A budget should be part of every company's business plan..
Every custom web application development project has a budget, even if you think you don't know it or don't want to say what it is. It is important for you and your company to understand what the finances are so that we can do the best job possible for you. After all, the goal of your project is most likely to create revenue either directly or indirectly, and your business plan should outline this in detail. The initial investment you can make into your project will play a major factor in the viability of your idea.
If you are getting quotes from other custom web development companies, chances are you will be getting prices all over the map. A recent client who hired us had quotes ranging from 2,000 to 50,000. Our quote was 30,000 and the client chose us because of our experience and because they were afraid of the quality (or lack thereof) they might get if they chose the cheapest vendor. It is very difficult to shop for web development based solely on price. You have to include other factors, such as if they guarantee their work, if they charge for phone calls and responding to emails, if they charge maintenance costs after completion, and if they outsource any work to foreign countries.
So, getting back to your budget - you should have an idea of what you want to spend. After all, you definitely have an idea of what you don't want to spend. If we tell you your site will cost 100,000 you might know right away that this is too high and you could never afford it. So you need to ask yourself where the cutoff is. At what point would you feel comfortable in making the commitment?
Does this mean you should just tell us the amount of money you are willing to spend on your website, risking that you might pay more than what it’s worth? Well, in most cases, the answer is.... Yes. Please consider the following explanation:
We can do two websites with the same concept for vastly different cost. The difference is in the amount of time we spend working on your site. The only thing we sell is time, so if you want us to spend as little time as possible on your project, then we will give you the cheapest price. If you want us to take our time and be thorough and make sure your site is intuitive and highly polished and easy to use and maintain, then this will cost more simply because we will spend more time on it. It's just like mowing the lawn. You could do it in an hour, but if you want to have the Scratch Creation done right and the trees trimmed and the fence weed-wacked and the patio swept and so forth, it might take 2 hours.
We are not a company that likes to spend as little time as possible the projects we do. We don't like spending the maximum amount of time either; after all, you want your custom software project to be completed timely so you can get on with your business. When we quote a project, we usually try to balance the quality with the budget so that you can get a great product without breaking the bank. If you let us know your budget, we can tell you how much time we'll spend on your project, and we can also give you an idea of how many features your budget will cover. Otherwise, our quote will typically be midway between the cheapest and most expensive solution. In the lawn scenario above, we would estimate 1.5 hours and base our quote on that amount of time.