3rd Mar
Category: Programming , Top Tips and Advice

Web development - you get what you pay for

When selecting the web development agency to work with, you will more than likely be presented with a range of varying costs, from a select few companies, all claiming they can deliver for you. So which one do you go for?


A wise old man (my father) taught me when I was younger that

“nothing is free – someone has to pay for it”. I’d like to take this a step further and rephrase it slightly to “nothing is ever cheap – somewhere you end up paying for it”.

What I mean by this is that while choosing a cheaper development agency might look like a cost saving to your project, this ignores the intangible costs of working with this development agency and the missed benefits that your project could reap with a development agency up the pay spectrum.

The difficult thing is just because they are more expensive, how do you know they are necessarily any better? The answer to this is simply you don't.

Perhaps though (and this is an assumption), a cheaper development agency will be looking to cut code and deliver to exactly the clearly defined specifications. There will be little incentive to vary from this regardless of whether there is a more optimal solution. Their job is clear – build this!

Now sometimes this is all you will need, and if you are confident that the specification for your development is rock solid and you don’t feel an expert would have something to add to it, then why pay more. Just be conscious of the hidden costs though. You are probably more likely to have to be more hands on in managing the project and this eats into your valuable time. If you have got the expertise to write the technical specification, the ability to project manage the development work, as well the time availible, then this could be the best solution for you.

However if you are lacking in one or more of these areas, can I suggest that you look at more than just the physical cost of the development work presented in the meeting.


Over and above just cutting code, a good development agency should:

  • be able to project manage and proactively lead the project either within the bounds you have set them upfront or with your constant input as guidance
  • be willing and capable of critiquing and making constructive suggestions for possible improvements to your project
  • be able to advise you on ways you can cut your development costs or time by implementing features in alternate ways – yes a good developer will try to save you money
  • suggest features or interface improvements you may not have considered in your original specification

Obviously there are countless other services that a developer may provide you that are indirectly related to development so simply picking the cheapest development agency may mean you are losing out on a great wealth of intangible knowledge and value which you aren't necesarily aware of or able to quantify when comparing development costs. 

Another common scenario is where clients try to push down development costs to hit their budgets without being prepared to reduce the functionality or project requirements. If successful in pushing down the development costs, the client may feel pleased that they have saved money but in reality if a development agency present a cost to do something it's normally because that is the time needed to do a good job on it. The danger here is that if a development agency has other clients paying what they consider to be more 'suitable' rates, then projects where the rates have been pushed down may get less of their attention.

Also, a development team that is getting less income than they feel is necessary for the work on the project, is less likely to be genuinely concerned about the future of your project and available to help you should something need attention.

In an efficient market, there is room for many levels of suppliers and many levels of client requirements. Finding the right development agency to handle your level of project requirements is key to the project’s success and also to the successful management of the project budget. Just be mindful when selecting your developers to consider what they offer to your project, not just what hole they eat into your budget.


Blog written by Simon Wilkinson