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The Cost Codex

Asking a developer "how much will my site or app cost?" is unlikely to provide a satisfactory answer because there are so many variables that go into pricing. However, by reading and understanding this codex we believe we can give you a better understanding of how pricing works for custom work like development and settle concerns about unknowns like long-term financial commitments.

HOW COMPLEX IS YOUR PROJECT?

Development costs will generally reflect the amount of time put into the project, so the first question to answer is how complex your project is. We can categorize all projects into three basic types: simple, complex and advanced:

- Simple: a purely informational site with no user interaction outside of browsing. A lot of corporate sites, restaurant sites or product sites with only a few products will fall under this category. There is some discrepancy based on how much content (and how many different pages must be designed)

- Complex: a standard complexity site with well known usage conventions. An e-commerce store is a common project in this category.

- Advanced: sites that are looking to push the borders and present something unique to visitors. Any project that isn't commonly seen can be categorized as advanced since it requires more thought and redesigns throughout the process to appropriately gauge what the best usage is.

Tonnec starts our basic projects at 10,000 rmb and scales up from there in a manner not too different from this graphic below. As complexity increases, the workload increases exponentially due to the requirement of inter-compatible features.

PRICING INCREASES EQUIVALENTLY TO COMPANY SIZE

In general, you'll see the development costs go up with companies of larger size than smaller ones or freelancers. In most cases, you are paying for the added experience that comes with developers who are able to maintain (through skill or reputation) a company of that size.

Does this mean bigger companies are better? No, not always. Especially in developing countries you are likely to encounter large development companies that run their operations like a factory line, which means you aren't necessarily going to get a final product that fits you the way that it should. Make sure you look at the work they've produced and inquire about the team that would work on your project before making any final conclusions about the quality of their output.

Freelancers are also a huge variable in this equation. While most of them will come cheaper than a company, the range of capability and experience varies greatly. Again viewing the work, should give you a sense of their ability.

AM I GETTING A FAIR PRICE?

We like to believe that the market is self-regulating in this regard. Basically any developer or developer company is going to price their time as highly as possible. The limiting factor is whether or not potential clients will judge their previous work to be deserving of that price. If you're looking at a company that has operated for several years, they will most likely have already found their sweet spot between lower-than-they-deserve and too-high-for-their-skillset.

Wild cards: The exception to this rule are companies that will throw a high initial offer and then lower it if you don't bite at first. Tonnec doesn't participate in negotiations, because it's honestly not very fun. Our approach, similar to many companies is to pare down the requested feature set if the budget is too high. Regardless of a companies' policy towards negotiating a simple inquiry into their pricing flexibility is all you need to reveal their strategies.

Don't negotiate with a developer to get a price that they are clearly unhappy with. Some might agree out of a need for more work, but think to yourself first: how likely are you to get a good result out of an employee who feels they're underpaid? It can be forced, but not easily. And remember, even if it's a contract job, the developer may not stay with you forever but their code will.

WHAT ARE MY ONGOING UPKEEP COSTS?

The costs of server rentals are pretty minimal these days, with a simple medium traffic site costing you as little as 35 rmb per month.

The cost of maintenance again depends on the site complexity. But if you've thought through your needs then ideally, you won't need to go back to a developer asking for major fixes after the completion of the project.

However, we recommend that most of clients continue with monthly maintenance services. A lot of this includes implementing necessary changes in functionality and design based on our observations of usage. The cost of this is likely to be the cost of your entire project over the course of 2-4 years and is highly recommended for businesses which depend greatly on their web site for marketing or sales purposes.

In the end, this is probably a much more sustainable and stress-free approach than doing a complete overhaul every 3 years, and only slightly more costly.