As a WooCommerce agency we have received hundreds of specifications for all sorts of sites. We have seen them all, and they come in all shapes and sizes, from the one-liner: “We need a web shop” to the 20-page document outlining every detail.

Often the spec is a hindrance, and we have to create a new one.

There are two common problems with specifications: 1. Asking the wrong questions and 2. Not revealing budget

Ask the experts

I’ve just started to kitesurf. I’m pretty rubbish at it and spend half of my time being dragged across the sea. When I decided it was something I wanted to do, I went and talked to an expert to learn what I would need.

It would have been dangerous to make up a shopping list from what I could learn from the internet and just jump in the sea. But this is exactly what many newcomers to e-commerce are doing.

So, I went to my local kite shop and told them my criteria:

  • Want to see if it was something that worked for me
  • Have no existing equipment or preference
  • Low maintenance option
  • No experience
  • Have a low budget – £1000 to £2000
  • Goal is to get up and go – if I succeed and reach an intermediate level then I can invest in more

That’s a very short list but has all the pertinent information they needed. I went to the Kite Experts, and they advised me that my budget was tight, but beginner kit and drip-feed lessons over some months were possible within my budget.

From what I read on the forums about kiting I needed top of the range, 2015 kit and a £2000 trip to Egypt to learn how to kite. If I had demanded this from the kite shop, I probably wouldn’t have got started.

If you have a similar approach to building your website, you will have a much more suitable. Talk about what you want to get out of the project and not the details. Talk about the end game. Whether that be selling a product, growing your leads or increasing footfall.

Get the experts to advise you.

Reluctance to talk about Budget

There is a real divide between those asking for budgets and those not revealing them. It comes down to trust or the lack of it.

The biggest mistake you can make when asking for a quote on a project is not to provide a budget.

Clients don’t reveal their budget for a few reasons:

  • Want to get the best value
  • Don’t understand how it is relevant to costing a project
  • Worried they will get scammed

It might be counter-intuitive, but you will likely get these three problems by NOT revealing your budget.

Bear with me here, I’ll give you a real example. I was at the Wired Sussex Christmas party, and I heard the following:

“We got a spec in without a budget. It asked for a LOT of functionality and we costed it up. It was a juicy project at around £15,000. We didn’t hear anything and when chased we discovered they went for an outsourcing partner in India who promised the whole lot for £2000. Six months later we learnt the project was still in development but with another partner.”

There are a few things to note here:

This agency could have done this project for a lower budget

They would have suggested a different approach, such as using an off-the-shelf theme and leaving the advanced functionality to a later phase.

If the agency had known the budget, then they would have provided a solution that fit. By not telling them, the agency was just going by the specification. This was detailed, but the expectation that this could be achieved for a low budget was way off. In the end, the client suffered.

Going for the lowest quote is risky

If someone promises you the world, they are likely going to find it hard to give you the world and complete the work.

They might have underestimated just how much work is involved or are working at a lower standard that will cause you problems later on.

In fact, we see a LOT of projects come to us after already going with 1 or 2 developers already. The project has stalled and often so has the budget. Many of these projects don’t ever get completed.

So how much does a site cost?

First, let’s identify your needs. We’ve launched a specification service called YoSpec. It’s the first step to understanding how much you should spend.

I’ve also previously discussed WooCommerce site costs and gave some examples, which will help you get a feel for the various costs.