Never mind the quality … feel the weight

Whilst I was away, I was idly doing some sums on how much it costs to take a page from a static HTML website and move it to a content managed website. I did it a couple of ways, (1) assuming that you don’t have any system in place at all today and you are going to build one using a package, (2) assuming you don’t have a system and you are going to do a cheap and cheerful one using open source components as far as possible.

I have about 7 sources for the data, which is reasonable benchmark suite, but not fully reliable perhaps. I’d be fascinated if there are other people out there who have worked out this cost.

Anyway, assume your website has developed over a few years and is pretty sprawling. Not uncommon I imagine (and based on my content graphs from a few weeks ago, pretty likely). First up, you do a content audit (what you have), then a content design (what you want – or an IA, i.e. an information architecture), you’re probably building your system in parallel with this (hopefully not too far ahead, else you’ll have to make too many changes for your IA), then you’re going to need to suck the content out of your static site (in some kind of XML format) using a tool like Marcat’s Vamosa (a play on the Spanish for ‘let’s go’ I think), and then you’re going to have to splurge it into your new system (maybe using another tool, or perhaps manually). At several stages in this process, you’re going to have to QA it (the suck process might take 6 or 7 iterations to get right, with QA at each stage). You’re also going to have to do clever stuff to maintain the integrity of your links and any digital assets (documents, pictures etc) – some tools do some of this for you, but you will need to pay attention, especially to links).

Anyway, the lowest cost I came up with for doing that was £500/page, and the highest was up to £3,000 – the range is not all technology driven, but also complexity of the pages (whether you are splitting pages up internally in the migration, how many changes you are making and how much QA they need). To get the bottom number, you really need to be at the cheap and cheerful website end, meaning you probably don’t have full security, don’t have workflow fully implemented or you have cut a few corners on accessibility.

I intend to do some more robust work on these numbers as part of a wider project on government content. The more data I can get the better, so please feel free to ship me stuff at the office mail address. With 2,800,000 pages of content in government (that was a month ago, so it must be more now) … a cost of even £500/page quickly gets very scary … £3,000 become especially horrifying!

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