Feature Based Pricing

The following is nothing new in the design world. Many thanks to those that laid the groundwork for this process. This is a flexible way of working that, at it's core, is giving the client choices, planning for change, and developing the best product possible.

While our method seems like a very traditional waterfall approach to web design, it's much more agile than that. We don't like to invest large chunks of time on Photoshop comps or wireframes, but instead we move quickly to the browser so the client can give us feedback. Changes and revisions are made rapidly because we aren't restricted by an entire site that was developed in Photoshop or very specific wireframes for every detail of the site.

Feature Based Design and Development

Here at Tin Cans we like to use what we refer to as feature based pricing for design and development. That basically means you tell us the features you want and we price your project according to those requested features. Seems pretty simple right? We think so, but let's break it down.

Typically a client is looking for one massive quote for an entire website. That's well and good, but there are several things to consider since no two sites are the same. Neither the client nor the designer are doing themselves any favors by jumping into a project without sitting down and hammering out the details. A lack of planning is a bad situation to be in.

We find general fixed quotes to be, well, too general and too fixed. A problem with fixed quotes is they rarely allow for changes, which will and do happen. As a result someone, whether it be the designer/developer or the client, is going to have to pay, whether it be in terms of putting in extra hours, rushing to meet deadlines (which often results in a lesser product), or going over budget due to unexpected requirement changes. Instead of refusing to alter the job we agreed upon, or telling the client it's not in the spec, we plan for changes by using feature based development. Did that image gallery need to turn a cart wheel and smack you in the face as it opens? No big deal, since we didn't quote you a massive fixed quote for the whole job it's easy to adapt. What's better, if we finish ahead of schedule, we'll throw it in for free. Free? Allow us to explain.

We keep up with the time it takes us to complete each feature of your project. If things take us less time, and money, than we originally planned for, whether it be because of a change in your requirements or because we were extra awesome, then we have some time (and money) left over at the end of the project. It's yours to spend, or save, as you see fit.

Interested? Let's see what this process entails.

The Process

We start with a questionnaire to discover more about your project. After we've read over the project, we work with you to nail down required features of your website. In addition, we work with you to help determine which features are most important by assigning them priorities (needs, wants, wishes). This is achieved by asking detailed questions up front to determine what is required.

Priority Groups

The must-haves for the site. The basic purpose, function, and existence for the site.
The features that would be nice to have.
The wish list. These features are implemented at the end if time/budget permits or if you would still like to visit them.

Large features will be broken down into smaller features, which will then be separated into different groups.

Usually most client's needs are actually wants, and wants are actually more like wishes. This usually is most noticeable when you put a price tag on each feature. By doing this we aren't trying to scare people away from adding features, but it is a great way to get down to the main functions of the site and be sure we nail those down before spending money on things that are simply nice to have.


Another driving factor of feature based pricing is targets. Targets are the reasoning behind our decisions. These targets will become our constraints or logic behind a certain feature. Targets include things like what's driving the redesign, the need to launch on a certain date, or a budget amount and can help determine which priority group a feature might fall into.

Cost of Project

After we've determined the features, the targets that drive those features, and then put them into a priority group we can then come up with an estimate for the cost of the project using this formula:

Full cost of the website = needs + wants + wishes

You can then rearrange features into different priority groups, trim away some of the features, or increase your budget. It's nice to have an itemized list so you can make decisions about what you want included on your site.

Work Begins

After a list of features is agreed upon we start working on your project, getting feedback from you at various times throughout the process. We send updates regarding the progress and timeline for your project. After we've completed the needs and wants, we can include wish list items if time permits and you would like for us to do so. If you are happy with the site before wish list items are included, we will finalize the project, which saves you time and money. Another common option is to use this money as a retainer for future site updates or maintenance. It's entirely up to you.

A Different Way of Thinking

This method for working on a project takes an open mind and honesty. We must be up front about how much things cost, and you must be up front about your true budget. This will help in the production of the product. It's also helpful for you to be very specific about what your needs are.

What does not work:

  • If your main goal is to get the smallest price possible
  • If you are afraid of telling your true budget price, because you are afraid you'll have to spend it all
  • If a designer blindly agrees to work for the highest budget a client will pay, whether that number be high or low

The combination of the above not only starts the project off with distrust, it will result in a poor working relationship with no respect, which will result in a poor product.

What does work:

  • If you are willing to answer questions and dive into the features
  • If you are honest with your budget and requirements
  • If a designer gives the client the best website for their available budget
  • If a designer is honest and provides (and receives) close feedback with a client

This combination lays the foundation for an honest partnership that continues well after it yields an amazing product.

We would love to work with you in this fashion. We guauntee you'll love this honest approach to design. Our goal is simple, to build you the best website we can for your available budget.

Let us know if you have any questions.

Discuss further with us on twitter or by contacting us.