How much should this project cost? This is almost funny.

Last week I put a project out to bid on It’s a pretty straightforward project: my client wants to clean up and enhance a Zen Cart site.

I’ve looked at the CMS and figured it was maybe 20 hours of work. I solicited bids only from companies with experience in Zen Cart and I provided each company that expressed interest a very detailed list of what needed to be done.

I got bids in almost immediately. I had to stop and scratch my head. They ranged from $450 to $3,600. That’s right, the same project.

I sent back questions to two of the companies that had the highest bids. I was genuinely curious. What was it about the project that they thought would require an investment of $3,600?

From the first company, I received an estimate of the time that would be involved with specific line items. So, they really think that it would take:

  • 12 hours to set up the Zen Cart site for a company based in Massachusetts. I’m sorry, but having looked at the Admin panel, I know that it’s a question of changing one setting. Actual time? 15 minutes to find the right setting and click on the right box.
  • 20 hours to test the site in multiple browser/operating system configurations. Really? We’re talking about a site that’s got fewer than 10 pages. Maybe they know about more configurations than I do!
  • 8 hours to test that the shopping cart functionality works. I guess that’s not included in the above mentioned 20 hours of browser testing! Let’s see, I tried it myself. In less than half an hour I found out that the cart does work. Phew, saved myself 7.5 hours!
  • 12 hours to resize two images on two pages. Are they planning to redraw them? Heck, we paid less than that for the designer to create the images!
  • 16 hours to complete text edits on the FAQ page. That’s about 25-cents per word. Most writers don’t make that much.

Okay, you get the picture now. The bid was so over the top that it was funny. Except that it isn’t. In my mind it’s a case of a company that is trying to take advantage of what they perceive to be a client’s ignorance. Pricing on this level is extortion.

The second company in this price range said only that it was expensive because the request was “so detailed.” They immediately offered to cut their price in half, but only if I awarded the bid to them that day. Sorry, I don’t work with suppliers that try to gouge me the first time.

In the end, we did most of the work internally. We did find a few programmers who provided honest bids but I’m sorry to say that out of the 16 companies that sent me proposals, they were in the small minority. We are going to start working with one soon and hope that he is as good as his references state.

Bottom line? As a client or agency understanding the scope of the project and it’s worth is essential. There are plenty of people waiting in line to take your money who hope you just don’t know the right sum to pay.

Where’s Your Web Site Being Built? Probably not in the U.S.

I’ve long been a proponent of buying local. I like to meet with designers and programmers and feel that it has, up until now, been the best way to get a quality product.

However, I’m changing my mind. I’ve bid out several sites recently and have come to the conclusion that programming is, for the large part, programming. It doesn’t matter if it’s done in the U.S., India, or Romania as long as the functionality is there and the site is robust. I’ve bid out several projects recently and while part of me wants to use local talent, I simply cannot justify spending three to four times more on a U.S. supplier than one working overseas. In some cases the hourly rates in the U.S. are more than 10x higher. As one client said, “you could ask three of these suppliers to do the project, pick the best one and still come out ahead.”

So, where are you building your next site? As for me, I’m brushing up on my foreign language skills.

Lead Generation is the Bottom Line

What are clients looking for today? Lead generation. Not impressions, not visibility, not any of the intangible leadership positioning that they would have embraced in prior years.

Right now they want names, titles and contact information so they can convert those interested parties into customers.

And who can blame them? Almost every company I know is cutting staff. Recently I went to a meeting that had been scheduled less than two weeks earlier and found that one of the two people I’d been planning to meet with was gone . . . and the other looked nervous.

So how do you deliver what your clients need? One effective way to garner names is to give away information in exchange for registration: Webinars, white papers and “how to” information is highly sought after, especially as remaining employees are working harder to be smarter and more productive. Contests are also an excellent way to capture names. Your best tool in this regard is your Web site. Use it effectively and you can cultivate prospects and engage existing customers without a large budget or a large staff.

When your client becomes an industry resource, you can help them stay relevant and stay in touch with all those prospects that might become customers.

Website for Radiology Practice Features Browser-Updatable Content

As a PR practitioner I’ve always hated working on client websites that don’t have a content management system that I can access. Yes, I know they have legal issues to contend with, but inevitably even the smallest changes take forever to implement and typos manage to creep into the copy . . . requiring yet another round of changes and additional charges.

Recently I helped a radiology practice in Springfield, Mass. create a website. One of their requirements was that the site use a content management system that allowed them to make regular updates and additions.

When I work on a website I generate the information architecture, write the copy and serve as the interface between the client, the designer and the programmer. While this was supposed to be a “down and dirty” site to get them started, it ended up being pretty comprehensive, including information about the practice and educational information about the different aspects of radiology.

The site was built using Drupal which has a very user-friendly content management system and a lot of flexibility. Even I can make the updates as it requires only a minimal knowledge of HTML.

Radiology & Imaging