build a bespoke web application.

The only reason the majority of small businesses think they need custom functionality is because they don't know enough to know what they're really trying to do. Try to listen to what the client wants to accomplish, not how they want to accomplish it, and see if you can come up with an off the shelf solution to their problems (or refer them to someone else who can).

Think about all those times someone on stackoverflow asks how to do something in a really roundabout way that seems wrong. The first question you ask is "what are you trying to accomplish?" Most of the time there is a simpler way to do it.


[1] When I say wordpress, I mean wordpress/drupal/cushycms not just wordpress. Basically anything where you're not charging the client to build a custom blog/CMS engine, or charging $2k for a custom design.

Until they insist on using the email service that is packaged with the shared hosting plan.

And they, or an unwitting employee, start using it to communicate information they shouldn't.

And their account gets owned. (Keep in mind, the content is no longer just public web pages...)

And... Even if the web site hosting should have been done this way, they still needed help/advice/pressure to be more clueful about their IT deployment and use.

A lot of small businesses look for the minimum and think things should just work.

Separately, as a favor, I spent a weekend cleaning such a business's systems after an employee clicked on a malicious attachment.

When I told them what that service was worth (particularly on short notice and over a weekend) -- mind you, I wasn't charging them anything, just trying to put the fear of God into them to prevent a repeat and to motivate some better policy and behavior -- they completely balked. One partner "called someone" and claimed a simple sub $100 scan with a packaged product would have taken care of the problem. (Never mind that they had multiple infections on multiple machines and a raft of outdated products presenting serious security implications.)

They were in a cash flow crisis. If I hadn't had billing up by Monday morning, they would have been severely screwed. Yet, they were unwilling to assign any significant dollar amount to what I'd done.

The other side of businesses that pay too much for custom web development, is businesses that treat their IT systems like a consumer-level Windows XP box. And we know what happens to those.

P.S. IT, IS... whichever acronym floats your boat.

Stuff like this is why I usually set my smallest clients up with a static html generator. (At least if they don't want comments, and then we consider Disqus before wordpress.)

It is really hard to have vulerabilities with static html. Similarly, hosting these costs nothing. Usually in the ballpark of $3/year, the DNS alone is the dominate cost. And if they do get a sudden inrush of traffic, static hosts need to see a thousand times more load than stock wordpress before they fall down.

Come to think of it, I've never had a client that was the correct size for Wordpress. They were either way too small or way too large.

Clients left to their own devices can eventually destroy anything.

I had a client who wanted a static site, but at the last minute decided they needed a "news" sidebar on every page that they could update. This was before any of the off the shelf solutions existed (to mixing static and dynamic content), so I wrote some javascript (before jquery made ajax easy) that grabbed the content from a flat file.

Long story short, a few years later, they had someone on staff who knew some html, and they basically turned that tiny sidebar from a div displaying 2 or 3 paragraphs of text into an entire website--complete with oversized videos, rotating image headers, and dozens of links.

I'd love to see this!

Just wondering, where do you get static hosting for $3 a year?

I host my personal website on relichost.net, it's £6/year but for my one page 'about me' and some simple email it's more than enough.

Also I hadn't thought of S3 - that's a good shout.

There's also https://www.nearlyfreespeech.net/ which offers static site hosting for $0.01 per mb/month

Spot on. These are the guys I use, they are great.

The transfer rate is $1/GB. If you don't have many pictures and serve pre-gzipped html/css/js (needs a custom .htaccess) the bill can be very low.

Amazon S3, could probably host a static site for around this price.

I cut my teeth building wordpress/drupal brochure sites for small businesses. I have inherited custom web sites for these customers who got duped by some punk developer who didn't feel like using an established solution.

I want to punch all developers in the mouth who think a custom application for this type of situation is a good idea. They give us all a bad name and exacerbate the cost problem.

I want to smack all the developers and designers who think Wordpress is "good enough". It's not. It's an unmaintainable mess. Every client-run Wordpress site I touch is disgustingly out of date and everything added since the first design looks like crayon drawings done by five-year olds with ADD. I don't see much Drupal in the wild so I can't comment on that.

Web development has not reached the state where non-technical end users can maintain websites. In theory, sure, in practice, there's tons of money to be made fixing hacked sites and cleaning up years of technical debt.

I would not recommend Wordpress for anything other than a simple blog. Do anything else with it, you need a developer on staff. And a simple blog will never be enough for the needs of a small business.

I'd much rather work on some 90s-era custom-built app than the vast majority of brutally hacked together Wordpress sites.

WordPress is excellent, and there are some mighty big WP sites out there. You're barking up the right tree when you say "you need a developer on staff" though. Web sites are not just "set and forget" deals. They need continuing care and maintenance. And the whole idea of having a site that the receptionist can take care of on a Friday afternoon, which I have found pervasive in small businesses, has just never really worked at all.

Wordpress sucks for small business. It's just that simple. It shouldn't, but it does.

Small business needs an easy CMS whereby staff can do most of the tasks without present "IT Crowd". AFAIK WordPress gets it done (with some minor problems - as you wrote fe. updating is a problem for non-technical people and WordPress haves no MVC, so it`s easy to go spaghetti way with the code). WordPress devs are trying to resolve problems which are most voted within the community.

They're not minor problems. Please don't underestimate the epidemic of hacked sites that are a direct result of end-user unwillingness to upgrade and possibly break their site. This is a problem that can't be solved without significant architectural changes. Customers are more willing to risk getting their websites pwned than to risk an upgrade that may take their site down, so upgrades often aren't done for years.

It's not a small problem, its a huge one, and the primary reason why I can no longer recommend Wordpress.

I agree with "Security is a process, not a product." AFAIK security is important for WordPress team. There is a lot of good documentation on a project site and there are some materials from WordCamps (fe. http://codex.wordpress.org/Hardening_WordPress)

Latest WP "hack" via botnets was because of weak logins and passwords which are set by the users. Can you blame WP devs for that?

Speaking about upgrading; making updates easier it`s also one of the goals of the project. Also it isn`t that hard when you develop WP sites using information from WordPress Codex docs.

I hope it will get better with time, and as i wrote people are working to get things better. Sorry to hear that you are not going to recommend WordPress any longer.

@vinceguidry IMHO being out of date isn`t a WordPress problem, it`s a clients or a developer problem. Any software must be upgraded from time to time.

Can you suggest any more elegant solution? In my opinion WordPress is good solution with great community.

With many different people you get a lot of different levels of deployment, so maybe you didn`t have a luck?

It's not Wordpress that's the issue, it's with the current state of the problem domain. People want websites that they don't have to pay a programmer to maintain. Wordpress solved this for blogging, but using it for anything else and not having technical talent on call makes for a giant mess.

Yes, exactly - it`s not a problem with tool, but with use of it. I also wouldn`t recommend using any software without knowledge how it behaves and what can be done with it.

What you're essentially saying here is that only programmers should have websites. This is not a good attitude. Like saying only mechanics should own cars. We need to change the technology, make it more accessible, not just say that only the technically savvy should use technology.

No, i`ve tried to say that WordPress is simple enough (for a non-technical person after a short training) to deal with the majority of tasks. I don`t know easier open source CMS comparable to WordPress.

It's not a matter of Wordpress being 'good enough', as much as being sometimes 'what the client wants and all they're willing to pay for.' You're not wrong about the codebase though, but it's not entirely the fault of developers.

I feel kind of the opposite, where I've seen wordpress used to create what is effectively a static brochure site - what good is a Content Management Solution when the content isn't being managed? The only reason they're using it is that's all they know, and it allows them to create the site without looking at any code. Plus, giving customers a wordpress site opens up the door for user error, plus the inevitable security issues (even though I insist on using HTTPS, but now I have to explain what HTTPS is). My solution so far has been to build static sites with Middleman. If they need a couple other features (like a contact form), I can use third party services called client-side. Ultimately, my turnaround is about the same as a wordpress site with the same features, and is quite a bit less complex, at least in my opinion. Of course this only applies to very basic websites, if they want a more complex app and will update the content regularly, I will use a CMS. I guess I'm just not sure what's wrong with this solution, but then again I'm pretty new at this.

Static sites are an excellent solution. It keeps clients from getting too ambitious for their own good.

As far as CMSes go, I was pretty impressed with Umbraco. It lets you design the client interface that they use to update the site. It's .NET, but I've yet to see a better solution.

On the flipside, sometimes building something custom allows you to help the client focus on what makes their business unique.

This is very true. The clients we have had to date which are prepared to spend good money on a website have done so to differentiate themselves from their competitors with great success.

I think it's partly because of blurry line between software products and programming services.

Many of the software products, proprietary or open source offer massive functionality for very low cost but this is of course because the development costs have been aggregated across many customers.

For example , I was asked to build an online customer management system for someone on a budget. So I googled around for open source solutions to the problem , found a few that fitted their requirements and showed them to the client.

Once they found one they liked, I FTPd the PHP upto their server, setup mysql and did the basic configuration for them. I then pointed them to the URL for the system, gave them some basic instruction and charged them $25 for the hour.

They were over the moon with that, since it was so quick and cheap.

Of course later they come back and say "hmm, this system is good but I wish there was an extra field here that did this and this part should work slightly differently".

So I said "hmm, ok. This is probably 5 hours work so except to pay around $125". At which point they said "What?! This is just a few small changes, how come the price is so much higher?! The system is open source, so you can just make these changes easily". This then puts you on the defensive as you have to justify that in fact to do these changes will involve reading a ton of someone elses code , finding the correct places to change things and testing that everything won't break.

Now , if they had paid $1000 for the original system (probably a fair price for the amount of actual functionality it enabled for them) then the $125 would look more reasonable.

The amount of value that they gained for the $25 was so high that you have their expectations have been set unreasonably high.

Just so you know, semiskilled housecleaners charge a lot more than $25 an hour. Car mechanics $60-$120 an hour. Plumbers $80-$120 an hour. When you charge $25 total for a trip to his facility, the time to understand his business problem, and an hour of setting up software for him, you are telling the client "I have no skills and am not worthy of any respect. Please abuse me."

Well I didn't have to go onsite for this, or I would have definitely charged more. Though I would say that installing PHP scripts to web hosts is closer to semi-skilled labour since it can be (and frequently is) done by teenagers.

Plumbing or mechanicing have a higher barrier to entry since you usually need certifications and a significant outlay for tools/transport/premesis etc.

You'd be much better off basing your billing rate on the value that you're providing to the customer, rather than the cost/time that it takes you. This is a very basic business skill, but it's not always apparent to those of us who just like to build things, whether we get paid or not.

Try to get comfortable with the idea that you deserve to be paid very well for your work. (It's something I've had to do.) In my case, it was very uncomfortable to send that first message with my new higher rate. But I spelled out the value of the work I was proposing (which had obvious benefit for the client, but also bolstered my own mental fortitude), and the client happily agreed. And now the client is "educated" as to what this type of thing is actually worth. :)

Good luck!

The main value to the customer wasn't ftp'ing the files over, it was the technical understanding to find a script of value, make sure it was written properly, documented, etc. Not to mention the time you took to understand their issues.

Clients are ignorant - can't really fault them for it since it's not their domain.

I've found it's best to let the ones who balk at the true cost walk away. They will go find some cheap service to build what they want ("oh, can you make it like facebook?"). They will spend 3x as much as you quoted by the end of it, but they will learn to pay attention when a developer tells them how much it will cost.

The second project they ask you to work on to fix the disaster of the first will be a lot nicer.

Whatever you do, do NOT underbid, ever. I made that mistake a couple times and it turned into nearly a year of bitter burnout. Hard to like what you do when you are getting paid about 20% of what you should be due to invoice battles.

This is an extremely complicated question. I run a UI/UX studio here in Toronto and we go all up and down the spectrum, with some clients being shocked at our prices for web design/development but we've also lost jobs from other prospective clients because our prices were too low (no joke).

It depends on two things:

  1. Where you get your business

  2. Who your competition is
For many, #2 depends on #1. We see three main sources of business: Google (we rank highly for 'Toronto web design'), Dribbble (we have the 2nd most followers in Toronto, and 8th in Canada), and of course, referrals.

Dribbble leaves us with clients with the biggest budgets, who aren't afraid of 5-figure prices for web design. This is where we're competing with other high-end designers and thus our prices are more in-line with theirs.

Referrals are the strongest leads, with clients who when they don't have larger budgets are more comfortable stretching a bit because of our strong work for a friend or mutual acquaintance (and we're often happy to mark down a bit for a referral).

Leads from Google are where the clients who get really shocked come in; they don't really understand or appreciate the work that needs to go into good, iterative, considered UI/UX (and the custom development that goes along with it). The competition here includes a swath of companies who game SEO and outsource work offshore, and they can charge considerably less. Thus, our prices look unreasonably higher to the untrained eye.

There's also a phenomenon where cheaper clients expect more. If you move up in terms of positioning yourself as premium, better clients will consider you and your services-- the types of clients who aren't shocked by "high prices" for design and/or development.

So, if you find all of your clients are shocked at your prices, you're not marketing towards the right clients.

I would also highly recommend listening to patio11's podcast #3 about making more as a consultant: http://www.kalzumeus.com/2012/10/10/kalzumeus-podcast-3-grow..., and charging more http://www.kalzumeus.com/2012/09/21/ramit-sethi-and-patrick-...

Great comment.

I'am a self entrepreneur and I do some web designing from time to time. I recently got a lead for a organization which had EU funding of 250'000€. They wanted me to roll two sites with independent designs and features which's content had to be editable. I offered them my full consultation in choosing everything from ground up, but they kept on asking for the price. Once I told them I never heard anything back.

I offered to do the sites for about 0.5% stake of what they got from EU, but they apparently thought it was too much.

Recently a friend of mine was observing me coding and he was astonished of the complexity of it. As he said, 'For me, a button has always been just a button with no further functionality.' I also let him to change the source code as he was interested to see what effects it has on the program. He deleted a single bracket and was amazed to find that the program failed to run. I then continued to tell him that no matter how big your codebase is, a single mistake such as that might screw it all.

He now understands my frustration better.

well, maybe that ~1000€ were far to low.

I'd strongly suspect you're working with smaller to mid-sized businesses — or maybe just individuals.

I've done a ton of work for smaller outfits, and the fact is that whatever you're billing is coming directly out of their own wallet, or close to it. Imagine the shock when the mechanic says you need to spend $2,500 on a new transmission. That's what your clients feel.

That's also why I've turned away smaller projects for the past year. Everything becomes a never-ending, underpaying project from hell where you end up doing little tweaks for free because you're a nice guy/gal. You also end up competing with joker developers with lower rates who will probably do a hack job (the fight of "doing it cheap" vs "doing it right" is timeless on the small business front).

My point: If your clients are shocked and opting not to do work with you, find bigger clients. If bigger clients won't work with you, lower your rate and find smaller clients.

@katzgrau I also agree with that opinion. I think it could be extrapolated to making sth for money in general.

True, but I've also noticed that large companies, where budgets are involved and the mentality of "it's not my money" prevails, rate never really matters.

Even if they fight back at first, they typically give in, because quality is more important than expense (since everyone wants to cover their arse).

I can't think of another good or service with this much variety in price or opacity in what you get. For small projects, you're talking free or $10ish for an open CMS + theme to maybe $10K for custom stuff. That's a 1000x difference (and maybe little discernable difference to the client).

If you want a car, you're paying in the thousands for a used one, in the tens for a new one, maybe hundreds if you really, really want a nice one. 10-100x, and there is no "free" entry point here.

Similarly with a house, it's pretty clear why house one costs more than house two. Using apartments in Manhattan as an example, you're looking 250K for a studio up to maybe 12.5M for a penthouse. 50x with a very clear reason.

This is the best answer I've seen. It's impossible for non-technical people to see the difference between a custom website where you wrote ever character of the HTML/CSS/Whatever by hand and a Wordpress.com website with a beautiful theme for $20. Even more so, it's hard for them to see that once you want to add a single feature or two that don't fit the Wordpress mold, you're likely to have to go from-scratch for the entire website and charge 100x what they were previously paying.

Indeed. Any idea about how to explain to non-technical people what this difference is? This is the kind of question I'd like answered.

(Otoh, concerning WP, you can, unfortunately, fit almost anything into the WP mold, or "around" it - at least when you are past the point of having read and understood most of its source code and you know the db layout by heart... yeah, it's terrible and the whole thing works against you if you want to write good, clean, testable code, but it still ends up the cheapest option you can give to a client if you want to be honest with him)

If you want a road-worthy production car, expect to pay on the order of $10,000.

If you want a road-worthy production car with design or features that none of the extant manufacturers have seen fit to build, expect to pay on the order of $1 billion.

The overall prices are higher, but the difference in cost is similar, and the principle basically the same.

Going beyond the design and layout to actually writing a website for the client using Rails for example, how can you explain this? Unfortunately, clients have no idea about the technology behind what they actually see on their screen. The server side application and database which makes it all possible.

Maybe use the car analogy. How much does a customized (length, width) version of a given model cost that fits better in your garage?

It's because most people don't have a point of reference for web development costs, and their experience with web products is with applications that have been around for a couple years with millions (or tens or hundreds of millions) of dollars of development time put into them. Facebook, Twitter, Square, Basecamp, etc.

When someone walks into a $5 million dollar home they instantly know it's an expensive home not because they're aware of the materials and craft that went into building the house. It's because they have a point of reference, their home, for what something costs and they're able to extrapolate an approximate cost for something far more expensive.

People don't have this point of reference for web development because most people haven't ever hired someone to build a web app for them before, and most people have never tried to build a web app on their own.

A tip: Ask people for a few sites that they like and that they use. Take a look at them and approximate how much time it would take you and your team to get that application built from scratch.

Then say - okay to build an approximate version of X, you'd probably be looking at a team of 3-4 people (or 6-8, etc.) working full time for X months.

So that site likely would cost around X dollars for you to build.

The point isn't to get them to understand our craft and the effort involved.

This exercise helps give them a point of reference for how much the things they use every day cost, and from there they can start being realistic about what they can get within their budget.

Because most client can't tell a wordpress installation with a theme from ThemeForest from a ground up build up. Most actually need the former, but sound like needing the latter.

Because web development is easy. Why would I pay so much when you sit on the computer for a few hours pressing buttons. It requires nowhere near as much skill as say.. A builder. /s

While we're at it, doesn't being a doctor look easy too? Just ask a few questions, read the nurse's notes, prescribe some medicine.

Not only that, but an architect, construction crew, building inspector, and janitor.

Are you kidding? Web development is not just "pressing buttons". Get back to your Joomla or Wordpress site and think again before you post.

Maybe I was too optimistic in people's ability to notice blatant sarcasm haha

You missed the "/s" sarcasm tag.

People don't have any clue about what's involved. They maybe have had some printwork done on the cheap before, and see this as similar.

And when I say they don't have a clue about what's involved you need to remember that many people can't plug in a printer. They have no idea about 300 dpi or 75 dpi or low quality jpegs or cross browser ("I click 'the internet' and there it is") or HTML or CSS or anything else.

But this is perhaps an opportunity! (A painful opportunity that's possibly full of woe, but still).

You create 5 mini sites of varying levels of complexity. You start with totally passive, html & css only, no updates, few images. You then build up, including tiny bits of dynamic content (roll-overs, javascript) all the way up to full content management. You describe how many hours of work are needed to create each of these, you show examples of wireframes. You also describe the design decisions the client would need to make ("Will your content change once a year? Your best choice is X But if you will add content once a week your best choice is Y").

You then give tentative costings. You make sure they're labeled as tentative and subject to change because of work involved.

You invite potential customers to talk to you about what they need.

Hopefully this will filter out people who have wildly wrong ideas about the costs or times, and will encourage people who want a website but who were too baffled to ask.

Of course, there are many risks of dealing with totally naive clients and it could be hellish.

If you present it as a commodity, they will treat it as such. "A website" is a thing. "A tailored solution to help your business do X" is not.

I remember early on in my web development career to make sure you are selling a service not a product. You aern't building a website - you are providing a marketing service, requiring expert advice and a component of that service is building a website. As people have said, websites are easy - Wordpress + theme + hour of time and you are done.

Sell your knowledge of digital marketing - SEO, Adwords, etc in order to drive sales for your client, which is ultimately the reason they want a website in the first place.

Just to throw in my 10 cents, if I've learned one thing in my own web dev consulting, it is...


It makes all the difference in the world.

Essentially, you're shocking your client with price because you haven't adequately explored and quantified the value of the benefits you're providing to their business.

Anytime you are building a web application, you are actually solving a business problem for your client. For example, that problem may be more driving sales or reducing staff time spend on a particular task.

You need to spend time diving into this with them to figure out what your project is really about. Then you can ask targeted questions to the client. For example:

"So, right now you're telling me that Jan and Ella are spending 20 hours a week processing the proposals. If we could reduce that to 5 hours per week, how much would that save you?"

"If we could improve the conversion rate on your flagship product by 10%, how much would that be worth annually in new revenue"

Once you've asked some questions like this, you can then position your price relative to these other values that the client has affirmed for you.

All of a sudden, it makes it much harder for them to feign shock at paying $25k for a system which increases revenue by $250k in the first year.

If you're not working with clients who have valuable problems to solve, find clients who do.

Consider that dissonance: a website is a magic black box from the outside.

That will work to your advantage, you can skip the technical details and make it as efficient as possible. This means you should focus on selling the site as a solution to a business problem. Working out what that is, is the hard part. Many times the client has no idea and no goals.

Another advantage is the visual nature of the web. Details of what a site actually does are mostly visual elements. This means the Designer and Coder will be one in the eyes of the client, if the coder exists at all. I recently learned this lesson the hard way: I as a developer, brought on a designer friend to help with a contract. Introduced them to the client and we put in a bid. Soon, a design firm came in and took the contract, selling a design and insisting on bundling all development.

My mistake was the disconnection between designer and developer. The client doesn't know or care. Bad client? Maybe, but it seems like a common theme to me.

Isn't this the simplest thing if you want a no-fuss brochureware site?

* Go to Wordpress.com

* Choose a custom address ($18.00 / year for youraddress.com)

* Pick a pleasant theme

* Type in your content

Job done, right?

I wrote my own CMS that can do a few things really well and was marketing it. Found a client and I'd been charging a client a few South African Rand every month to host a website for their business. Really low cost, in my error.

Then i started getting asked to do more work on the site.

Then they wanted a site design and they were complaining they needed more business from the site so I didnt charge. I went out of my way to redo their design, meet with them, find the correct demasque background, logo redesign and content updates.

Then another small site I was running for them at a lower cost suddenly needed changes. So I barked a bit and they backed off.

Then they came back and said that on the first website they needed more business because another channel was failing them. someone had suggested they setup a blog to get new clients. Would I help?

I replied back and said for the monthly fee I was being paid i couldnt support more work or blog integration, not at that rate. We could discuss a retainer for that kind of work...

They turfed me on both websites - Gone to someone cheaper they say that also allows them to update the website as they choose and setup a blog.. So can I give them a backup of the sites? Sure cuz it was in my terms of service.

So I thought I was doing them a favour- low costs, possibility of self maintaining the site, a new theme design, managed hosting and email.

Turfed. My wife is pissed at the time I put into them.

I on the other hand have realized this - 1. Small business dont want to pay a lot of money for anything 2. Small business dont want to pay anything for services. If you ask for payment they will balk and possibly not enter an engagement 3. Small business will want everything done, plus the clothes off your back. And when you cant anymore they'll say you suck and move on.

Im now not even marketing the web dev side of my skills anymore.

I've found that most of the confusion comes from a mis-understanding of the service that is being provided.

My clients understand they're not buying a blog, or an e-commerce shopping cart, or a newsletter system, or {insert some feature here}. Rather, they're paying for my time and expertise -- and to provide that in context of what they want.

Any time I've encountered a customer who has sticker shock, I've always focused on making sure they knew what they were buying. More often than not, that always made customers much more comfortable. And, in a few cases, I explained that they should look for someone to provide their requested service at a lower cost. (Surprisingly, several customers freaked out and then pleaded with me to take their project. Go figure.)

@rbsn I don`t know how much do you charge hourly, but i`ll assume that it`s fair price for a job done. If it is so, maybe your clients are cheapskates? There is a trend in thinking (especially within small business owners or managers) that good "website" is easy to make and there is a lot of people who can do it. I would agree with the second, but not the first. Usually after one or two bigger failed projects wise firms learn price to quality ratio. There rest are cheapskates that must be avoided ;)

Because they thought web development is just hacking together html and css; and you dont need any logic but just sitting down and hacking it away! To be honest, I used to have that mindset until I got a front end developer job. It is a nightmare to get pixel perfect style on every single browsers and devices. Not to mention, when we do a simple google search we can see so much websites and people offering to do "web developing" for such a low cost.

Even more amazing is when you aren't dealing with a client (who is by definition clueless) but a manager (who really should know what it is that he is managing).

Ex : "This client's site is all fucked up. A simple upgrade isn't possible because it was written 3 version back and the formats for everything changed. Rewrite it from scratch using this hideously complex tool which you've never touched before. It'll take you only 40 hours, right?".

Because you're talking to inexperienced clients! So if your client owns a small store and wants a site like amazon.com that client will have sticker shock pretty quickly. On the other hand if your client is an IT manager who is looking for a specific widget that client will have a very good idea what things cost. In fact that IT manager may even assume that costs will go higher than your estimate.

I was looking for a company to build a website for me in the UK the prices were not realistic like $1000 a day and most of them needed a 50 working days to build version 1.

As a business owner I know it will cost money but not in this rate. Now I am in Morocco with a great team, they are working 12 hours a day to finish this project for much much cheaper cost same quality. ++ Marrakesh weather is a bonus.

A good chunk of my core business is web development and have been doing this for quite some time now. There are many factors that go into the buyers decision making process.

A large part of that is perception. Most buyers do not see websites as a high ticket items. Many see it as either just another business expense they have to make or they do not think it's worth investing into because it will not give them much of a return on their investment.

If your clients are shocked by the prices you give them, then there is miscommunication between your value & message and what they think their are getting. It's all about managing expectations.

When talking with the prospect about their future goals, and they mention they just need a website that (and I quote from a client here): "is very simple and just lists my name, my companies name and an address." That is NOT a client who will pay any sort of real money for a website. That type of client is best lead to the $10 website services. ... at least for me. I do not want to be dealing with such a low end client.

Though, one follow-up to such a client request that I've used to great success is:

Me: Just to make sure I'm understanding your correctly, you're looking for a ultra simple website that is essentially a business card but online right?

most of the time they will answer:

Them: Well, no not a business card. I'd want to be able to put some article on there, pictures, and there really should be a way for people to contact me through the site.

Me: Ah, so it's not something so 'simple' is it? Let's talk about what your business goals are. Where do you see your company being in 3 months? 6 months? 1 yr? Do you know to use the website at all for any sort of lead generation, information gathering and in-bound marketing?

At this point, they will usually start realizing that there is a lot of high value items to do done. Their needs and actual budget will now dictate which you and they will be able to take.

If you're unsure of what they can afford, you can always say something like:

"A project like this usually start around $15,000. Do you have a budjet allocated for a project like this? .... No? Ok, what do you believe it is worth and there are ways we can reduce this price by removing some items of value, so what value would you like to remove so that we can fit it into your budget?"

Because non-technical people have no idea what you do. If I were to freelance or do web development I would position myself on the high end, and only target those customers. When you have customers that appreciate your work and don't think price is an issue, then you have the choice to choose who you want to work with.

ie. Raise your rates! :)

Why they're shocked isn't worth getting into really at first: The first question is, are they even able to get that sort of budget together. Then the second question is, what sorts of things are available for budgets they can muster up, and what are the constraints on said things.

perhaps it is an overlap of several psychological phenomena.

1) from the look wise, a webservice indistinguishable from a page in a magazine.

2) functionality is a button, slider, or an input field, the result in the normal case, a table and often it is even for experts difficult to see the effort behind.

3) the construction of a car / bridge etc. is still somewhat understandable for outsiders, materials such as work processes are visible and understandable, programming is different here, people that never dealt with it can not see the difference between static html and data from a e.g. graph db.

4) the real effort have computers or was it servers?

Because they have no experience working with developers, nor respect for the skill. But when they find out you make more money than they do, they start to wonder if they maybe got into the wrong business.

History. There was a time when web sites where not dynamic and build with WYSIWYG editors, this "type" of creating still exists and gets lumped in with everything else due to sheer ignorance.

<irony> because web developers are not real programmers/developers </irony>

No but most of the time, clients compare it to the css theme a 15year old did for their wordpress install.

Aren't we all shocked by the prices of things occasionally. Don't we sometimes think a thing should be cheaper than it is, especially when it's a new thing to us.

Because of lack of knowledge about software development and how complex it is.

They usually associate complex work with physical products (laptops, phones, cars .. )

So how can we get across that it is that much more complex than many people think? I considered explaining that it is like asking an interior designer to design your kitchen, or any other room in your house so that it is completely unique to you and that you're not buying Ikea flat pack furniture and putting it sporadically around your house.

Prototypical freelance gig: please use Ikea furniture, our budget is not large. Just change the height of that table from 3ft to 2.75ft. Also, please make it fit in this room that's too small for it. Stack this Ikea couch on top of it, but leave room for another chair that my uncle built in the 80s.

I like comparing it to clothing.

There's a huge cost difference between grabbing a pair of pants at Walmart and having a good tailor craft a pair of nice slacks.

And the difference between the two is glaringly obvious.

What are you quoting them? If it's too high they might be right to be shocked.

Because those stupid 1&1 adverts where you get a custom site for like £10

Yes, but an awful lot of small businesses (plumber, dog walker, restaurant, transmission shop, barber, etc) just need a basic brochure-ware site with some text, a few photos, an address, phone number and hours and maybe a contact form or hosted email. 1&1, Wix, Webs, Weebly, Wordpress.com, GoDaddy, Homestead/Intuit, Vistaprint, and probably 100 other places offer that DIY/lightly configured site offering. If that's the thing your (non-)client needs, why should they pay 100x that for something no functionally better for them? They don't want a website. They want more revenue, and they want their customers to be able to find, learn about, and choose them; a website is just a means to that end...

Disclaimer: I work for Vistaprint, who also owns Webs, and I always speak only for myself on news.yc, never for my employer.


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