Whether building a website, complex application or product, the first question asked is “how much will this cost?”
The correct question is “what is it, how long will this take to complete and why?”
Cost is a result of hourly rate and time to task. Since billable rate is your constant, focus your energy on understanding and shaping the variable time to task.
Level of effort will vary greatly depending on approach. Will every function be built custom? Will you leverage third party products/services, or use a combination? Third party system integrations can speed development time, but you will need to fully understand the tradeoffs that come from those decisions. Custom solutions offer the greatest flexibility, but often take the most time. This does not mean a custom solution is the most expensive approach - many enterprise tools are extraordinarily expensive and take longer to customize.
If any team suggests an enterprise tool solution, be sure to ask why they think it best for your project and if they receive any form of incentive or compensation if you purchase it. Most enterprise solutions pay huge commissions to encourage agencies to recommend them. Beware.
Asking the right questions, getting to detail, fully understanding your web project scope and determining for yourself if the estimated time to task feels realistic will give you the confidence to make the right team choice. Then, based on their rate, you will know what it will cost.
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