Here’s why you received that surprisingly-high $49k bid from us

We regularly work on complex WordPress websites such as:

  1. A complex e-commerce site integrating multiple shipping locations.
  2. An e-commerce site that has products with unique qualities.
  3. A website that needs complex location-based translations.
  4. A complex membership website with custom functionality.
  5. An e-learning website with classes, e-commerce, etc.

I’ll admit it – we struggle with pricing complex WordPress websites. The reason we struggle with pricing complex projects is because we have Known Unknowns and Unknown Unknowns. Oftentimes, our bids are likely on the high end to accommodate the risk we would need to absorb due to both of these types of Unknowns. Big Agencies sometimes solve this problem by adding a bunch of legalese asterisks to their contracts, but I feel this “start with ‘no'” mentality almost always leads to relationship friction or worse – Change Orders! Wouldn’t it be nice if we could start with “yes” instead?

How We’re Addressing Unknowns

We recently conversed internally about how to eliminate risk in complex projects – which would, in turn, bring our prices down and make everyone a whole lot happier. What we initially landed on is something that is common in the corporate space: a Project Assessment. The idea is that the buyer pays for us to put together a detailed, actionable strategically-oriented, blah blah blah proposal. And sometimes a Project Assessment provides a great start for people, because they conceptually understand proposals, they’ll have clear definition on costs moving forward, and there’s a clear deliverable (a proposal). However, a Project Assessment is kind of worthless in the sense that the thing you are paying for is not actually the thing you want. Also, sometimes the strategy & goals are good-to-go, and you just need someone to build the damn thing for you. This is where the Functional WordPress Prototype comes in.

What is a Functional WordPress Prototype?

For a complex website, a Functional WordPress Prototype would include the following work:

  • Stand up & configure WordPress on a public server.
  • Stand up & configure WooCommerce + Stripe.
  • Stand up & configure api connections to Google Analytics, Hubspot, Hotjar, etc.
  • Stand up & configure WordPress Plugins.
  • Stand up & configure core pages’/products’/posts’ templates.
  • Walk-throughs, feedback, & functional tweaks. Questions answered.
  • A high-level bullet-point scope + potential costs for Phase 2, if applicable.
  • No design work.
  • Just an amazing opportunity to understand what we can do on the quick & sturdy!

It doesn’t include things that require custom code, non-off-the-shelf functionality, design concepts, blah blah blah.

How much does the Functional WordPress Prototype cost?

Let’s say that we give you a bid of $49k for that complex e-commerce site you want. Perhaps building the Functional WordPress Prototype of that same site requires an investment of about 4-and-a-half days of my time…I could price that at…well…a hell of a lot less than $49k!!

Fwiw, we now include a Functional WordPress Prototype in our WordPress Design, Refresh, & Launch product.

Case Study: E-Commerce Functional WordPress Prototype with 1,000 skus.

We recently built a functional WordPress prototype e-commerce site for a customer with about 1,000 skus. The beauty of this process for them was:

  1. It cost them less $$$.
    We contained Phase 1 costs considerably, because we limited ourselves to off-the-shelf solutions and didn’t commit to any specific functionality. Because they then both understood the costs of off-the-shelf and were able to utilize the WordPress Prototype for paying customers in the wild, they were able to invest in the most-pressing challenges during Phase 2 (e.g. post-prototype) – these challenges turned out to be marketing integrations with Hubspot, adding custom functionality to product pages, adding more products, adding alternate payment gateways, and purchase financing.
  2. It was FASTER!
    We launched the new website much much quicker, because we cut both the initial design phase (the website was pretty much design-ready at prototype launch) and functional detours (e.g. by limiting ourselves to off-the-shelf functionality, we didn’t go down rabbit holes of crazy coding).
  3. Everyone experienced less exposure/risk.
    Their (and our) exposure & risk was limited on both the time and money fronts! A win-win!

You are probably saying, “Did you really do this, or are you BS’ing us here? What kind of e-commerce biz actually hired you for to build them a WordPress prototype?” I won’t tell you the company name, but I will tell you: We did it, it was great, and they are still one of our best customers today! (Fwiw, I like to keep my customer details private because our Why?.)

Why is a Functional WordPress Prototype better than a Project Assessment?

A Project Assessment includes a lot of strategy, whereas, a Functional WordPress Prototype gets you executing on your strategy by utilizing all the out-of-the-box, off-the-shelf theme & plugin functionality we can squeeze out of our WordPress toolset & decades+ experience. Investment of blood and treasure is kept to a minimum, because:

  1. We don’t do any custom coding in this phase of the project.
  2. You get to ideate quickly. We get clarity on the Unknowns quickly. And we can turn around functional improvements quickly. (All in days rather than months).
  3. Within a few days you’ll be ready to either pull the plug or crush Phase 2.

I’ve learned that a Functional WordPress Prototype is a difficult concept to grasp, because:

  1. Our customers oftentimes have little experience prototyping with WordPress and therefore it’s difficult for me to anchor expectations.
  2. Our customers oftentimes can’t conceptually separate design from functionality (a critical cost-control concept all coders intuitively understand).
  3. Sometimes the Functional Prototype delivers bad news – You might invest $X on a Functional Prototype only to learn that to complete Phase 2 will be cost-prohibitive. (But at least you didn’t invest $49k to learn that!)

What will Phase 2 look like after the Functional WordPress Prototype is delivered?

The beauty of a Functional WordPress Prototype is that it puts the buyer in a strong position, because:

  1. They understand the scope of what can be accomplished quickly and cheaply with less up-front investment. It’s possible that the WordPress Prototype will get them all the way to launch – In which case, they can move on to whatever important customizations, integrations, improvements, etc are most-important to making more sales.
  2. They have a firm foundation to move forward with if they need to custom-code additional functionality (e.g. 1-off feature build projects).

In some cases, Phase 2 might not even be needed (see case study above)! In other cases, everyone will now have a much better understanding of the next steps, scope, costs, and liabilities. Either way, for a lot less up-front investment in a Functional WordPress Prototype, they’ve saved potentially hundreds or thousands of hours, headaches, and a potentially a boatload of money!

Toby Cryns

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