How much can a website cost?

There’s been a sudden flurry of Parliamentary Questions (PQs) landing on the Foreign Office‘s doorstep in the last couple of months, on the subject of their departmental website. When it launched in late March, I noted that the purchase of the Morello content management system alone had cost them £1.47m, to some incredulity from commenters. I now learn that figure barely scratched the surface.
The total initial cost, first mentioned in a Meg Munn written answer in January 2008 and confirmed by Jim Murphy in response to a round-robin PQ in April was (brace yourself) £9.7 million. ‘The project is on target to cost £19.2 million over five years. This includes running costs, for example hosting and support, and some staff salaries.’
This understandably attracted front-bench attention, and was followed up by William Hague. A clutch of PQs in mid-May brought a breakdown of the £9.2m spend to date:

  • consultancy (procurement, legal and business change advice): £1.631 million;
  • project management and support: £1.065 million;
  • software, development and implementation (including design and roll-out): £6.115 million; and
  • other (including training costs): £0.389 million.

Granted, it’s a big endeavour – providing a single platform for all embassies (etc) to host their websites, in all sorts of languages. And some of the content has been nothing short of sensational – I’m thinking especially of the blogging from Zimbabwe just now. But those numbers seem sky high.
And yet they aren’t the worst. As I’ve blogged previously, I know of one site with an eight-figure budget… which still isn’t live.

8 thoughts on “How much can a website cost?”

  1. What? Almost unbelievable. Waste on this scale should be a criminal offence. Who were the beneficiaries? Milliband has lost his marbles.

  2. £6 million for software and rollout, and £1.47 million for the CMS alone? Even at a high price of £1000 per man/day that’s one hell of a lot of time.
    Behind all of this, and indeed at EU level with that I’ve written about it seems to be easier for politicians to be able to clear finance for major web projects than it is to work out a good strategy for the use of the web.
    I suspect it’s easier to get agreement for a £9.7 million budget in the FCO than it is to get agreement on a good web strategy for a large and complicated government department. So spend the money, and think later.

  3. In Miliband’s defence, the money was spent (or certainly signed off) well before he arrived. And the first obviously Milibanded project, the Ben Hammersley stuff I mentioned last week, is all open source: MediaWiki, WordPress, etc.

  4. If there was significant processing – receiving, validating, routing enquiries etc, lots of dynamic content, and a complicated shopping basket of goodies, I could see how the $$$ would mount up.
    The online-tax form must cost a fortune.
    And, after all, many FTSE100 companies have websites that cost a lot of million to construct and maintain. But then, BA (are they back in the FTSE?), and the utility companies have a product to flog and complicated back end systems to integrate with.
    But, content publishing websites (read-only, or read and add comments/reply) shouldn’t be hitting high figures?

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