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The Perils of Price-Shopping

Ammon Johns

There's a famous quote from astronaut Alan Shephard: "It's a very sobering feeling to be up in space and realize that one's safety factor was determined by the lowest bidder on a government contract."

It ought to be an equally sobering idea that the entire image and presence of a company online in cyberspace should be based on the lowest bidding provider. Yet over the years I have seen so many companies hoping that clever marketing can somehow make a silk purse from their poorly constructed sow's ear of a website all because they irrationally thought that the cheapest bid would be just as good as paying to have the job done properly.

Day in and day out, year after year, ever more of these 'lowest bid' offers appear, whether it is web developers in Eastern Europe, or Outsourced SEO companies in India, it still amazes me that anyone would possibly wish to differentiate themselves as the cheapest bidder. To proudly say "we are the cheapest" is almost always to say "we are worth least".

The saying here is "buy cheap, buy twice". It refers to the fact that every time we meet a company that tried cutting costs on their site build, they always end up paying much more to have it patched, fixed up, and even then, they eventually end up having to buy a properly built site from scratch anyway. It can be an expensive lesson rather than the cost-cutting exercise some companies may have imagined.

If you do want to shop around for the lowest bidder, please do ensure that you are comparing like for like. Check that all the legalities of the contract are the same. Make sure the specified end-product, and insurance that it will be delivered, are the same. Check that the actual work is done by an experienced and qualified person, not used as a training exercise for some newcomer to the trade.

Above all, always ensure that all important details are in the contract, and be sure that the contract is binding and enforcable. Know what will happen if that one-man shop is taken ill - is he able to pay to have your work done on schedule by another qualified company?

A recent discussion at the Cre8asite Forums on the topic of Crisis Management highlighted several forms of disaster and emergency planning that the vast majority of smaller SEM companies and web design companies never consider.

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