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Why Cheap Programming is Expensive

Mark Edwards
26-06-2004

We recently finished a website programming job for a client. We were looking after the back end administration suite for the site. As part of the original brief we quoted to do the coding for the public part of the site. We did not get that work as another cheaper quote was accepted.



As the job progressed, we were able to clearly point out why our price was dearer and where the extra value was and why the client will end up paying a lot more than what was saved by using the "cheaper" price.



Why less is better.



The site design is quite similar to the layout of our own Raycon website. To view the source code behind a website all you need to do is right click on the page and select "view source" which will show the code in a text reader. Try it now on the front page of www.raycon.com.au and you will see that this page is coded using just 28 lines of HTML code, a total of 3 kilobytes.



The client website was coded using over 200 lines of HTML code for a whopping 15 kilobytes, even though the two designs are similar.



The size of this code alone will add about 5 seconds to the download time for this webpage for someone on a dialup connection.



To make matters worse, the Raycon website only has 4 additional elements to finish dowloading the page whilst the client site has 31! Even on a cable modem, the client site is painfully slow to appear.



The final blow is that the client site used a design style which requires almost the whole page to be downloaded before anything appears, so you really notice the long delay in loading the page. In contrast, the Raycon site almost instantly displays the page content for you to read then adds in the last few graphical elements. Whilst the download time on Raycon is already short, the user notices it less because they have something to read on the page whilst it is going on in the background.



All of this will cause visitors to leave our client's poorly coded website because they don't want to wait for it to download.



Complex code is difficult for people and search engines to decipher.



When we am working on a site like Raycon, it is very simple to work out where to start when changes have to be made. On the client's website, changes are very difficult as the complex code is easy to "break" causing the page to display incorrectly. This makes changes more costly.



In addition, when a search engine visits your website to decide where it should rank, it needs to read the page code to work out what the purpose of the page is. Search engines do not properly index pages built with incomprehensible, bloated code. Our client pays again for their cheap code with poor search engine rankings.



This is why cheap programming is expensive.

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