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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The cost of websites

The Institute of Welsh Affairs latest Assembly Monitoring report, New Powers - New beginning, reports that the new Welsh Assembly Government website cost £2.7 million.

They say that the website is being redeveloped to take in many recent changes, such as the merger of former quangos. It had been intended that the new site should be operational by April 2006 but it had been delayed. The original estimate had been £1.5m but this has now gone up and the final bill will now be at least £2.7m.

Not having had much experience of commissioning websites I was staggered by this cost. After all you could build a small housing estate for that amount of money. I note also that it is not just landmark buildings that run over budget.
The original estimate of £1.5m is a crazy amount as it is. The company who won the contract must be laughing.

I've no experience of commisioning anything, but I'm aware that public bodies are bound by some ruling or other that means that they have to go for the cheapest option when it comes to tendering. So how come so many projects end up costing twice as much - it seems to make a mockery of the tendering process.
That does seem like a lot.

I can only assume they're procuring hardware as well... even so, it seems way over the top.

It must be consultants... they're probably doing 'usability studies' which will come up with something un-usable... and of course branding, the branding has to be paid for...
You're being ripped off. Correction, the taxpayer's being ripped-off.

Example. New DTI wesite: £175,000 including design and implementation in a content management system (CMS). This is thought to be far too much to have paid for a very poor implementation. It's gone so wrong that Private Eye reported on it.

You might argue that the £2.7million is that much more than a couple of grand so that things will be right. You and I both know that, given the history, the chances of that are vanishingly small.

Use an OpenSource CMS. I've never used Typo3 but it's enterprise-level, I understand. The Dutch ministry of finance is a bilingual site using the OpenSource CMS, 'Hippo':


But it looks like the decisions have been made and the project - sliding from £1.7m to £2.5m - is already out of control. After all, the redesign hasn't beenn going on for too long so how have the requirements changed so much? And why not fixed-price? Or a capped cost-reimbursement contract?

I have the direct experience of the effectiveness of the Audit Office. There won't be a peep from them.

It's laughable; but you can't go bust by overspending, can you, in the way that any commercial enterprise would.
Note this is a Government website. I have no say in it. The Assembly Parliamentary side website will be substantially cheaper.
Granted you have no say in it, but further to what David mentions re OpenSource Content Managemnt Systems if you're interested, here's a story on Cyfle Cymru/Opportunity Wales' blog about a similar product developed in Wales called Zebra (why the animal names?)

I wonder where the company who'll be getting this £2.7m are from. I'm not saying it'd be ok for a Welsh firm to rip-off the government, but at least the money would stay in Wales!
Zebra isn't OpenSource - and it's targetted at SMEs so probably wouldn't suit. It might be a good product, I don't know.

If I wanted a PHP/MySQL SME-suitable CMS I'd go for the OpenSource product Drupal.

TwitTv uses it www.twit.tv
OurMedia does too www.ourmedia.org
and (bilingual) www.terminus1525.ca/

But anyway, this project is well on its way and well off the rails. Just think: what are the chances that the same team of people who had a hand in the last one are advising on this one? Hmmm?
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