Understanding Web development costing

Posted by Afam Nnaji | 13 years ago | 5,890 times

As a matter of fact it is common to hear from a prospective client that Mr A said he will do this project for N10.00 so why are you asking for N100.00. Considering the fact that a fully functional website is not another piece of furniture it is important to state that it is supposed to showcase, inform and sell products 24 hours a day, 7 days a week without any room for downtime as people from all over the world should be able to access the website anytime they want to regardless of their time zones.

How do you decide on what cost is ok for a web project? What is too cheap or too expensive? Why the difference in the costing to begin with? I will attempt to explain the different components of a fully functional website and what it takes to set up one from discussions between the web developer and the client.

Components of a website

1. Domain name registration – This is like a street address that is used to locate websites regardless of the exact physical location of the web server hosting the website. It is renewable on a yearly basis.

2. Web hosting – This is the computer that houses your website from text files to media like images, audio and video. Important features are monthly bandwidth, disk space, number of email accounts, support for a programming language, support for a database technology etc. This could be a monthly, quarterly, bi-annually or yearly recurring fee.

3. Web development – This involves all the tasks necessary to produce a website with whatever content and design the customer wants. Websites could be static websites or dynamic database driven websites.

Static websites are the cheapest to setup and depending on the frequency of updates may be the most expensive to maintain. Database driven websites usually cost more to setup and with a good content management system these are the cheapest to maintain as any authorized staff can add, update or remove content from the website at any time and from any section.

The tasks involved and the associated costs

1. Domain name registration – Involves buying a domain name for the website you intend to setup for your business or for pleasure. Domain name registrants are responsible for these registrations and anyone can buy a domain name ranging from free to thousands of naira.

2. Web hosting – Involves setting up a personal server, connecting it to the internet and publishing your website that is if you want to own the web hosting server. However, this is usually a difficult route considering the fact that you are responsible for the complete management of the server from software related issues to hardware related issues to power and security of the server.

The more common solution is subscription to a web hosting company. While this is easy to hook up to I must warn you that dishonest providers can effortlessly short change you by promising unlimited everything even though the actual setting limits the quota to much smaller figures. For example, unlimited bandwidth don’t really exist unless you are paying a lot of money to cover for the cost of bandwidth.

If you doubt this, just sign up for one and try to run a video archiving or video sharing website with reasonable traffic an you will be surprised at the definition you will get for the unlimited bandwidth you paid for.

Web hosting management software come with a feature that allows the owner to set the actual quota and the advertised quota which may be 1000 times higher than the actual quota. Reliability of the web hosting proper is directly proportional to the number of websites being hosted on the server. A server with one website would be the most reliable while the same server with over 10,000 websites will be less reliable and that explains why websites sometimes are unavailable as the web server would have to reboot itself once in a while as a fail safe mechanism to avoid crash when the available RAM is nearly exhausted.

3. Web development – This is the trickiest of them all and this is where the problem lies as regards cost. As earlier stated, a static website is the easiest to setup as it involves creating different pages with pre-defined content and linking them up with navigation links. This does not require programming and does not have any need for database technology at all.

Any one that is good with any web authoring tool or even notepad can set up a good looking website. Now, should you want your website to do more than a static set of web pages that look like bill boards you will need to add logic, programming and in most cases database functionality to enable the website to respond to user actions in more ways than one.

This is where websites like news publishing websites, e-commerce websites, membership websites, access control and user authentication websites come in. To successfully setup a database driven website you will be needing the skills, knowledge and experience of the following - web designer – to design the web pages that are usually referred to as front end - programmer – to write the necessary codes that will turn the business logic into a functional algorithm that will do exactly what the business logic wants to do - database admin – to design and setup an optimized database that is usually relational for some complex business logic cases. What this means in essence is that while Mr A would charge you N10.00 to develop a static website that will not take the same time it will take to develop a database driven website Mr B may charge you N100.00 or N200.00 depending on the number of features to be integrated into the website. Good enough Nigerians have seen stage one of the web development cycle which is “I want a website for my business or for pleasure”.

We are now gradually moving to stage two of the web development cycle which is “I want my website to be able to do this and that like enable me change the information, enable a customer choose products to buy and pay for same using ATM cards without leaving the computer”.

Unfortunately, most website owners find it difficult to understand why Mr B would ask for several times what Mr A charged for the original static website just to turn the website into a database driven website. But one thing should be clear to all – If the static website owner can add the programming and database features to the original website then it does not make any sense to look for another programmer.

While I cannot blame any customer that shows surprise whenever the cost of a database driven website is presented it makes perfect sense to attempt to present the facts as regards what it entails to setup a database driven websites so that they will better understand why the developers of their static websites find it difficult to integrate any programming or database feature when asked to do so.

Programming is an entirely different skill set just as database technology is a different animal altogether. Programming takes time while a database that is poorly designed and implemented will make nonsense of the website or web application.

Customers or prospective customers should engage reliable and experienced web developers to help them understand what it takes to enable whatever business process they want to turn into software and negotiate directly without fear or favor while taking time to see previous works to avoid bogus claims and unrealistic promises that will ultimately result in disappointments and wastage of funds.

We have Nigerians that can handle any type of database and programming projects so it is not a matter of whether Nigerians can do this rather it is a matter of how to meet them or where to meet them. The many challenges of using software to solve a lot of problems can be overcome once we begin to ask the right questions and insist on quality.

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