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Ask DN: Have you ever quoted front-end dev before seeing the designs?

over 3 years ago from

I have an agency who wants to hire me for front-end development but the only info I have is a basic sitemap. I asked for designs but they said they have to get the design/dev quote approved by their client first, then they'll do the designs and hand off to me.

Is this common or is it unheard of to quote a front-end project without seeing the finished designs first?

16 comments

  • Ian GoodeIan Goode, over 3 years ago

    they said they have to get the design/dev quote approved by their client first, then they'll do the designs and hand off to me.

    Sounds like a nightmare waiting to happen. Do you have any info on the project requirements?

    8 points
    • Jason MurrayJason Murray, 3 years ago

      Basic details like required CMS and some areas that may need JS. No actual content or designs delivered though. The agency's argument is that they need to get my quote on the dev portion approved by their client before they can begin any work.

      0 points
  • Connor NorvellConnor Norvell, over 3 years ago

    I am not sure if it is common, but It seems like something you would need to see prior to agreeing to a set price. How could you know how much work you will need to do without seeing the designs?

    3 points
    • Mark ProganoMark Progano, over 3 years ago

      Because a lot of sites/apps/things are close to something else and if you've built enough of the same time you should know the high and low ranges of what it will take.

      0 points
      • Connor NorvellConnor Norvell, 3 years ago

        That can be true, but the website could also be a huge undertaking. If there user workflows, or complex additions to the site. He should at least get some information on what features the pages will include, or a wireframe at least.

        0 points
  • David DíazDavid Díaz, over 3 years ago

    I did it once. It was the single worst decision of my career. I've since learned, never to give a quote without having the whole picture.

    Ideally you'd offer an estimate and adjust the price once you get the designs most clients find this reasonable.

    3 points
  • Art VandelayArt Vandelay, over 3 years ago (edited over 3 years ago )

    I used to do that and it bit me in the ass every time. Don't do it. And if you have to quote 2-3x more than what your gut says.

    3 points
  • Dirk HCM van BoxtelDirk HCM van Boxtel, over 3 years ago (edited over 3 years ago )

    Yes this is scary. Yes it can go wrong. Sure, it can work too.

    What to do wholly depends on the situation. As with a lot of things in design, the only real answer to your question is the ever useful "it depends".

    Your options are legion though.

    • Give them your hourly rate only
    • Give them a range + explanation (between x and y, because z)
    • Give them an exact number but don't commit/sign anything until you've seen the designs, so at that point, you'll be able to say no or adjust the number
    • Add (what you think is) a sufficient amount to the quote to ensure you'll be able to cover your time
    • Press for more information (wireframes) or postpone until you have that
    • Ask contact details of the designer to talk the project over with them

    .edit: reading the rest of the comments, most of these were covered already, and far more eloquently :]

    2 points
  • Jodi WarrenJodi Warren, over 3 years ago

    I've done it a couple of times. Both times the end design had significantly creeped from the initial spec/site map.

    I learned from the first time, and added substantial contingency budget to the second project. I was clear with the client about the amount of unknowns, and that the more firm information I had, the more I could lower the price. Everyone ended up fairly happy on that one.

    1 point
  • Caitlin G, over 3 years ago

    I'm also not sure if that's common, but speaking as a designer who works very closely with front-end developers, you really should see the designs (even if they're quick sketches or wireframes) before you quote. Especially if there are any complex interactions, like user workflows or widgets. Probably the best you can do is assume semi-complex interactions on at least a few of the pages and quote 2-3 times as much as you normally would.

    1 point
  • Joaquin LluisJoaquin Lluis, over 3 years ago

    It's a nightmare, it shouldnt be like that. If I have to do the job I would tell them a higher price and also tell them that its only an estimation, just to have some power over the final price.

    0 points
  • John JacksonJohn Jackson, over 3 years ago

    Quoting projects without details is a red flag; is the developer desperate for work? You should never blindly quote someone. That's a really bad idea.

    0 points
  • Jason MurrayJason Murray, over 3 years ago

    Thanks everyone for the replies, it's always helpful to hear how others in the industry handle this.

    0 points
  • Blaine KBlaine K, over 3 years ago

    It's common with agency work. I've done it a few times.

    You can take two approaches – outline exactly what you're expecting to do and the amount of fidelity you're willing to give, and a number based on that. The more specific you get, the easier it is to get more money down the road.

    The other approach is to quote higher, with a fair amount of padding in there in case things get overly complex. This is my preferred approach. Go over the project with them, talking about what kind of features they're expecting to require and talk about the challenges.

    0 points
  • Mark ProganoMark Progano, over 3 years ago

    I've done it. Both without seeing the designs and having to do the designs. If there's a design typically I can quote without seeing them and just add a note that it's subject to change based on additional function in the design that isn't described.

    0 points
  • Michael RurkaMichael Rurka, over 3 years ago

    Yeah man, best case, just give them a very wide ballpark, always on the high end. And tell them you'll review the quote when you see the designs. And if they aren't cool with this review, drop out or expect troubles.

    0 points