Thursday, 17 March 2011

How much does it cost to develop a mobile website in XHTML and/ or HTML5?

One of the most frequent questions we get asked is:  what is the cost of developing a mobile website? The answer is simple: It varies almost as much as the cost of developing a website. The price ranges from a few hundred to millions of Euros, but we will try to give a more constructive answer:

The key factors are:

1. Content/Service
What is the purpose of the mobile website? Is it an e-commerce site, a landing page, a news site, a social network, etc?
How much content does it contain? One page or hundreds of pages? The scope of the mobile website will provide a good starting point for estimating the cost of development.

Cost Range
- For a very simple mobile website a tool such as Netbiscuits could be used. Such a solution would cost a few hundred Euros
- If your site is a blog, for example, then it's possible that a free Wordpress plugin could be used to mobilise your existing website
- If the site includes more advanced functionality, then it needs to be custom built. The cost for this usually starts around 10.000 Euros

2. Design
Another important factor is the user interface design. Creating user flows, wireframes, mockups and designs could take several weeks, and therefore costs money.
Depending on the target audience you might want to implement two versions of the site. One optimised for XHTML and one for HTML5 compatible devices. While HTML5 supports a much richer user experience including animations, audio and video; XHTML should be optimised for speed and easy navigation rather than contain lots of graphics.

Cost Range:
- A simple mobile website whose design could be just a sketch that takes an hour to create would cost less than 100 euro
- For a sophisticated m-commerce site, intended to generate millions in sales, the cost and effort could easily rise to tens of thousands of Euros. Experienced user interface designers in London or New York frequently charge day rates of 1000 Euros. You get what you pay for.

3. Usability
Ease of use is not only about user interface design. It is also a matter of building an information architecture that it easy to navigate and optimised for the key use cases. The site should be tested with users and constantly improved over time.

Cost Range:
- Delivering excellent usability is an integrated part of good mobile website development. This means the cost cannot be isolated. However, if you consider your site business critical then plan for at least 2 weeks of user testing and enhancements before launch. You won't regret it.

4. Device support
One of the greatest challenges with mobile is device fragmentation. There are 10+ operating systems, hundreds of browser versions, 20+ display resolutions and lots of exceptions to take into consideration.

In theory HTML5 should resolve some of these issues. Unfortunately the differences are so big that you need to test and optimise your HTML5 site for each of those platforms.

At Golden Gekko we believe in testing on as many target devices and OS versions as possible. This means anywhere between two for an iPhone optimised HTML5 site (OS4.x and OS3.x) and 200 devices for a site that targets a broad spectrum of mobile devices.

Cost Range:
- Platforms such as the GG Server Platform and Netbiscuits provide rendering capabilities that optimise the site for each device type. The cost ranges from about 100 euro per month up to thousands but the service is well worth the money
- The feature set may differ between devices. E.g. some devices such as iPhone 4 have excellent java script support while others do not. Therefore add at least one week extra development time beyond the first platform
- The cost of QA / Testing vastly depends on the desired device support ranging from about 500 euro for a few days of testing on one platform to 10.000 euro for 3 weeks of testing across 200+ devices.  

5. Search engine optimisation
One of the greatest advantages of a mobile website juxtaposed to a native app is that people can find the content on your site through search engines. All standard mobile websites can of course be crawled. Still, just like for the web, optimising the site for search engines can make an enormous difference.

Cost Range:
Search engine optimisations for a big mobile site costs between 3.000 and 6.000 Euros

6. Logging and Reporting
If you've invested lots of money in your mobile website you want to know how many visitors you attract. You are interested in where they come from, what they do, how long they stay, where they leave, when and how frequently they come, etc. Most mobile website tools provide some standard reporting services and stats but if you really want to understand the users and their usage patterns you might have to dig deeper and combine the data with other sources.

Cost Range:
- Standard reporting should be included in the development and hosting services for any mobile website project
- For customised logging the effort is usually one to two days to define the requirements and about one extra week to implement and test the logging

So what is the total cost of developing a mobile website? Depending on what you what to do with it, user interface requirements, usability testing, device support, search engine optimisation and logging the cost could range from a few hundred Euros for a simple landing page to 100.000+ Euros for a complex m-commerce site.

Please don't hesitate to contact us for a quote specific to your requirements.

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