We regularly bid out complex WordPress websites such as:

  1. A complex e-commerce site integrating multiple shipping locations.
  2. A website that needs complex location-based translations.
  3. A complex membership website with custom functionality.

I’ll admit it – we struggle with pricing complex WordPress websites. The reason we struggle with pricing complex projects is because we have Known Unknowns and Unknown Unknowns. In the cases above, our bids were likely on the high end to accommodate the risk we would need to absorb due to the Unknowns. Big Agencies sometimes solve this problem by adding a bunch of legalese asterisks to their contracts, but this “start with ‘no'” mentality almost always leads to relationship friction or worse…Change Orders!

How We’re Addressing Unknowns

We recently conversed internally about how to eliminate risk in complex projects – which would, in turn, bring our prices down and make everyone a whole lot happier. What we landed on is something that is common in the corporate space but that small business owners are unaccustomed to: a Project Assessment. The idea is that the buyer pays for us to put together a detailed, actionable strategically-oriented proposal. This is a great start for most people, because they conceptually understand proposals, they’ll have clear definition on costs moving forward, and there’s a clear deliverable (a proposal). However, a Project Assessment is NOT always the best way forward – sometimes the strategy & tech objectives are good-to-go, and you just need someone to understand and execute on a Functional WordPress Prototype!

What is a Functional WordPress Prototype?

For a complex website, a Functional WordPress Prototype would include the following work:

  • Stand up & configure WordPress on a public server.
  • Stand up & configure WooCommerce + Stripe.
  • Stand up & configure api connections to Google Analytics, Hubspot, Hotjar, etc.
  • Stand up & configure .
  • Stand up & configure .
  • Walk-throughs, feedback, & functional tweaks. Questions answered.
  • A high-level bullet-point scope + potential costs for Phase 2, if applicable.
  • No design work.
  • Just an amazing opportunity to understand what we can do on the quick & sturdy!

How much does the Functional WordPress Prototype cost?

Let’s say that building the Functional WordPress Prototype requires an investment of about 2 days of my time – That means I would price it at…well…a hell of a lot less than $49k!!

Stepping back a sec, I didn’t share one real-world detail here – We already include something similar to a Functional WordPress Prototype in our WordPress Design, Refresh, & Launch product! We even offer our customers a 100% refund if they don’t like our Website Prototype – though nobody has ever requested a refund at that point (because a Website Prototype is actually empowering and awesome!). But those are simpler marketing sites, which leaves us to wonder: “Will a Prototype phase work on a more complex website?” Of course it will! As I mentioned, I already do this for personal projects – I just need to figure out how to communicate the value of the Functional WordPress Prototype to our customers.

Why is a Functional WordPress Prototype better than a Project Assessment?

A Project Assessment includes a lot of strategy that you might not need. Whereas, a Functional WordPress Prototype gets you executing on your strategy by utilizing all the out-of-the-box, off-the-shelf theme & plugin functionality we can squeeze out of our WordPress toolset & decades+ experience. Investment of blood and treasure is kept to a minimum, because:

  1. We don’t do any custom coding in this phase of the project.
  2. You get to ideate quickly. We get clarity on the Unknowns quickly. And we can turn around functional improvements quickly. (All in days rather than months).
  3. Within a few days you’ll be ready to either pull the plug or crush Phase 2.

A Functional WordPress Prototype is how I always start building things for myself; why can’t it work for our customers? Well…a Functional WordPress Prototype is a difficult concept to grasp, because:

  1. Our customers oftentimes have little experience prototyping with WordPress and therefore no way to anchor expectations.
  2. Our customers oftentimes can’t conceptually separate design from functionality.
  3. There’s no guarantee that the functional prototype will hit the mark. (i.e. They might invest $X only to learn that to complete Phase 2 will be cost-prohibitive.

What will Phase 2 look like after the Functional WordPress Prototype is delivered?

The beauty of a Functional WordPress Prototype is that it puts the buyer in a strong position, because:

  1. They understand the scope of what can be accomplished quickly and cheaply, and maybe that’ll be enough! In which case, they can move on to an aesthetic design phase.
  2. They have a firm foundation to move forward with if they need to custom-code additional functionality.

In some cases, Phase 2 might not even be needed! In other cases, everyone will now have a much better understanding of the next steps, scope, costs, and liabilities. Either way, for a little up-front investment in a Functional WordPress Prototype, they’ve saved potentially hundreds of hours, headaches, and a boatload of money!