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What should a web site cost you?

I don't know, but I was asked my opinion on website costs for a government department (the Department for Transport) which have been revealed in a Freedom of Information request here. And I have compared the figures given to the figures for our main web site (www.wellho.net) and for the volunteer "First Great Western Coffee Shop" forum.

Quoting the FOI pre-amble:

A copy of the information requested following an agreed reduction in scope is enclosed. A. Unique visitor data and separate staff costs for adding and updating content on the Department for Transport corporate website are not available for the financial year 2002-03 but have been provided for subsequent years.

In keeping with the spirit and effect of the Freedom of Information Act, all information is assumed to be releasable to the public unless exempt. The Department will, therefore, be simultaneously releasing to the public the information you requested, together with any related information that will provide a key to its wider context.

The three most recent years are as follows:
dateswebsite costs (pounds)staff costs (pounds)unique visitors
1 April 06 - 31 March 071,467,52559,1162,515,139
Commentary 06-07 - These costs include accessibility and usability testing, costs to develop a new visual design, costs to develop new information architecture, system build costs and content migration costs to a new Content Management System.
1 April 07 - 31 March 08715,485603253,571,614
1 April 08 - 31 March 09749,819607993,478,952
Please note that the above costs include resource costs, capital expenditure and depreciation costs.

So how reasonable are those figures?

Looking at our own website (http://www.wellho.net) the last year's figures are as follows:
dateswebsite costs (pounds)staff costs (pounds)unique visitors
17 June 08 - 16 June 09<1,000(unknowns/see_note)2,284,220
These website costs are inclusive costs for a server, the price of which includes resource and depreciation, and our supplier will recover capital expenditure from within that amount too. We do not have full time web and development staff - you may estimate 1/3 of a the costs of a person as a rough guess. I have used a high figure in the comparative table below.

And looking at the "First Great Western Coffee Shop", I have six months of data as follows:

dateswebsite costs (pounds)staff costs (pounds)unique visitors
20 December 08 - 16 June 09<250 volunteer40,565

Realistically, the number of unique visitors to "The Coffee Shop" in a year would be between 50,000 and 60,000 ... (educated estimate) as it's a web site where people come back time and time again. The number of individual requests to the server in that six month period was 4,785,623 indicating 118 requests per visitor. That would extrapolate to around 9,200,000 requests in a year

The figures for www.wellho.net are slightly depressed (circa 5%) by a server move last July. The number of individual requests was 44,918,001 - indicating 20 requests per visitor.

These two servers are extreme cases; a typical figure may be perhaps 50 accesses per unique visitor, giving 173,947,600 accesses to the DfT website. Let's come up with a grand comparison:

Annual AccessesAnnual VisitorsAnnual CostCost per accessCost per visitorSite
1739476003478952810618(pounds)0.466(pence)23(pence)Department for Transport
44918001 228422021000(pounds)0.046(pence)0.91(pence)Well House Consultants
957124655000500(pounds)0.005(pence)0.91(pence)First Great Western Coffeeshop

You could (you should!) pick many differences between our web site and that run by a government department. On one hand, they have to be so much more careful to avoid a single mistake and to track data ... and on the other hand they should have the benefit of quantity behind them. In other words, setup and maintenance costs should be defrayed over more visits, leading to a reduced rather than an increased cost per visit.

My analysis of my own systems was done using Perl (what else! - a heavy data handling task, one off programs that won't have a long maintained shelf life ... the language fits).

Here's the program for counting unique visitors in a day:

#!/usr/bin/perl -na
END{ print ("Unique visitors",0+keys(%c),"\n"); }

And here's the program for going through a year of log files (they happen to all be in one directory, start with ac_, and there are no other files starting that way in the same directory!

foreach $fl (glob("ac_*")) {
  print "$fl\n";
  $nf ++;
  open (FH,$fl) ;
  while (<FH>) {
print ("Unique visitors in $nf days - ",0+keys(%c)," / accesses $lns\n");

(written 2009-06-16, updated 2009-06-22)

Associated topics are indexed as below, or enter http://melksh.am/nnnn for individual articles
G503 - Well House Consultants - Newsletter and publicity
  [4266] Facebook marketing - who are we reaching? - (2014-04-23)
  [3984] 20 minutes in to our 15 minutes of fame - (2013-01-20)
  [3974] TV show appearance - how does it effect your web site? - (2013-01-13)
  [3354] Sales and Marketing - adding advertising to the product - (2011-07-11)
  [3165] Journalism 101 - (2011-02-11)
  [3153] Points West to Belfast - (2011-02-01)
  [2873] Another toot of the trumpet - (2010-07-16)
  [2564] Microblogging services - Plurk, Twitter, Jaiku and more - (2010-01-05)
  [2388] `Of Course` is back! - (2009-08-31)
  [2124] Building down expectations - (2009-04-09)
  [2051] A Presentation about our company - web and PHP - (2009-02-23)
  [1698] Dealing with The Press - (2008-07-06)
  [1673] Spam Filters ... are working! - (2008-06-11)
  [1494] A time to update pictures - (2008-01-03)
  [1284] An update on the West Wilts show ... - (2007-07-30)
  [1090] Too many instructions, too much detail - (2007-02-23)
  [1087] Telling a story in different ways - (2007-02-20)
  [1000] One Thousand Posts and still going strong - (2006-12-18)
  [904] Of course I'll tell you by email - (2006-10-25)
  [734] Keeping customers informed by email - (2006-05-26)
  [480] New look to website - (2005-10-30)
  [458] Final courses of '05 coming up .... - (2005-10-08)
  [336] Targetted Advertising - (2005-06-05)
  [281] What they are saying about our OF COURSE newsletter - (2005-04-16)
  [57] Posting 1000 letters! - (2004-09-21)
  [48] PHP - onwards and upwards - (2004-09-14)

Back to
Changing a variable behaviour in Perl - tieing
Previous and next
Horse's mouth home
Forward to
Client side (Applet) and Server side (Servlet) Graphics in Java
Some other Articles
Getting home from Melksham
A day in the life of a hotelier
What difference does using the XHTML standard really make?
Client side (Applet) and Server side (Servlet) Graphics in Java
What should a web site cost you?
Changing a variable behaviour in Perl - tieing
So what is this thing called Perl that I keep harping on about?
Perl references - $$var and \$var notations
How do I query a database (MySQL)?
Cornerstone Cafe, Melksham
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This is a page archived from The Horse's Mouth at http://www.wellho.net/horse/ - the diary and writings of Graham Ellis. Every attempt was made to provide current information at the time the page was written, but things do move forward in our business - new software releases, price changes, new techniques. Please check back via our main site for current courses, prices, versions, etc - any mention of a price in "The Horse's Mouth" cannot be taken as an offer to supply at that price.

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