The UK Government recently released data detailing the costs of designing, developing, hosting and ongoing staffing of Government websites. The details are literally eye watering.
The headline figure for businesslink.gov.uk alone is that it cost £35m in design, development and hosting in 2009/10 alone. Don’t forget to add the staff costs of £788,000. With a total approaching £36m, the yearly budget for running the Business Link website is staggering, and it is hard to see from a rational perspective how it could have cost so much.
I have no insider knowledge of the Business Link website provision contracts but my educated guess is that a lot of money was spent on very costly technology – both hardware and possibly custom development or proprietary software. But in addition to this it appears that Business Link paid a substantial amount – over £15m – for content provision.
It seems that Government is more comfortable dealing with large and expensive suppliers who perhaps have vested interests in selling their own technology rather than giving thought to the huge benefits to be gained from planning what is required and finding a cost effective technology solution to fit those requirements.
Remember, Business Link does not have a spanking brand new site which you might expect to have initially high costs which would taper off reducing to hosting and content provision costs with perhaps some costs for updating the design or adding some new functionality. The Business Link website is a mature site having been live for a number of years.
There is a lot of content on the Business Link website, but is it really that much more than, say, nhs.uk, the next most expensive Government website at a paltry £21m, but which looks aesthetically much more pleasing and has a ton of content to boot. To add insult to injury, Business Link does not appear to have official Twitter, Facebook or YouTube accounts, and this is an organisation that is supposed to be advising business on how to get the most out of the web!
One would hope that there may be some sort of long-term tangible pay back for this massive investment on web technology, but that looks increasingly unlikely as there are plans to scale down the regional Business Links as part of the Government spending review.
Business Link is expecting a substantial cut in its annual £190m budget, so it will be interesting to see what the figures for the website are next year.
If you want a new website designed without paying Government rates, take a look at the (reasonably priced) WhizzyDigital website design packages.