Debi Lewis has a great article up in Social Media Today titled “Why You Should Pay for Discovery”. She does a great job of explaining what discovery is: that portion of the website development process in which conversations occur to determine exactly what a website will look like, what content will be on it, how that content is arranged, and what functionality the website will have.
Also well done, Lewis’ explanation of the value of discovery: you save a ton of time and money and realize better results when you invest time in understanding what needs to be built before you start building it. Think about how expensive and difficult it would be to build a house without blueprints. You tell your contractor, “We just want a regular house” and hand over the cash – only to discover that his idea of a regular house and your idea of a regular house are wildly different. Now you’re either stuck paying for renovations or you live in a house that isn’t really what you want. Discovery eliminates this problem entirely.
But what Lewis leaves out is the conversation that centers on why YOU are the person who needs to pay. Many small business owners balk at paying for discovery. They argue – sometimes quite eloquently – that they go through a similarly intense consultation process with their customers without charging for it. This is just a cost of doing business, and the vendor should absorb it.
It’s a lovely argument. At first glance, it appears to be true. Bridal retailers can spend long, long hours consulting with brides and attendants about gowns. A tax preparer will devote a significant period of time to reviewing the documents her customer presents, not to mention researching any unique questions and concerns associated with that return. The time investment is certainly there.
So, however, I would argue, is the compensation. Compare the prices of the gowns hand-sold in boutiques with those sold at discount chains where the unattended fitting room doubles as a storage space. How much does it cost to have a real-live human being do your taxes compared to plugging all of your numbers into a software program and hoping for the best? The more engagement, service and support you get from the companies you do business with, the more those businesses expect to be paid.
Discovery always commands higher prices. It’s just that discovery is not always called discovery, and it’s not always broken out as a separate charge. Customers always have choices. The web developer that’s up front about the discovery process and charges accordingly has plenty of competition that’s more than willing to let their customers flounder through the process in the slowest, most expensive way possible. It’s up to you to decide if you want to live in a house built without plans or spend the money to make sure the website you pay for is really the website you want.