Basic costs for simple web development?
October 29, 2008 7:10 AM   Subscribe

I am writing a grant for a project that will include some relatively simple web development. Please help me with some rough estimates for labor and equipment costs.

I am writing a grant for an academic project, part of which will involve developing a small website. The primary function of this website is to include a survey that asks respondents to compare visual materials (different representations of data) and answer some questions about them. [The research goal, for those who are interested, is to explore how visual representations of health information impact peoples' understanding and evaluation of that information]. I am woefully underinformed about web development, but here are two things that I know we will need:

- The site does not need to be commercially slick, but we would like it to look professional and be visually appealing, because the quality of the presentation plays a significant role in the research. I am thinking some kind of basic (flash-type?) animation rather than just a series of static pages.

- We want people to answer questions, and we want to collect data on the responses, so there will be some simple data management involved. (We can do more complicated analysis of the data on our own).

My questions:

(1) Roughly how much time would I need to budget for the programming and upkeep of something like this?

(2) Who can I get to do this work? I assume that a savvy CS undergrad or grad student could do this kind of thing, but is it necessary and/or worth it to hire a real web developer/designer?

(3) Depending on who we hire, roughly how much would this cost? We are in Montreal, Canada, BTW.

(4) We are already budgeting for some good (Mac) computers, so I think we've got the hardware portion covered - though any advice would be most appreciated of course! Do I need to budget for software as well, or can I assume that whoever I hire will already have the software? If the former, is there a standard software package that I should budget for (ideal), or do I need to have a rough figure and leave the specifics up to whoever I hire (less ideal)?

Apologies in advance for the vaugueness of these questions. If its not already apparent, I'm a total noob on these matters.
posted by googly to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I can only tell you that your desire to have Flash will change the nature (and therefore cost) of much of what you are doing.
posted by adipocere at 7:44 AM on October 29, 2008

First, research available survey software on the web - there's plenty of sites that are happy to host a survey for you, and there's open source such as this one. You'll only need developers if you need something more complex.

If that reduces your website requirements to static html, I'd say go wild with iWeb on your new macs to create the site.

And besides, if you need something more complex, you can probably get away with creating a lot of static html pages with the questions for your survey, and having a developer write very small php scripts that do something like "store results for question X, and figure out what page to redirect people to". In that case you'll add html forms to your static web pages that point to these scripts. A good developer should be able to give you that for a few hours work at most.

And if you use open source, such as php, apache, mysql, you won't need budget for software. If you use hosted surveys, you may need to pay them a fee.
posted by DreamerFi at 7:52 AM on October 29, 2008

I am thinking some kind of basic (flash-type?) animation rather than just a series of static pages.

As a web dev, I can tell you to cut that out right now. You've just saved yourself a lot of time and money. I promise there's nothing more professional about doing everything on one page.

Anyone is going to need a lot more info to answer this question; could you walk us through what the user does? "Compare visual materials" could mean for every question there's a set of images, or it could mean there's 2 images and a page of questions. Or instead of images it could be video, or anything else. Are you going to need the questions to be randomized, or is it okay if they're always in a specific order? How often is it going to be updated? Stuff like that.

I'll also echo DreamerFi on looking up survey software/services - there's definitely something out there that does what you need, and we might be able to help once we have some more information. There's a good chance you'll be able to find a good web-based system for this, too, so not only are your development and software costs nil but so are your hosting and upkeep costs - you'd just need to do some data entry.
posted by soma lkzx at 9:00 AM on October 29, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses so far! To respond:

- I have no affinity for flash, so out the window it goes! And cheaper=better, of course.

- I have looked at a few web-based surveys (SurveyMonkey mostly), and they do about 80% of what we want to do. There are two main differences that - I think - set what we want to do apart:

(1) I'd like the site to be independently hosted, if possible, so that I don't have to use a third-party site. Part of the reason for this is to have as much flexibility and control over it as possible; part of it is also that I would like to make it publicly accessible as a stand-alone site, rather than a "go take a survey here" link.

(2) The visuals part. Typically, the users would be shown a series of visual displays of quantitative information (graphs, etc.), and asked a question or questions about those visuals. In some cases, they would be asked to compare several visuals at a time - e.g., several graphs on a single page. Ideally, there could be some sort of decision tree for this part. For example:

Q1: Shown A and B. Asked "Is A or B a more acceptable outcome?"

If answer=A, then ---> Q2

If answer=B, then --> Q3

And so forth. I think some of the web-based solutions can do this, but am not sure.

- As far as the structure: This is a pilot project, so the requirements regarding validity are not stringent. The main point is hypothesis-generation and testing of some visualization techniques, so the content would likely change over time. Randomization of sets of questions would be ideal; and I imagine that it would be updated fairly frequently.
posted by googly at 9:45 AM on October 29, 2008

Best answer: You are in Canada. This is good. Vancouver has some of the lowest-paid skilled programmers and web designers around. If you don't mind someone doing the work remotely from across the country, you should be able to arrange a contract for $500 to $800, conservatively. If you're really pressed for money, or willing to outsource to other countries, it should be easy to find someone willing to do the whole project for $300 or less. If quality is more of a concern, the price could easily shoot up to $2000.

Some anecdotal figures:
From the college kids I know around here who are willing to do programming work and web dev work, I know that you can find web developers and programmers in the $15 - $20 / hour range easily around Vancouver.

If the design isn't much of a concern, and assuming there aren't more than a couple dozen questions to be answered and recorded, you could probably have the whole site finished in two weeks for under 30 hours of work, placing the project cost at $450 to $600. Note that if you add flash to the spec the price will typically go up considerably. Even at $25/hour, you're looking at no more thatn $750 barring unforseen circumstances.

I am a web programmer and I work with a lot of these folks. If you'd like recommendations for web designers working within those price ranges, PM me and I can provide some references.
posted by MaxK at 3:19 PM on October 29, 2008

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