Putting Code Together Since 1987

Posts Tagged ‘costs’

How Much Does Code Cost?

In Web Development on June 1, 2008 at 3:56 pm

It’s hard to measure the cost of code.  Simple stuff can be ferociously time-consuming to develop, and bad coders often produce reams of poorly structured code.

But let’s assume you’re dealing with a typical, decent developer who doesn’t take the long route, or dangerous shortcuts.

There’s some nice research covering this, such as Boem, Abts Chulani [2000] which is worth reading if you’re interested by this kind of stuff.  But it’s heavy going, and doesn’t give a nice neat figure for lay people to understand.

So now I’m going to give the answer that many want to hear:

For each line of code produced in a 3GL non RAD environment the cost of your development is likely to come to around £20-£25 per line of new code.  And about £100 per hundred lines of re-used code.

Doesn’t sound too bad… that includes testing, development, refinement, code reviews and so on.  It’s based on the idea that most good developers can produce around 50-100 lines of code in a day if left alone and in peace.  Some produce reams of code, but it’s often poorly optimised and thought out and likely to bite back in years to come.  The cost also takes into account the design of that code before anyone touched a computer, and the various support staff required.  If a developer is working entirely alone and is self-supported with his PCs and the like, then his productivity drops so the project takes longer, but the cost shouldn’t change too much.

And don’t forget that cheap code is often bulkier than expensive code.  Which means nobody can look at a 1000 line program and actually say “Oh yeah, that’s £20k’s worth.”  Somebody needs to assess the quality of that code.

What we will say is that in general, if we’ve written you 1000 lines of fresh code (ie, no cut and pasting or reuse) it could well have cost you £25k by the time it’s fully tested and delivered.  A really big project, like, say, implementing a worldwide global payroll system for a major corporation may have five million lines of code and a final bill (including analysis) of around £125 million.  Not at all unreasonable, believe it or not.

So yes, code is expensive.  And that quick report you’d like us to knock up?  Maybe it’s not so quick.

To save costs it’s worthwhile looking at RAD (Rapid Application Development) methods, but in that you’ll end up with slower, more bloated code.  However, it can be a perfectly adequate approach and we use it all the time for simple data management back-ends and the like where performance isn’t that critical.  Sometimes we’ll generate 20,000 lines of code from a three hour job… but it gets the job done.  Albeit a little slowly!

The Danger of Unpaid Consulting, And One Answer…

In Uncategorized on February 12, 2008 at 12:46 pm

One thing that happens a lot in the web development and design sphere is the problem of unpaid consulting.

Actually, I’ll rephrase it a little… it happens all the time!

It’s rather tricky. Clients are interested in us because we offer them something that gives them better efficiency, sales and returns. But what we do is complex and sophisticated.

As it’s me that does all the sales work I find myself often giving over two hours of my time to a prospect in order to explain how the dynamic websites work. I’m educating them. For two hours.

How much would it actually cost to get an expert in any field to educate someone for that period of time on a one-to-one basis? £120? £240? Certainly it wouldn’t be cheap.

Yet there I am, explaining various elements of design, hosting and development… all for free.

Not only that, but many clients expect proposals, complete with mockups. For free too, of course. After all, we’re only selling.

And it’s a trap I think that all IT types need to be wary of. We’re natural born ‘pleasers’. We want to write cool stuff, but more importantly, we want people to acknowledge that coolness. It’s interesting that the concept of Open Source is so strong in IT. There aren’t nearly so many top photographers offering any of their materials with a right to free duplication as there are developers.

But here’s the thing… free doesn’t put food in the table. Each prospect may be the result of two hours of work before we even get to visit. On top of that is the two hours of free consultancy they end up receiving when we go and see them. Then there’s the proposal – that can be four hours for something simple, but easily a 16hr job. So we have up to 20hrs per prospect, before a sale is even agreed.

If we then assume a one-in-three conversion (because they’ll probably talk to three potential clients) that means up to 60hrs of work for each client won. I’ve actually estimated that by and large we manage on about 40hrs per client win.

Now here’s the funny thing – many of the websites we produce take less than 40hrs to build. Let’s say each is 30hrs of work to build – what with all the toing and froing of ideas, images and copy.

That makes 70hrs per website. If you’re going to make a modest, middle class income, and cover costs, then chargeable rates have to be around the £30 an hour mark. That’s about what most backstreet mechanics are charged at. So the very base price for a website built according to expectations above, has to be £2,100.

Read that figure.


For a basic, simple, custom website.

We’re working on developing techniques to get web developers away from this problem. Expectations are far higher than can be fulfilled economically. Check back to the blog regularly to see our up and coming announcements…