Web sites on the cheap?

I recently read an article in Information World Review called “MPs award themselves a website pay rise“. It wasn’t so much the main content of the article that caught my attention (the communication budget of MPs had been increased by £10,000 to help support development of their Web sites) but a rather bizarre quote within the article:

MPs’ websites generally follow the same pattern of content: a biography, parliamentary work and announcements, constituency and national news, and lots of photos. But even the slickest of sites should cost no more than £7,000 to set up and around £1,000 a year thereafter to maintain.

The above was attributed to Dominic Johnson, managing director of Miramedia (http://www.miramedia.co.uk).

What surprised me were the figures…. £7,000 to set up a site and £1,000 for maintenance. I’ve no idea how these figures were arrived at but what troubles me is the one-size fits all argument for Web sites.

Would I be happy if my bank or Amazon etc, which I both consider to need ‘slick’ Web sites, spent £7000 on their site and only £1000 maintaining it or securing my account/transactions? Of course not.

The budget should fit the site, I don’t believe that you can generalise in this way as it implies that anything delivered for less is cheap and anything above this is paying over the odds. £7000 would probably get you about 14 days of developer/designer time and £1000 for maintenance gets just two days per year. This doesn’t include hosting costs which might (if you need high availability, an SSL certificate etc) see this reduced to less than a day of developer or designer time (or even less). This also doesn’t include any project management budget… etc etc.

One of the big problems with Web development is that everyone knows someone who can knock out a “Web site”. What many don’t realise is that whilst the result might have the look of a good site this is often just a veneer. The devil is in the detail…

Will a cheap site fit the objectives of the client, be accessible, adhere to Web standards, be usable, scale with use? Will your chosen developer even know what accessibility and Web standards are? If they don’t, try elsewhere.

With Web development, like most products, you get what you pay for. If your budget is less than needed for your ambitious project then go for a phased delivery with a trusted partner. If you try and deliver more for less through compromise and cutting corners be prepared for your site to fall short of what customers might expect.

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