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Minimising the budget blow out

THE Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts was in the headlines recently for spending $4 million on a web site when the original quote was $600,000 – a budget blow out of almost 700 per cent.

It caused a public outcry and much of the IT industry was shocked at how such costs could be incurred.

While the DCITA case is somewhat unique, most web development industry experts spoken to by WA Business News said budget blow outs were common.

To ensure both time lines and budgets are met, industry insiders agree there are several points of advice to take on board before seconding a web developer to design and build a corporate web site.

Firstly, set the budget. Several web developers spoken to by WA Business News were keen to point out that knowing what you want and knowing what you can buy was an important step in ensuring customer satisfaction.

A good way to understand variance in cost is to surf the web and have a look at web sites that typify what your company is after. And ask your web developer estimated costs of the different designs.

Generally, most web sites will have the web development company’s name located on the bottom of the home page. Click on the name and the company’s web site should pop up on the computer screen.

According to Kuban Empire director David Defendi, surfing the web helped identify characteristics for the contract brief.

“Have a look at other sites and decide whether you like the approach,” Mr Defendi said.

To help determine what type of budget to set or to revise expectations, potential customers should ask several web developers what it would cost to develop sites similar to that required.

Another element that will help the vision of the web site become a reality is to check what processes a web developer follows – do they have a methodology and do they do the web site in stages and work with their clients to produce the final product.

Good operators use methodologies to track the various planning stages and consult with clients frequently to make sure everything is on track.

Power Business Systems business development manager Saul Sabath said companies that used a methodology could provide quality outcomes.

“The most important thing is it [methodology] provides quality and it ensures that the quality output is the best it can be,” he said

Empired managing director Justin Miller said conducting initial research and building an idea or template was important.

“From 20 to 30 per cent of the total spend is to scope first. That ensures you get delivered exactly what you are asking for,” he said.

“We use two methodologies that help manage the process. You can’t just sit down and do it.”

Using a methodology generally requires that a company work closely with the client to deliver the product. It is important not to sign off on a particular stage if changes are a possibility, otherwise it could prove costly later on.

Once the development of a web site progresses through various stages it becomes difficult to make quick and easy changes.

“Once the plans are signed off and drawn out you can’t change it without it costing money. All the changes will incur additional fees,” Mr Sabath said.

“It is much better to do it in stages and break it down into small parts.”

Mr Miller said adding new elements to the site might end up destroying the initial plans and ideas.

“Don’t necessarily keep adding to it. Work out what you want and why you want it. If you keep adding to it then it could cost up to two to three times as much,” he said.

“Work out what the desired outcome is and do it from the beginning. Adding things later on may mean that the site will not end up resembling what you want.”

Other tips to ensure quality of work within the budget:

check for a range of skills, from design to copy writing; ask for references and ask those references whether the project was on budget and on time; and check for associated costs, such as web hosting.

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