So, you’ve just been tasked with the job of getting a new website for your business or organisation. If you’re like most people, this is where you’ll start ringing around to web design agencies asking for quotes.
Once you get all those quotes back, that’s where you’ll run into the hardest bit of getting a new website:
The fact that every agency quotes websites differently.
- Some agencies will quote based on a phone call.
- Some want you to give them a brief.
- Some will get you into their office so they can take their own brief.
- Some things that are standard for one company will be an optional extra for another.
All this makes it incredibly difficult to compare apples with apples and get a handle on whose quote presents the best value.
Even when you have a firm website brief, this usually covers design considerations only. It doesn’t specify the myriad functionality items your website could have.
What’s the solution?
You need a website scope.
What’s a website scope?
It’s the website equivalent of house plans. A website scope doesn’t just dictate how the website should look, it tells the web designer and developer:
- Which elements go where on each page (via wireframe diagrams)
- What pages are on the site
- How those pages link together
- Any special functionality the site will have
In short, the website scope details every element of the website job. If the scope is complete, a designer and developer should be able to design and code the website without having to go to the client except for design approval.
Most importantly, having a solid website scope saves you money because it means there are no surprises for the designer or developer. At no stage during the project are they going to find out they have to accommodate something unexpected
How to create a website scope
A website scope that will allow designers to quote accurately, deliver on your expectations and ensure there are no surprises should cover all of the below:
1. The main goal(s) of the website
Is it simply an online brochure you’re after? If the bulk of your new business is from referrals, this might be all you need – and online presence that supports the words people are using when they refer you to others.
Conversely, you might need a website that sell products and thus conversion of site visitors into buyers is the major goal.
Being able to tell you web designers the main ‘job’ your website needs to do for you is a key part of any website scope.
2. General look and feel
While it’s tempting to simply use words like modern, clean, minimalist, funky, retro; the best way to convey the look and feel you love is by providing the website designers with actual examples of sites you love, and pointing out exactly what it is you love about those sites. Why? Because ‘modern’ to me might mean something completely different to you. It’s so important to be clear about this as it reduces a lot of back and forth in the initial design phase.
Generally speaking your website colours will be the colours of your logo and branding. If you have a specific colour palette in mind, you should provide that colour palette. Here’s a sample palette:
Ideally, you’d have a corporate style guide that designates what fonts should be used in all your business design collateral. If not, this is something that could cause the design process to take much longer than quoted as there are literally thousands of fonts out there to choose from.
A good place to browse fonts and choose the one you want your designer to use is Google Fonts.
If Google Fonts is giving you option anxiety and freaking you out, then, at the very least, tell your designer whether you want to use serif fonts, sans-serif fonts, or a combination of both on your website. A common combination is to use a sans-serif font like Helvetica for your headings and a serif font like Georgia for your body text.
Quality imagery is always the difference between sites that look great, and sites that look average. Ideally, you’d have your own professional imagery taken of your organisation. If you don’t have access to, or the budget for this, then go to a stock library like shutterstock.com and select some images from there to show the designer the style of images you like.
Choosing ‘vintage’ style imagery on your website over ‘bright and modern’ style imagery will have a huge impact on the way your site looks and feels. Make sure you direct your designer appropriately in this regard.
6. Pages and page structure
This is also called information architecture. It’s the site map for your site and shows all the top-level pages, and then the sub-pages that will be accessed via a dropdown menu. Page structure is usually presented like this:
This tells the design exactly what pages your site will have, and how they all link together
Anything you want someone to ‘do’ on your website is a functionality thing that needs to be specified. Common functionality items you might want on your website are:
- Home page slider
- Newsletter subscribe function
- Submittable contact form
- Pop up subscribe form
- Image galleries
- Shopping cart functionality
- Blogging functionality
- A Content Management System (CMS)
- Drop down menus
- ‘Mega’ menus
But, literally, anything beyond ‘text and images sitting on a page and looking good’ is a functionality item and you should never assume something will be automatically included in a website design. Specify everything.
This is a ninja move when it comes to creating a strong website scope – providing the designer with wireframes for your home page and one ‘inside’ page (i.e. an information page like ‘About Us’) at the very least.
If you are building an ecommerce site, you’d also want to provide a wireframe for the ‘shop’ page and individual product pages too.
How do you create these wireframes? Honestly, you can hand sketch them if you like (but neatly, ok?!). You don’t need fancy software. The most important thing wireframes need to do is show where you want elements to appear on the page. (See example below.)
While it’s up to the designer to make it all look fantastic. But if you’re able to tell them exactly where you expect things to sit, you’ll be saving yourself a lot of money.
9. Budget and timelines
Stating a budget to a web designer might seem like you’re giving up information that’s best held close to your chest, but honestly, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve quoted a website for someone and they’ve nearly passed out at the quoted cost. Mainly because they had no idea that all the things they wanted added up to … a lot.
If you’re able to state a budget to the company doing your quote, they can look at your scope and let you know both what it would cost to deliver on the entire scope plus they can tell you what they can deliver for your budget.
Remember, the idea of a scope is to allow you to compare apples with apples.
Company A might be able to deliver the whole scope for $5000 but only items 1-6 for your $2000 budget. Company B might quote $7000 for the whole scope, but state they can deliver items 1-8 for your $2000 budget.
That makes Company B better suited to your project at this point in time.
If you want the best results for your new website (and budget), you need to create the tightest scoping document you can ahead of looking for quotes. If you don’t, not only is it going to be very difficult to compare those quotes, there’s a good chance you’ll end up having cost overruns during the project because you’ve failed to specify everything you need.