Race to the bottom: Woes of a Web Warrior 2

This blog post is more than 4 years old, so the content may be out of date.

So, you want a new website? What do you think the odds are of getting a site that you're happy with…a near certainty? 1 in 2? 1 in 6? I can't say that I have all the answers, but I do have some stories to tell - and I hope these tales will help you beat the odds.

So, why did I write this series? I'll admit it is partly a rant, and partly a sales gimmick…On the one hand these tales illustrate some of the risks of building websites. On the other hand, I am a busy guy, I can't help everyone, and I do like to see websites built right, even when I'm not involved. After all, I never know if I might end up using them! Whether you're working with me or not, I hope these tales will help you avoid some of the pitfalls that await even the wary.

If it's worth doing once, it's worth doing again and again and again"

It all started with an email from a friend who ran a Drupal agency:

"Owen - meet Marcus, Marcus - meet Owen…Marcus runs his own freelancing firm and might be interested in taking on the work. I think it might be a bit small for us to take on - but I reckon it would be perfect for Marcus."

The project was to replace an existing website with a new Drupal site. The existing website was a bit buggy, had some front-end issues, and needed extra features.

So I looked at the features, considered the theme, gave an estimate. Here was the reply.

"Your quote is rather costly and works out at £400 per day; senior doctors at the World Health Organisation don’t earn this! I guess we should get into computing. Considering that drupal is open source coding, I guess I’m confused why it should be so costly. The original website was built in half the time and at under half the price you quote."

I could point out that £400 a day was considerably less than the rate charged by the agency I was working with at the time. I could point out £400 a day was well below market rate at the time. I could point out that 20 days wasn't an excessive estimate for the features requested, and certainly not when you consider that it was a fixed-price contract with payment on delivery.

But the thing that struck me was this line: "The original website was built in half the time and at under half the price you quote." So, that would be the website that they want to replace. Because the website they bought at half the time and half the price was not fit for their purpose.

No matter how low you bid, there is always someone willing to it at a lower quality, for a little bit less. Getting involved in a race to the bottom is a lose-lose situation for both parties.

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