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Ask HN: What does $2000 in Web design/development buy you these days?
33 points by wanderboy on July 1, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 34 comments
I have a couple of features that I'm interested in adding to my Web application, and I've also re-designed a few page elements. If I had $10,000 lying around I'd walk up to the office of my local Web development agency, but alas that is not the case - I'm a college student, and I'm broke.

Provided that I provide very detailed spec documents and mock-ups, is it realistic to expect that a custom search feature, social networking/profile features, and a few static pages will cost me more than $2000?

I know most designers/developers charge $60+ hourly, so my question is really, "How long does it take to implement these features?"

'custom search feature, social networking/profile features'. These terms are so broad in their scope that it's really not possible for anyone here to estimate with any accuracy the time/cost it would take to implement them.

If you actually do have a detailed spec then I'd recommend that you simply approach a web dev shop/freelancer and see what they say. Explaining the details of what you require is the only way that you're going to get an accurate answer. You may even want to tell them what your budget is up front so that they can be realistic and let you know what's possible for that money. We've all dealt with clients that have very tight budgets, so it's certainly not an unusual request.

I can't really speak to design (we do that in-house), but most of the good/keeper Rails developers that I've used in the last year have been in the $100-150/hour range. So, for $2K that gets you 13 to 20 hours of development.

For that, I think you might be able to implement one of the features you mentioned but not all of them.

I've had good luck finding developers at AuthenticJobs. If you post a freelance job there and you're detailed about your budget and requirements, most good devs will be honest about what's feasible.

Really? 100-150/hour?

Would you mind to share your experience? like...

- how old they are

- do they also help you with HTML/CSS?

- do they also help you with graphics, icons, and contents?

- what about unit-tests and quality?

Would be very appreciated if you can answer them. If this is just between you and the developers and both parties prefer to be private and decided not to answer, I would understand.


Yeah, I hope this doesn't sound bad but I wouldn't hire a US-based dev for under $50/hour. I don't feel $50 is inflated either—even in Tulsa that seems fair to me. To me, going below that is like having the guy down the street paint your car for $150. I'm hiring people for existing, production apps that are making money. I'll skimp on some things but not that.

As for age, I don't know but my guess is mid to late twenties. Of my most recent, one was in the bay area and one is a tech stars alum.

No, no help with HTML/CSS/graphics/icons. I do most of that myself. Plus we do a lot of Flash on the front end and have separate designers for that.

Testing is one area Ive found where the more expensive devs seem to separate themselves. Very thorough which is nice.

This may sound odd but I also try and hire developers who are smarter and better than myself. After almost every job, I glean from their code and end up learning a ton. If nothing else, the extra money we spend also goes to my own education.

I'm curious how this works, and what level of work you expect for that? Most of the contract work I see advertised is luck to get above $40 an hour, of course that's through agencies.

Is this just the difference between contract to hire and lone contracts to individuals? Is there a known place to bid for local work like this, or is it all word of mouth?

I've typically been a java/j2EE dev working full time, but I can't help but wonder if been missing out on something obvious.

Thank you very much for the answer.

Where I live (somewhere in Canada, one of the big Cities), sometime I would ask myself if I could make a decent living with Rails skill because the demands aren't too many (mostly they're looking for typical LAMP + jQuery/CSS/HTML or Drupal or Wordpress).

There are a few "shaky" startups looking for Rails developers but I'm guessing the pay is not that great and the company usually won't last long (2 years max).

* - how old they are*

Why does their age matter? Their ability to deliver is what should matter. The first time I charged $100/hour as a consultant I was 18, I'm fairly confident that I never had a customer turn down my services due to the number of times I'd traveled around the sun.

maybe my question should be modify to ask years-of-experience?

By contrast we regularly employ django developers via elance and pay about $15-25 per hour and the quality now we are very efficient at filtering/testing people is very good

+1 for this. If you're contracting our work online, don't pay inflated Bay Area wages. Go somewhere like Odesk, you can easily get a very competent overseas developer for no more than $20 an hour.

hey, authenticjobs seems pretty good. I hadn't heard of it til now.

Most designers/developers that I know that are good charge closer to $100 or $150 per hour. What you described seems like it would take closer to 30 or 40 hours, so I would say the cost would be more like $3k to $5k.

You're a broke college student with 2K to spend on adding features to your website, surely you should be able to find another broke student that would like your 2K and could do a perfectly adequate job of delivering it - especially with the potential to be involved in future pieces of work.

Not only is a really good designer / developer going to be too expensive, they probably aren't going to want to get out of bed for a small project like that, so rather than outsourcing overseas why not find someone that is in a similar situation to yourself and you can have face to face meetings with to set expectations etc.

Since the work consists of adding to an existing application it is even harder to estimate than usual. In fact, so hard that it is not worth trying. A lot of the time could potentially be spent just figuring out how your application works and the good ways to implement the new feature.

That said...

As long as all the flows for the features are well-defined, I'd say it'd be doable to implement basic search, social networking, and some facility for static pages for $2k. It should be a few of days worth of work for a developer familiar with the framework/libraries your app uses.

Don't waste your time making useless estimates. Focus on what's important. Now return back to your project

- Check all the features you want to implement. What are the most important ones? Prioritize.

- Find a good freelance. The higher you pay, the more quality you'll get. I guess that $50/hour will be okay and would get you a good dev. It depends on the project and the quality your users are expecting. Start implementing the most important feature. Go as money can go with you. If your project is profitable, you get cash back.

- Learn. If it's jQuery it's not hard, if it's PHP it's not impossible. Even if you don't create features, you can debug them.

I think it would be interesting to compare 2 hours of output from this guy vs. 100 hours of output at prices mentioned in various posts.

yeah, that would be a good way to prove/disprove his worth for sure. he should put himself up against someone who charges even $50/hour with the same budget, then have the work judged by an impartial panel of experts.

Like most of the responses here, it's pretty broad based on what you've described and most importantly 'Be Careful' if you have something custom done.

I do designer work out of the Seattle area: http://consulting.nrml.cc

But I'll tell you up front, most of the work we do is out of the box or ported.

If you're looking for a specifically tailored CMS plugin or custom ground up framework, you might want to ask around for a referral from someone that has first hand experience of what the developer can do.

The problem with your question is that the answer is highly ambiguous. Asking how long it will take to implement those features is a bit off; instead, you should be asking "What needs to happen to implement these features and what would you estimate all of it to be?"

Just a search feature and social networking/profile feature implies a whole gamut of underlying logic that you aren't aware of (because you aren't a developer). Depending on what your vision is, those two features alone could end up being a two month long project just for a first iteration (don't forget about iterations!)

I charge about $65 per hour for web application programming work in either Python or PHP (I prefer Python), I segment my time into 40 hour work weeks. For two months of work that would equal out to a little over twenty grand for a first iteration. That does not include going through QA, user acceptance, feature list refinement, and finally a second iteration (then a third and a fourth and so on for as long as your product stays alive).

Many non-technical people trying to get into the web startup or software startup scene see that price tag and commitment to time (through iterations) and have a mini-gestalt. They simply aren't aware of what goes into building a reliable, feature-rich, maintainable, and clean web application! This is why almost all of the successful web startups have been built by people that do the work for a living already (or some by very wealthy people that can afford it), because they don't have to go pay a lot of money for someone else to do it, they just have to pay for their living expenses.

Check out freelancer.com and rentacoder.com. You have to be extremely detailed and agree on everything in advance. You could always put your idea up for a bid. If it's too high, pull it down. Another approach is to break your specs down to individual pieces. Then, start by outsourcing the smallest piece as a test.

How well does it need to scale? How many concurrent users? How easy does it need to be to add future features to? Does existing off the shelf software not give you most of what you want? What's meant by "social networking / profile features"?

Can you tell us more about what the site is built on (Language/Framework)? If you've built your site on something standard like Wordpress or Django than it will be much cheaper to implement these features. If it's custom all the way things get a bit trickier.

The biggest problem with this sort of request is that a lot of people out there will say they can do it but won't do it well. Sites like scriptlance will probably get you quotes in the few hundred dollar range but their code will be of poor quality and missing important "behind the scenes" features like error handling. So you really have to be careful (and if you tell us more maybe we can help you with that)

I'm working with a web development shop in Vietnam (disclosure: I own about 1/5 of the company). If you already have the mock-ups, then send it my way and I can forward it to the guys. I think if the requirements are not crazy, you can make good use of your $2K. Here's the link to the company's brochure: http://www.scribd.com/doc/29808412/Quick-Solution-Credential...


Simple answer is that it depends

Depends on if you care about the scalability, optimization, and speed of the site. If you do then you will pay a lot for US dev

The alternative is to outsource and get all those features for 2k. Go to elance, guru, odesk, or getafreelancer.

The latter I would suggest for proof of concept of prototyping an idea. Once you get a whole bunch of traffic and users you can rebuild it correctly when it's worth it to do so.

Launch fast with the least investment.

You can get more for your money if you can find an existing framework/solution to modify (e.g., BuddyPress), and can find a solid freelance developer or small shop to do the work.

People who charge 100-150 an hour are not doing web sites for college students.

It depends on who you go with. I know a secret - that price does not necessarily equate to quality + value when it comes to consulting work.

Some people are extremely talented & efficient but have never been exposed to the true value of their work. They are usually in college or recent grads, and probably live somewhere where well paying web work typically isn't either commonly found or fun.

It can be done for sure.

Social Networking? No.

Forum Profiles? Possibly.

eh, there are lots of open-source things that would help with that.. where's phpnuke these days?

"What can I get for $2,000?" is an excellent question. As a consultant, I wish I'd get this question more often from cost-conscious customers rather than "how much is this going to cost me?", because the former is quite easy to quantify and quickly sets a budget and an expectation. The latter is very exploratory and immediately puts the consultant on the defensive.

I find it odd that your comment has so many upvotes. No offense but who is upvoting this? I figure it's one of two types of people:

1) People who are used to hiring others yet who don't like to talk "budget"

2) Consultants hired by #1

Really - I don't know of a single transaction in either my consulting practice or in my hiring of consultants/experts/etc in which budget was not a major discussion point. Maybe, as the consultant, I'd be the one bringing it up but I assure you: before I entered into any agreement with a client, the "Can you afford to pay me what I'm going to need to do this project?" question had been sufficiently explored.

Depends on your area- contract to Canada, devs here are making much less than $50 / hr, and are just as qualified to make production apps. The internet makes it easy to hire someone from farther away, just be sure that they share your vision - detailed specs are a must!

This kind of Ask HN could easily be abused if it becomes a trend. There are plenty of other websites that are more exactly suited to answering his question, and in a more direct and actionable way, based on a real submitted spec.

noted. I wasn't trying to abuse HN with this post, just trying to get an idea about whether any type of a dynamic site can be created for under 2k. I'll refrain from this type of speculative posting in the future.

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