[thelist] RE: Razorfish retaliates - there's a reason for the cost

Vladimir Cole vcole at concretemedia.com
Thu Jul 20 18:24:36 CDT 2000

  23. Re: RE: Razorfish retaliates - there's a reason for the cost
  32. RE: Razorfish retaliates - there's a reason for the cost (Erika Meyer)


(I'm subscribed in digest, so my replies tend to be spaced out a bit more.
Shorry bout that.)

	From: "aardvark" <roselli at earthlink.net>
	that bashing goes both ways... clients don't know any better, and 
	even think that low rates equates to low skills... i've heard it
	and over, our rates are lower (thought not as low as $50), and 
	companies in larger cities who are caught up in the hype assume 
	we don't know what we're doing... no, bashing the clients and the 
	vendors is much more appropriate...

I'm sympathetic to that conundrum. This reminds me of the pricing discussion
a few days ago -- this industry is all over the place in terms of pricing.
As developers, we do ourselves a disservice to sell based on price points
alone, however. If that's your selling strategy then the minute someone
undercuts your quoted price you haven't got a differentiated leg to stand

	you mean using a database vs. using a static page?  cuz that 
	alone doesn't warrant a factor of 10 difference, let alone a factor
	1,000....  hell, even rolling out a full-bore content tool and the
	doesn't often justify a $10mil site...

Databases are part of the package, but I'm talking about multi-tier web
(http://www.seyboldseminars.com/Events/sf98/transcripts/Eday9_2.html) and
I'm talking about site development that necessarily involves strategy
consulting (and all of its components), integration with fulfillment systems
and backend software packages. How many clients have you worked with that
could have used business direction, and not just a little HTML / Design
work? Many, I'm sure. That's what this sort of development tries to address
- it's less web development and more business development from an
Internet-enabled point of view.

	i did post something last week about why it sucked, and it was 
	midly thoughtful (http://lists.evolt.org/archive/Week-of-Mon-

Hey, sorry I missed your earlier comments -- I'm not saying the page doesn't
suck. :) 

From: Erika Meyer <erika at seastorm.com>
what means "hi-end"?
what means "iBuilder"?

[] hi-end = I was just being lazy. High-end, expensive, mega-complicated. 
[] iBuilder = a common term for companies that build large web sites. But
really, everybody calls it something different.

	But I have to wonder how a site becomes so expensive. I would be 
	interested in knowing the process of developing such a site... maybe

	it would shed some light as to how a site could both cost so much
	have so many... issues.

	mind, some of us may be a wee bit bitter because we are still 
	surviving on top ramen.

Interestingly, you assume a high client billable falls directly to
employees' paychecks. That's just not so. And you imply Ramen is just for
people who'd buy better food if they had more money. Ramen is like the
Eucharist for techies - be careful how you disparage it. 

Here is a brief list of some reasons why you'd pay more for a "high-end" web

+ PPE: more PP&E (plant property and equipment) overhead (freelancers often
work from home or at the client site, established companies who wish to have
presences in the "center of the action" have to vie for space in the two
hottest real estate markets in the land) 
+ COST OF LIVING / FAIR WAGES: more employee overhead. Naturally, employees
need a little more money to pay those sky-high Manhattan and Bay Area rents.
Also, you're paying for completely different skill sets. Besides finding
people who are skilled with all of the industry staples, you need people who
are able to support significantly more complicated software packages.
Products like Oracle 8i, StarTeam, and so on. Oracle DBAs do not come cheap.

+ MANAGEMENT: HR overhead. In a company of 9000, you need a significant
group of people who are dedicated to managing all of the chaos. Presidents,
CEOs and department heads don't come cheap either.
+ SERVICE GUARANTEES: mission critical systems simply cost more. It's fine
to develop a small business site using Linux, Access and Cold Fusion. But
when you promise a client no more than, say, 2 hours of downtime per month,
you need something significantly more robust. Wait - it's unfair to lump
Linux in there with Access. Linux rocks, but it's still expensive to keep
experts around to deal with it. And as I mentioned above, Oracle DBAs don't
work for Ramen. 
+ BENEFITS INFRASTRUCTURE: Part of the reason why you have so many people
forgoing the pleasure of working from home in their Pajamas is because those
company benefits are a damned nice thing to have, especially when Junior
needs medical and dental insurance. And all of the little things too: free
breakfast on Mondays and Fridays, free pizza on Thursdays, weekly massages,
beer and slushies on Fridays, discount haircuts -- You know, those little
perks that mean more than their inherent dollar worth.

+ SCALABILITY: a site that can handle 10,000 concurrent users all looking
for streaming video of the latest ladies underwear show is significantly
more difficult (and expensive) to build than a site that dishes up less
popular content.
+ FASTER DEVELOPMENT: Businesses are asking for more functionality within a
shorter time-to-market frame. At some point, a single person is no longer
enough. At some point, a single team began to fall short of business goals.
Now we're up to a model where you've got multiple teams in multiple
disciplines (Strategy, UI, Tech, SiteDev, Project Mgmt) working aggressive
schedules in order to meet time constraints. That's expensive too.  
+ RELATIONSHIP / TECHNICAL MANAGEMENT: So clients are getting larger sites
built in a compressed time frame. And those sites are doing more. Not all of
this can be developed in-house. Sometimes it simply makes more sense to
outsource some portion of the site, and this can mean that someone suddenly
has to dedicate massive resources to manage the legal and technical
logistics of interacting with (sometimes) dozens of third party providers.
Search engines (Google), email and chat providers (People Link, Onebox),
Content Management Solutions (eGrail), Live customer service (Support
Technologies), and that's just the front end, the stuff the visitor to the
web site sees. What about all of the legacy systems that a company has
hanging around? How do you integrate the company's HR database with the new
"apply online" tool? How do you help the company manage qualified sales
leads seamlessly with their sales and lead tracking software that's already
in place, and very likely running on a completely different database system
than what makes most sense for the HR application or the content server?
+ SECURITY: It's one thing to have your database full of fabric colors and
costs stolen, it's another to have your credit card database held hostage by
some malicious n'er do well. Security costs a ton: software, hardware,
redundancy, outside audits.
+ DEVELOPMENT ENVIRONMENT: Hypothetical, but completely realistic
development environment: four brand-new, beautiful, purple Sun boxes with
blazing SCSI, nearly a GB of RAM each. And that's just the development
environment. For one project. There are separate staging and production
environments, each just as extensive (and expensive).
	>To misunderstand why some sites cost $10 million and why some cost
	>is to misunderstand the depth of the technologies that we're all

	enlighten us, please.  what does it take to screw up a site with

That's a mean remark. I said in the beginning that I'm not here to defend
IAM.com or its developers -- it may very well be completely screwed in terms
of DHTML. But it's unfair to assume that the glitches existed at the time of
hand off. I'm sure you've had clients flubber your meticulously hand-coded
pages with FrontPage after you hand them off. That sort of thing happens all
the time. I'm not saying it happened here, but this is just one example of
what could be happening behind the scenes. Plus, you'd think IAM has a
certain incentive (now that they're embroiled in a lawsuit alleging they
were given a defective product) to LET these sorts of errors multiply and go

	But without getting into detail I have one thought: the intended 
	audience appears to be models, musicians, dancers, etc.  This 
	demographic... especially not-yet-famous models, musicians, 
	dancers... are notoriously poor people.  (Even poorer than certain 
	freelance web designers.)  They suffer for their art.

	What is the point of creating a "hi-end" site that requires at least

	1024x768 screen resolution, "hi-end" browsers (but still doesn't 
	work), and a fairly high amt of navigation/web-savvy-- directed to 
	this audience?

	I think this site failed at IA step 1: define your audience and

No rebuttal. I think you're dead on with these comments. 



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