Estimating a web site project isn't easy. Although most web designers have an idea of how long a project will take based on their past experience, far too often this guess becomes a final estimate. If you've ever been 350+ hours into a project that's paying you for 100, I'm sure you know first hand why this can be a serious problem for your business.
For years, I've been using a simple spreadsheet to do my web site project estimating. It helps me avoid gross miscalculations and the oversight of smaller, yet time-consuming phases of a web design project. It's a perfectly fine, albeit ugly, solution to the issue. But seeing as I'm not a big fan of ugly, I set out to make something better.
To use it, simply enter the title of your project, your default hourly rate, and the hours you anticipate each phase of project the to take. If a certain task doesn't apply, you can easily edit or delete it. If you have more tasks to add, you can do so with the small Add Task button at the bottom. When finished, you can view your estimate in print-ready format to print or file away electronically as a PDF.
There's also a handy little Save Changes check box which will save an updated cookie to your local machine so you don't have to revise the form with every subsequent visit. We tried to make it extremely simple, but flexible enough for anybody to use.
The way I see it, the creation of this tool helps the web design community in three ways:
It strengthens small businesses and freelance operations.
Like I said, far too many of us are throwing out project estimates based on our gut instinct. Unfortunately, all it takes is the under estimation of one or two big web projects and a freelance web developer may be out of business for good. Seeing as I personally utilize so many free tools on the web, I thought this might be a nice addition to the pool.
It brings more consistency to the collective bidding process.
Nothing is more frustrating than going in with a lean bid only to find out you were undercut by half. While most project managers are savvy enough to understand that they'll get what they pay for, poorly estimated projects aren't good for anybody involved. They only result in cut corners, frustrated developers, and unhappy clients.
More accurate estimating creates a more accurate valuation of our industry.
In the end, we all have our own hourly rates, varying degrees of talent, and entirely different situations, so our project bids will always be just that – our own bids. I'm just throwing this tool out there because it helps me estimate my own web projects more accurately, and if it helps me maybe you'll like it, too.