Sunday, January 10, 2010

What should a website cost? - Aspiration's Techsoup Webinar 12/17/09

Right before my trip to Eastern Europe, I was able to attend Gunner's presentation on Techsoup's webinar. I'll admit that I'm affiliated to and a loyal fan of Aspiration, but those of you who know Gunner and his team will understand why. Gunner has been facilitating this topic in informal groups at many of Aspiration's event, and it's great to see his knowledge captured in audio and slides in cyberspace, which you can access here

In my work, I deal with governments and other institutions in developing countries who want to implement a website. I also often deal with the web developers they hire as an intermediary. I find Gunner's presentation (even though geared towards nonprofits in the US) to be a fair representation of my own observations as well of eGvernance projects, which I summarize below:

1. Plan on your own first!
- Before hiring an vendor, plan fully and define goals of the website
- as part of this process, it is sometimes necessary to revisit the organization's mission and strategy
- include all relevant stakeholders, don't leave it just to the IT department
- include both internal AND external stakeholders

2. Define requirements as much as possible
- use information from 1.
- sketch out site map
- list how different stakeholders will use the site
- sketch out wire frames (how home and sub pages might look like)

3. Write an RFP
- keep it short and simple
- provide essential information from 2.

4. Ask peers for recommended vendors (although government institutions might be limited by their procurement process)
- select a few vendors
- ask for short responses to RFP
- pick vendors for relationship, not on their platform (except for 5.  below)

5. Use an open source CMS
- I recommend this as well for governments. Plone offers the best security features, but others have security settings as well
- Why? The technologies and platforms have matured and is the best current way to do web design/development/management. Also, being open source and supported by a large community allow greatest flexiilty for scalability. Dreamwear is still good for CSS or template design but any technologies which does not allow for browser based editing is old, so Dreamweaver with FTP should not be used for management of the site.
- Exceptions might be integration with existing systems

6. How much should it cost?
- a simple site with 25-50 pages of content, email sign up feature, and minimal additional interactivity will take about 20-100 hours of work. You can do with much less as well (for example, I can set up a bare-boned simple Wordpress site in about 3 hours, and Google Sites even less) - but we are talking about a pretty decent organizational website with content uploaded. And of course, prices escalate if you need the site to be integrated with other systems or if you want additional features.

- In the US (per Gunner's presentation), optimal cost is between $2000- $10,000 (see slides for more variants). Consultant costs are usually $75-$125/hour, and some have tiered pricing (lower for template implementation, higher for custom coding, and even higher for business/strategic consulting).

- In my experience in developing countries, the costs vary but are definitely cheaper. For example, in Nepal, it was about $150 a day (ie about $18 an hour). In India, I've dealt with consultants that charge $10/hr for template, $15/hr for coding. It is similar in the Philippines as well. In Singapore, prices are just slightly less than the US. In fact, what I see as a trend is US web development businesses outsourcing their work to cheaper counterparts (look at for the vary prices). I hope to write more about this in a future post.

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