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Q: Cost to Build Health Websites ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   4 Comments )
Subject: Cost to Build Health Websites
Category: Business and Money
Asked by: thewizard-ga
List Price: $20.00
Posted: 08 May 2002 10:01 PDT
Expires: 15 May 2002 10:01 PDT
Question ID: 13770
I want to know an approximate range of cost to build commercial health

For instance what would be the all-in cost to create a
condition-specific website like  What about a general
health site like

Please provide a rough range of costs and breakdown the main
components of cost.  Thanks.
Subject: Re: Cost to Build Health Websites
Answered By: joey-ga on 08 May 2002 18:26 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
That's a very difficult question to answer because there are so many
variables at play.  I'll do my best to talk about the different costs
involved and what you may get out of each.  I've worked for
design/web/consulting firms for the past four years and work a
considerable number of freelance projects on the side, so I'll give
you my best thoughts.



The first major deciding cost factor is what your site is supposed to
be and to whom it is supposed to be what it is (e.g. who is your
audience, what do they want to do on your site, and what is your
business model for the site?)  Depending on how you answer that
question, your site could fall anywhere on a spectrum from very static
to very dynamic (more on this later.)

The second major factor is your current knowledge base.  The more you
know your industry and the better you know your audience and what it
will take to satisfy them on your web site, the better off you'll be.

The third major deciding cost factor is *where* you go to have your
site designed.  As far as I can explain to you, you have three major
options: in-house, freelance/small firm, or major outsourcing firm. 
This is sort of a result of a sum of the other two factors and is
often the ultimate determiner of price.



When I talk about a site being static, I don't just mean it isn't
necessarily updated often.  I more specifically mean it was made using
plain HTML (with possibly some "client-side" javascript work . . .
pop-up windows, image rollovers, etc.)  The dynamic end of the
spectrum involves using significant server-side functionality
including discussion boards, mail forms, user logins,
preference-saving features, email list signups, personalized content,
quizzes, polls, database connectivity, searching functions, even "page
counters" possibly.

The more toward the dynamic end you go, obviously the higher the price
will go.  This also means there's a lesser chance you'll be able to
hire someone to work within your company to handle everything unless
you hire a team of people.  Likewise, your results for a complicated
site will likely be less than stellar going with a freelancer or a
small firm (We generally consider these "amateur" small design firms
as glorified freelancers.)  For a super-complicated site, then, that
leaves you with a large design/consulting firm with a wide array of
people and skills to pull from (and significant cost.)

Now, depending on what you personally come to the table with, you may
be able to shift up or down the spectrum.  If you know exactly what
features you want your site to have, you know the programming
languages in which to do them (I don't mean you know how to "program"
in the language, but you generally know what it takes, what languages
to use, etc.), you know how you want your site organized, and your
organization has a set of design standards already pre-made (logos,
fonts, colors, etc. already chosen), you can quite possibly step down
a level in the type of firm you go to.  Because you come to the table
with knowledge of these things, you probably know how to find a
freelancer (or multiple freelancers) to do what you want, and you know
how to gauge whether their work for you is acceptable in the end.

All of these variables come together ultimately to determine where it
is you get your site developed.  By going to a major design/consulting
firm (e.g. Sapient, Scient, etc. on a very large, national scale, or
much smaller but equally effective local companies), you are assured
that people will be there who are masters in their trade.  You have
the luxury of coming to the table knowing only an overall idea of what
you want.  They will ask you questions, going through detailed
processes to help you determine your audience, what it is you need to
convey, ideas on identity (colors, logos, etc.), and types of
functionality your site should have.

Freelancers and smaller firms unfortunately are sometimes hit or miss.
 Very often freelancers will be employees of the large firms who
moonlight as well, or who have gone off to start their own "smaller
firms."  Other times, though, they're internet-generation people with
little to no official training or schooling in interface design,
advertising, programming, or infrastructure.  These lesser firms and
freelancers may have decided to offer "services" because they
purchased a copy of Microsoft Frontpage and so believe they have what
it takes to develop web sites.  If you have the expertise necessary to
discern between the two, or you have a freelancer or small firm you
trust, this could be the best route.  You'll get much cheaper prices
than the large firms with a reasonable (maybe comparable) final
product.  If that particular firm or freelancer can't do everything
you want (and they're reputable), they should be able to subcontract
out to a firm that *does* know how to handle the other details.

Lastly, you have an option of hiring full- or part-time, an employee
or multiple employees to come onto your payroll to design and maintain
your web site.  If you know exactly what you want and/or how to choose
people to make these decisions and accomplish the work for you, and
you have a lot of work to do and a lot of maintenance, this could be
an option.  However, to produce a complicated site and keep it updated
would require so many people at the start (to cover so many different
knowledge bases from information architecture to advertising to design
to programming to quality assurance, etc.), this would be
cost-prohibitive.  If you want a very simple site and can hire one
person who's an effective designer and developer (likely this means
they can produce well-organized static sites that hopefully look good,
but probably don't have a ton of functionality), this could be a great
option if you want them to keep it maintained daily.



Whew!  Now, given all of this, let's estimate your costs.  


Say you want a simple, static site under 25 pages, but you want it
well-designed, here are some cost options:

LARGE FIRM: $120/hour : 80-100 man hours : about $10-12000
  -- large firm really means local effective firm, because the large
     ones would not take on a site this small
  -- they will walk you through everything, give you multiple options,
     go back to the drawing board if you want them to, bring you into
     their offices to look over prototypes, etc.

SMALL FIRM/FREELANCER: $60-80/hour: 40-60 man hours : $2500 - $5000
  -- This assumes a competent small firm or freelancing company . . .
     Firms charging less than this, no matter what they say, are
     not used to working professionally, and probably don't have much
     training or background in design or development
  -- Depending on how good they are, they may walk you through
     like the large firms, offering you multiple design prototypes,
     out your audience as well.  At the lower end, they hopefully can
     least oranize the site effectively and develop a design that fits
     your vision

IN-HOUSE: $20-$30/hour : 20-40 hours a week
  -- You really need to know what you want in this case.  Hopefully
     person would also be able to handle other tasks in your company
     organization if the site doesn't take that much time after it's
     initially developed.


Here you want a well-designed site that has some amount of
functionality like a page counter, mail forms, email list signups, and
maybe a search function.  This could also include multi-step
questionnaires, polls, quizzes, etc.  This assumes a site that is not
updated all that often, the content is largely static except for those
specific dynamic features, and the site is 25-100 pages in size:

LARGE FIRM: $120/hour : 200-500 man hours : about $24k - $60k
  -- You'll be happy with the result, or they'll continue to work
     it's right

SMALL FIRM/FREELANCER: $60-80/hour: 60-200 man hours : $3500 - $16k
  -- Again, assuming a competent firm/freelancer, they will hopefully
     be able to work with you to find a good solution.  If they can't
     accomplish everything themselves, they can likely work with other
     freelancers to get a product

IN-HOUSE: $25-$40/hour : 20-40 hours a week
  -- Again, you really need to know what you want in this case.  
     In order to get one person to do all this, you're likely going to
     sacrifice some in the way of look, feel, and organization, as the
     knowledgeset needed for the dynamic elements isn't generally the
     same skillset that good designers maintain.
  -- To get good design and good functionality, you'll likely need two
     people, both at this rate
  -- If you care less about design, you can likely find a programmer
     a local university who can help you out, but the look will likely
     be less professional than you'd like (but you can charge $10 an
     less than you would otherwise.)


Here you want a well-designed site that has lots of functionality
including access to a database to store user accounts, allow people to
find information from a databank, let people to log in with a password
and save customization settings.  This could also be a site that
charges people for access.  In an exagerrated form of this, you may
have a content management system that allows you to edit the pages
without knowing HTML, dynamically organize pages by date, keep updated
content on the front page without manually editing it, etc.  This site
would likely be huge, like from over 200 pages to tens of thousands of

LARGE FIRM: $120/hour : 1000-2000 man hours : about $120k - $250k
  -- Note that "man hours" here generally means that these hours are
     split up among multiple workers (maybe up to 20) working 40 hour
     weeks usually
  -- You really need a large firm for a site like this
  -- They'll work with you to find out everything you need.  Because
     the budget involved, they'll treat you *very* well

  -- You really can't develop a site like this with a small firm
  -- To do so would probably require working with several small firms,
     and you run the risk of them not integrating everything properly
  -- At this stage, to develop a site like this with multiple firms
     means you have to have a large knowledgebase yourself, and it may
     be wiser to build a team in-house

IN-HOUSE: $25-$60/hour : 5-10 workers for 40 hours a week
  -- You're building your own design/development department here
  -- You'll need people with all kinds of skillsets, and people who
     how to project manage, do quality assurance, etc.

Clarification of Answer by joey-ga on 08 May 2002 18:53 PDT
Hi again!

A couple things:

I also forgot to point out that none of these prices include the price
of writing or aggregating the actual health content.  If you are
pulling from public reports, etc., you can likely find much of this
yourself.  If you want to pull from what other people have written for
other publications, sites, etc., you'll need to pay to license that

Second, you have to factor in the cost of a domain name.  If you lease
a domain name that is not currently registered to anyone else, you'll
pay only a nominal fee (under $35 a year) for it.  If you want a
domain that someone else owns, you may have to buy it from them for up
to thousands of dollars (some domains have gone for millions).

Lastly, you have to take into account hosting costs.  If you choose a
site at the "static" end of the spectrum, you'll end up paying $10-$30
a month for hosting, depending on the amount of traffic it receives,
how many email addresses you'll need, etc.  As you go up to the
super-dynamic end, prices can go up to $10k a month or more.  The
middle-of-the-road site I talked of (as being "moderately dynamic"
would probably entail a hosting cost of $25-$75 a month.

Let me know if you would like any more clarification.  Most everything
I've told you is from firsthand experience, but if you need me to
research something specific, please let me know and I'll see what I
can do.

Request for Answer Clarification by thewizard-ga on 12 May 2002 20:16 PDT
Thanks Joey-

Excellent answer.  It hit most of the points I was looking for.  I'd
just like input on one more important piece of the puzzle.  The site
in question is more likely to be a very dynamic site with many
features (the complex and expensive end of the sprectrum you
provided).  If we are looking to have a significant marketing impact
(drive hundreds of thousands of users a month) how much would you
budget for annual marketing expenditures for the site?  The reason why
I'm asking is I'm trying to estimate the "all-in" cost for creating
the site.  Thanks.

Clarification of Answer by joey-ga on 12 May 2002 20:53 PDT
Hmm, that's not as much my area of expertise, though I have some
experience in it.  In fact, it's kind of another huge question with a
number of different factors to deal with in answering.  This may be
worth posting another question for specifics on it, but I'll try to
answer as best I can given my experience in it.

A lot of that depends on if you're handling your marketing in-house
yourself, in-house after assembling a marketing team, or if you're
going with an advertising agency.  Often the big design consulting
firms that could design your site also would have marketing
departments, allowing that company to offer you everything in one

You'd likely need a *huge* marketing push up front with only marginal
marketing expenses (comparatively) needed after the initial push.  If
your site is targeting consumers (as opposed to medical
professionals), you'd have to figure out your audience and then likely
market to them specifically.  If you're focusing on suburban women
ages 25-60 outside large cities, for instance, a successful marketing
campaign may include full-page newspaper ads, ads in magainzes
targeting that age group, radio commercials on "oldies" and "top 40"
stations, etc.

It's very very hard to estimate all of this, but if you want to start
off with 100,000+ visitors a month, you're probably going to need to
allocate at least half a million dollars to advertising up front, but
likely 5 times that if you choose to make use of national television
commercials, etc. (note that the range I'm giving you is an incredibly
wide one, b/c you're really going to have to nail down an audience and
an ad-agency choice, etc. before it can be reasonably estimated)  On a
continual basis, depending on how "sticky" your site is . . .
depending on how much your visitors decide to return on their own
based on how much your site interests them, you may have to allocate
that much continually (if it's not sticky enough), or you could cut
that significantly if you're getting a lot of repeat visitors.

I'm sorry I can't be of more help than this.  This is, unfortunately,
even more broad of a question than the first.  I can tell you, though,
that your marketing expenses will far exceed the actual cost of the
initial production of your web site if you are looking for that kind
of traffic at first launch.

Take care and let me know if I can be of more assistance.

thewizard-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
Excellent answers.  NO BS.  Was straight-forward and candid about what
he knows/ doesn't know.  Provided sources of information.  Also was
creative and expansive on a difficult to answer question.

Subject: Re: Cost to Build Health Websites
From: thinkfuture1118-ga on 08 May 2002 12:13 PDT
Depends on the size of the site. The bigger the site, the more maintenance etc..
Subject: Re: Cost to Build Health Websites
From: novalife-ga on 08 May 2002 12:47 PDT
There are several factors in determining the cost of a website you
want. You would want to talk to some good website developers or
preferably website developers having experience in website development
in your specific area. That helps them to understand the subject
better, helps in giving you a better product.
Subject: Re: Cost to Build Health Websites
From: thewizard-ga on 08 May 2002 13:21 PDT
I'm just looking for a ball-park estimate for an average website.  So
an estimate for a very basic static website vs. a more robust website
with updated content and tools (no e-commerce).  A  breakdown of what
may impact the cost would be helpful too.
Subject: Re: Cost to Build Health Websites
From: wiserd-ga on 10 May 2002 07:28 PDT
What is the purpose of the site? This is kindof like asking how much
surgery will cost- it depends on what you want the surgury to _do_.
Do you want a site that simply conveys information? Are you trying to
impress investors or maintain the image of an institution, thus
requiring professional design work? Are you trying to sell somthing,

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