Archive for category Web Development

Irish Healthcare Awards 2010

I was delighted to be invited to the Irish Healthcare Awards which was held in the Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin last night. A client of ours, was up for an award for a site we developed for them – www.mylocalgp.ie

I’m absolutely delighted that they won an award, it’s a true testament to the work they’ve already put in and the work they will be putting in to get the site off the ground.

The system we built for them, basically allows GP’s and medical practices create their own website through an easy to use management system. They plan to roll this out to GPs and medical practices throughout the country. This will give hundreds of GPs their own website that they wouldn’t have had without this system. I know it will be a great success for them and wish them the best in the future.

It was a good night all round for 2bscene, we also had another client, www.tcdmedday.com received a commendation for all their great work too!

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How much does a web design cost? Real Web Design Costs

It’s over a year since I wrote a similar article to this one on what it costs to design a website. Surprisingly, since that last post and with all the turmoil that is happening with the global and Irish economy, little has changed in terms of pricing. What has changed however, is the number of small web design companies popping up all over the place offering cheap web design solutions. I personally take no issue with these companies, unless of course they start comparing their work to the work a professional web design agency.

The problem with web design is that generally speaking, most people don’t actually understand what it takes to design and develop a website. I know from even my circle of friends, they would expect the building of a website to be something that can be done in a few clicks of a button. Of course this is a possibility and one of the reasons there are so many cheap and nasty web design companies in the market today.

We regularly get people telling us that we are “much more” expensive than other quotes they have received. In this case we always ask them to provide us with the proposal from the other company to see where the difference in price lies. In most cases, they are comparing apples with oranges. The service we offer is far superior to the cheaper alternatives. There are of course the exceptions when I can’t even contemplate why a company is going in so cheaply.

Like with every professional service, I think it’s best to look at things in context when discussing pricing around a service you require. Hopefully this article will open most peoples eyes into how a professional website is cost-ed and why.

Web Design Pricing
When we get a call from someone looking for a website designed, the first thing we ask for is an idea of other sites that the client is trying to emulate for their own business. This isn’t to plagiarise their ideas, but for us to get an idea of what the clients expectations are. Our next question would be related to the websites functionality, e.g. do you need to sell anything online, what level of interactivity do you want with the client etc.

Generally speaking, the answers provided will lead us two ways, one needing more questions answered or two, in a position to put together a proposal for the costs involved in the project. With the information received from the client, we can the plan the time we feel is required to deliver a finished website based on the clients brief. If it’s a complex project, it can take quite sometime to put together time-frames expected.

Time Required to Build a Website
Let’s take a simple brochure type website, with a Content Management System as an example of the time  required to deliver such a website.

  1. Design
    Design is a strange procedure that can’t be timed to an exact time-frame. There’s a massive level of creativity required and therefore, you can’t rush it. A typical design can take anywhere from 2-3 days to meet the initial design brief and at that stage, you will probably have one or two ideas developed.

    In all our projects, we work with our client to get a design that they are 100% happy with. If they don’t like what we have delivered, we will keep working until we get exactly what the client wants. Luckily enough, in most cases we don’t have a problem with it going beyond the 2-3 days allocated.

    Total Days: 2-3

  2. Design preparation for CMS integration
    Once the design has been fully signed off, we move onto preparing the agreed design for the CMS integration. This means developing the necessary HTML, CSS and JS code etc. This can take up to 1 day to complete.

    Total Days: 1

  3. CMS Installation & Design Integration
    As soon as the design has been cut up and is ready to be integrated, we start the process of installing the CMS. Depending on the CMS chosen and the complexity of the design, this can take anywhere from 2-3 days to fully integrate. At this stage, we also look after any functionality issues, such as forms, login systems etc etc.

    Total Days: 3-4

  4. Content Insertion
    The final build stage is the insert the content provided by the client. Typically we do a maximum of 15-20 pages of content for a client and then train them up on how to use the CMS to insert their own content if they require more.

    Total Days: 1-2

So there you have it, that’s a typical example of the time required to build a very basic website with a CMS. I haven’t included the time required for meetings, design briefing or testing. The basic nuts and bolts of building the website will take at least 7-10 days, yet it generally takes 4-6 weeks before the whole process is completed.

Web Design Costs
We charge per project basis. It’s not easy for me to give a set figure for the cost of the design and development of a website because requirements differ so much from client to client. Typically speaking, we would be charging anywhere from €2,500 – €3,500 +VAT for a typical brochure site with CMS.

To some that sounds quite expensive, but let’s break that down further to see where the costs come in.

a) Web Designer / Web Developer

A good web designer/developer’s annual salary will be anywhere from €30-40k per annum depending on experience. Since we need two people working on your website design, let’s take a mean salary of €35k per annum.

It costs the employer just over €790 per week (accounting for holidays) to have someone working on the project. The total cost for a 2 week project is therefore €1580

b) Project Management / Meetings
With any project, there is a certain level of project management required. Project management means meetings. As much as we can, we try to have meetings on-site, but most of the time it makes more sense to meet with the client in their offices. This obviously takes someone’s time and costs money for travel etc.

c) Rent, Calls & Other Misc.
A necessary evil of running a business, but we need to put a roof over our heads and buy PCs, phones broadband connection etc etc. Without all this, we wouldn’t be a web design company.

You can throw your own figures at b and c – but even with the lowest level, you can see there is very little margin in the costs charged for designing a simple website.

Cheap Web Design

So now that you’ve seen what the costs involved in developing a typical website, let’s look at how a cheap web design business operates. I say business as opposed to “company” because a lot of these businesses are one man operations run by self employed individuals working from home with little overheads etc. Other cheap web design companies will outsource their work to cheap labour countries such as India, Pakistan or China.

  1. Design
    Generally speaking, most of these companies do one of three things when it comes to the design aspect of a website.

    a) Download  and use freely available templates from the Internet. They then do some basic customisation of the design such as include your logo and other graphical material.

    b) Purchase already created designs from Templatemonster.com or similar websites. Again, there is a certain level of customisation required in this case.

    c) Outsource off-shore – absolutely nothing wrong with this, but the quality tends to be pretty poor.

  2. CMS Integration
    The majority of the cheap web design companies use one of the many freely available CMS solutions such as WordPress, Joomla or Drupal. Apart from being really easy and quick to install, there are thousands of online resources where they can download free templates to use for their website theme.

Typically speaking, someone could put together one of these cheap websites, that will potentially look like thousands of other websites across the Internet in less than 2 days. If it takes them longer than this, either you are a nightmare client that is expecting too much or they don’t know what they are doing!

The bottom line is that if you want your website design from a professional design agency, expect to spend anywhere from €1,500 to €4,000 for a brochure type website. If you want to go the cheap route, don’t spend more than €500 – otherwise you are being ripped off.

I hope all the information above gives you a good idea of the complete disconnect between cheap web design and professional web design. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to use a cheap web design company, but before you start comparing apples and oranges make sure you completely understand what you are getting from your web designer.

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Google Waves Goodbye…

Google Wave
Image via Wikipedia

It’s only been just over a year since Google announced what they believed would be the next generation of communication online. Google Wave was hyped to be one the most amazing developments the Internet had seen since the adoption of email. It was launched at the Google I/O last year to a chorus of “oohhsss” and “aaahhhsss” from the audience of developers and Google enthusiasts.

Although most of us in the industry were excited by the technology demonstrated by Google Wave, there were some of us who didn’t see Google’s vision of Google Wave replacing email. Google Wave for me was always too complicated when compared to email and I could never see a mass uptake of it.

Yes Google Wave certainly had its uses and it was only last week that it was announced Google were pitching Wave as a tool for use with health record management. Maybe I should have spotted the writing on the wall at that stage? Google were clearly losing faith in the system, so much so that they were in the market looking for alternative uses.

It’s sad to see today that Google have officially announced that the development of Google Wave has been ceased. Let’s face it, Google Wave is only out of beta for possibly 2 months or more. You can read more on their blog here :  http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2010/08/update-on-google-wave.html

It’s great to see a company with massive ambition, but the idea that they could replace email with a more cumbersome and feature rich application just never cut it in my eyes. Email works because it’s simple!

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Content Management Systems – The Choice Is Yours

One of the most common questions I am asked is, “What Content Management System (CMS) should I use for my website??. The short answer is, that there is no short answer and there’s certainly no simple one!

Choosing a CMS really comes down to what it is you need to achieve with your website and what it is that you need to be in control of. There are hundreds of CMSs to choose from, all with their own individual capabilities and functionality. For some, a simple basic CMS will be enough to manage their brochure ware type website, but others require more flexibility and functionality.

A lot of web developers will be able to guide you toward the CMS that they feel suits your requirements best. But in a lot of cases, the web developer will usually suggest a CMS he/she is most comfortable using.

What is a Content Management System (CMS)?

A Content Management System is basically a piece of software that allows non-technical users to manage their website and its content. Through a CMS, website owners have the ability to add text, upload images, videos and documents to their website at their leisure without the intervention of a web designer. A CMS takes away the technical knowledge required to update and manage a website by creating an easy to use interface. With some CMS’s, it can be as easy to create a new webpage on your website as it is to create a new Word document.

Content Management Systems were born in the mid 1990s when web designers, bored with the laborious task of updating massive content heavy websites, decided it was time for change. They went about creating simple systems to help maintain the websites they created for their clients. Originally these systems were built for in-house use only and it was only a matter of time before they realised that there was a market for such a product.

Nowadays, it’s common practice for web design companies to install Content Management Systems (CMS) on all websites they develop. Even if you haven’t request a CMS from your web designer, it’s quite possible they have installed one already… mainly for their own sanity!

Paid vs Free

The first major decision you will be faced with when deciding what CMS you should use is whether you should buy one or use one of the many freely available open source CMS’s.

In the Open Source arena, there are hundreds of free CMS’s . Being free obviously has massive benefits, but it also brings its problems too. Because the software and its core code are freely available, it’s more susceptible to security and hacking holes. For this reason, choosing a CMS that is regularly updated and patched regularly is of key importance.

Generally speaking, CMS’s developed in-house by web development companies will occur an annual license fee. Developers of “off-the-shelf? CMS’s are likely to charge you a one off fee for its use and offer you free updates for one year.

Cost

You shouldn’t assume that because you have chosen to use a free CMS, there will be no costs involved in getting up and running. The simple fact is that there will still be costs associated with getting it integrated with your website. Your web developer is likely charge you for the time it takes to install and integrate the CMS with your website design.

If you have chosen a commercial CMS, some companies may waive the integration fee, but you will still have to pay to get a design capable of working with the CMS itself.

It’s really worth researching the cabilities and functionality of all available CMSs before deciding on which one to you use for your website. Here is small list of some of the most popular CMSs.

Recommended Content Management Systems

Typo3
An enterprise level CMS that offers full flexibility and expendability.  Typo3 is freely available to download and use under the GPL License agreement. Typo3 has a good choice of enterprise extensions and plugins available.

www.typo3.com

Technology: PHP, MySQL, Oracle, Postgres

€FREE (GPL License)

Joomla
Joomla is an award winning content management system. Favoured by a lot of developers for it’s easy installation and management capabilities. Joomla’s biggest downfall is probably its popularity. The fact that so many people use it, makes it more prone to abuse from malicious coders.

www.joomla.com

Technology: PHP, MySQL

Cost: FREE (GPL License)

WordPress
Favoured by bloggers as the tool of choice, it is now fast becoming a popular tool for managing smaller websites.

A huge collection of third party plugins are freely available.

www.wordpress.org

Technology: PHP, MySQL

Cost: FREE (GPL License)

Expression Engine
An affordable Content Management System that is feature rich and flexible.

www.expressionengine.com

Technology: PHP, MySQL

From €250.00

Kentico CMS
Kentico is another flexible solution and favoured by developers who are used to developing Microsoft ASP.NET applications.

www.kentico.com

Technology: ASP.NET, SQL

From €1,990.00

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Creating a new website for your business – should I create my own?

Web Design Resolution - Best Screen Size
Image by Hobo! via Flickr

As we all know, a website can be one of the most cost effective tools in your arsenal in terms of promoting your business online. It requires minimal maintenance, operates 24/7 and is your shop window to the world. A good website can win new business for you, while retaining existing customers.

You don’t need to be selling products online for your website to be hugely beneficial to your company. In the past businesses without a fax number weren’t taken seriously, nowadays that applies to businesses who don’t have a website. The added credibility and prestige created by having a good website is worth quite a lot to your business.

Recently, there has been a massive uptake in the number of people trying to create websites for themselves. There are a number of reasons for this, the most obvious one is that people want to try and cut costs. The other reason relates to how technology has improved and someone with good computer skills can create their own website with ease.

But is it a good idea to go this route? The answer to that question isn’t so simple. You see, the beauty of the web is that you can look as big or small as you would like your company to be perceived. You need to decide where you want to position your business.

If your target market is made up of large corporate companies, using a free template web design that you created from hosting companies control panel just isn’t going to cut it. You need to have a website that looks professional, concise and unique. On the other hand, if you want to target your business at the lower end of the scale, one of these cheap/free solutions will suffice.

I always use the high street shop front as an analogy. Which shop would you prefer to go into, the one with the old fashioned, ugly shop front display or the new, fashionable looking alternative? The chances are you will choose the latter first. But some may perceive that shop as being more expensive – which it probably is. So you can see, it’s all about where you want to position your company.

If you still want to position yourself at the lower end of the market, believe it or not, it’s probably still worth paying a professional to do this for you as they have the knowledge and expertise to get these sites up and running quickly and efficiently.

Better still, if you have the budget just pay for a proper web designer to do the job for you – with the right web designer, you will get a better return in the long run.

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