How to Estimate the Cost of Web Development
In today’s world, we experience the internet exclusively in the form of web applications. A lot of effort is put into making websites look good and appeal to the consumer. Before the dawn of the internet, consumers had to walk into physical stores to get the products they needed. Today, however, with the advent of e-commerce sites, the consumer can buy anything from the comfort of their home in just a few clicks.
Businesses profit greatly by having a website. The internet has inherently changed how businesses work. Nowadays, when a prospect learns of a business, the first thing they do is Google the name. Therefore, in the modern world, it is almost imperative for a business to have an online presence.
The first and the foremost question that comes to mind when considering establishing an online presence is – how much will it cost?
Unfortunately, there is no straightforward answer. It is rather complicated and very subjective. The lack of standards, complexity in planning, continuous time and work, varied quotes, fixed vs. hourly rate are some of the reasons why a one-off quote is practically impossible.
WHAT INFLUENCES WEB DEVELOPMENT COSTS?
There are varying factors that contribute towards the cost of web application development. For instance, a one-page website will cost much less than an extensive page with complex structure. Following are some of the major factors that contribute to estimating the cost of web development:
Domain Name and Hosting – The URL of the website is a unique address that is used to identify your website. Domain names usually have to be registered annually and this cost can be anywhere from £5 to even £1000. Hosting allows the website to have a space on the server making it accessible on the internet around the globe. Depending on the features, hosting can range between being free and a few hundred dollars.
Website Design – The website design can cost anywhere from £250 to even £20,000. A skin or a template will cost less than a designed, custom-made website.
Content Management System (CMS) – Coding a website is tedious and requires a lot of time and effort. Making every edit on a website through coding is unfeasible and impractical. CMS ease the process of editing websites as and when required. CMS like WordPress and Magneto are free; others might need an annual subscription.
Content and SEO – The content that is needed for a website is the equivalent to its complexity. An effective website needs the right words to be placed into the users head compelling them to buy the product or the service. Good content pays off and content writers can be hired to write it. In the UK, copywriters may charge anywhere from £50 to £500. Content ties in with Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which means it contains keywords that are relevant to the business and attract customers. An effective SEO that can tremendously increase the visibility and ranking on the website cost in the range of £200 to £1500 per month.
Database – Most websites usually handle a tremendous amount of data and therefore need an efficient mechanism to deal with it. While database management systems (DBMS) are costly, they facilitate some stunning features to the website. Naturally with data comes the concern of data security, which further adds to the cost. Oracle offers their DBMS solution for between £3700-£36500 for enterprise businesses.
Maintenance – Websites need to be maintained and updated regularly in order for them to perform efficiently. Maintenance cost is an important factor to consider, especially since it is recurring. How much it will cost depends on the size and complexity of the website. A monthly maintenance package and the hosting service together may cost between around £45 to £400+ per month. Domain names and SSL certificates need to be renewed annually and may cost in the range of £45 to £400+ per year.
Development Costs – There are mainly two types of variables that influence development costs:
- Time for development – This represents the total time required to finish building a web application. This can be lowered by compromising quality or dropping some functionality.
- Hour rates – Some programmers are more experienced based on their portfolio. The hourly rates of developers may cost as low as £20 per hour for junior developers and as high as £50 to £75 per hour for experienced developers and designers. Cheaper technologies can also be used. However, this is uncommon as the choice of technology is dictated by the goals of the project.
HOW TO ESTIMATE THE COST OF BUILDING THE WEBSITE?
Based on the aforementioned factors and the client’s needs a project estimate can be drawn. Three main approaches can be used in order to estimate the cost:
Task-Based Approach – This approach is one of the most commonly used approaches amongst large companies and freelancers alike. The following steps need to be kept in order to estimate using a task-based approach:
- Break the project into smaller sub-tasks.
- Estimate the time required to complete each of these sub-tasks.
- Determine the overall rate based on the hourly rate to each sub-task.
- Combine all these prices and add some contingency overhead amount.
- Present the estimated cost and time to the client.
- While this approach tends to be more time-consuming, the results produced are accurate.
The Benchmark Approach – Benchmarking is a comparative analysis of structures, processes, products, and services. The benchmark approach uses a developer’s previous work and compares it to client requirements. Based on the similarities and differences of the tasks an estimating can be drawn.
Tools-Based Approach – Tools-based approach uses tools build specifically to compute estimates based on client requirements. There are many web-based as well as offline cost estimators. Some of the popular ones on the market right now are Astuteo and Konigi.
As we can observe, almost all the approaches use tasks to estimate the cost. Therefore, it is imperative for the projects to be broken down into small tasks to establish accurate and proper estimates.
Analysts, software developers, and product owners conduct these web application cost estimations. The process of cost estimation is not a one-day job and requires careful methodology and active participation to make the estimates more accurate. Once this is done, the information can be divided into three parts:
- Known knowns – What is known to the developer and most likely done before.
- Known Unknowns – Something the developers may have not done before and will need to think about.
- Unknown Unknowns – Something unpredictable that may arise that the developers have a vague idea about.
Different companies and developers will have their own project phases, depending on the requirements and needs of the client. For a more accurate and detailed estimate, the project phases need to be broken down in a consistent manner. Generally, web projects can be broken down into the following phases:
- Research and planning
- Solution Design
- Web Design
- Front-end development
- Back-end development
- Content writing and SEO
In practicality, these phases are further broken down into sub-tasks. For example, research and planning include tasks like requirement analysis, information gathering, and project planning. Solution design includes creating wireframes, mapping user workflow, and building sitemaps, etc.
After the designing, the technical task of turning it into a page is handed over to the developers. Front-end development includes building templates and performing cross-browsing fixes. A mobile design also needs to be taken into consideration.
The backend development includes setting up CMS, configuring databases, creating contact forms and adding other functionalities. After uploading and rigorous testing, the product can be shown to the client.
Adding a margin of error in the cost estimate is always recommended, as there is a probability of mistakes that may happen and the best way to get around them is to be prepared for them.
Building a web application is not just about developing a website but rather a whole system. Accurate estimation in such cases is difficult. Thinking of web design as a service rather than a product will help understand why it can be difficult to put an exact price on it.
A client could be quoted £1,000 and £50,000 for the same project by two different agencies. This goes back to web design being a service rather than a product. Different agencies will have different ways of doing things, and prioritise different aspects of the site. However, using the aforementioned tools and approaches it is possible to get a decent estimate of the costs. The key to a successful project cost estimation is to gather as much information possible in the early stages. Communication is the key to making the web design process as streamlined as possible.