Cost of web development vs desktop development.

Cost of web development vs desktop development.

Does anybody have some kind of ball park figure as what the differences in costs are when developing an application for the desktop as compared to the web?

I do realize that this questions kind of a little bit like how long does a ball of string have to be to reach between two cities (answer: as long as it needs to be!).

Looking at an application that has say about a 100 forms, what kind of differences would one see in a web based system as opposed to a desktop system in terms of cost?

Anyone have a typical experience or hands-on experience with building the equivalent application both ways? (or perhaps an older desktop system was re-built for the web and you have some comparsion).

The ball park numbers I hear are about 3-5 times cost. However with better tools like asp.net, perhaps only a factor of 2 times is reasonable?

One fellow I recently talked to said basically he just adds one zero on the end cost if it going to be web based. I am beginning to think that 10 times number is not that far off!

Albert D. Kallal
Edmonton, Alberta Canada
kallal@msn.com

Albert D. Kallal Send private email
donderdag 25 juni 2009

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 
Surprised – I would have said 10x the other way around!

The users have a higher expectation of desktop apps, they expect to be able to instantly scroll to the bottom of a grid view with 10,000 rows and be able to drag column widths whereas on the web they are happy to wait a second to see the next 20 entries.

On the web you also have a database and templating/framework for all the io stuff rather than having to handle everything your self in a desktop app.

Plus testing and support is vastly easier just because of the control you have over the environment.

Martin Send private email
donderdag 25 juni 2009

 

3 to 5 times would be a decent estimate but it really depends on the nature of the application.  If you were trying to imitate a rich desktop application as a WEB app, it might be higher although 10X is a bit of a reach.    If it were simpler, it would be nearer the low end.  There is no right or easy answer.
psant Send private email
donderdag 25 juni 2009

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 
 

Also consider the relative cost of deployment, maintenance and support.  With a web based app you can easily make incremental releases of features, quickly release bug fixes, and have much more control over the deployment environment.  All of these tasks are much more complicated in a deployed desktop app.
Jason Send private email
donderdag 25 juni 2009

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 
 

Interesting question…I’ve done some VB6 and ASP programming for the same application and I found it much easier and simpler to do it using ASP. Less coding and the controls are fewer and the UIs are simpler. So I what agree with Martin that it should be the other way around probably about 40% simpler for web.

On the other hand, you are also have to factor in what language you are using :-

1. VB.NET / C#  -vs- ASP.NET

2. Java desktop  -vs- JSP/JSF/servlets

The cost factors for 1. and 2. above would be different  (especially having to factor in Swing and that JavaFX is only in its infancy!) and the factoring ration between the desktop effort and web effort would also be different for the two technologies above.

Ezani Send private email
donderdag 25 juni 2009

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 
 

According to the function points analysis it is identical.
darkt Send private email
vrijdag 26 juni 2009

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 
 

Probably about 2-3x more.

But the deployment costs are a lot less (hopefully zero), and deployment cost is the only reason why you should be doing it.

Jimmy Jones Send private email
vrijdag 26 juni 2009

 
 

I would say that web development is much easier that desktop development, although of course it depends on the actual circumstances.

It also depends to a large extent on the tools you use. Back in the day, when Notepad was your web development "IDE", things were a lot slower than they are now.

An interesting data point is a project I did recently for a large financial company. Rather than create every last form myself, I created a "framework" which allowed the business users to create their own forms, and reports, data sources, business rules, etc.

This was really successful, in that one full-time and two part-time business users were able to design, build and test a sophisticated system, with over 2,000 forms in a year.

I don’t think many developers could equal that rate of work, although the business users had a big advantage, in that they didn’t have to explain everything and write it down.

For me, it was the perfect project, as I didn’t need to get bogged down in the minute details, like how many pixels wide the client name box should be, etc. Everything was declarative, so stored as data, which is rendered at run-time (cached). Those 2,000 forms ran via a single ASP.NET "page" (Http Handler).

I suppose I could render the "forms" to WinForms, WPF, Silverlight, etc, too, so the same principle would apply. However, at the time, the client insisted upon it being web-based to match their strategy.

Scorpio Send private email
vrijdag 26 juni 2009

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 
 

Scorpio – that sounds like the holy grail of development 🙂

How on earth did you bake in enough flexibility for 2000 forms with business rules and reporting?

Share your secrets 🙂

James "Smiler" Farrer Send private email
vrijdag 26 juni 2009

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 
 

I had many years of designing and developing desktop applications before I made the switch to web development, so I can speak from practical experience.

Although the choice of language has an impact (few languages can handle both desktop and web development – they usually excel at one and suck at the other) the most important factor is the framework. I have been developing my own frameworks since 1985 – in COBOL, Uniface and PHP – and I have regulary outperformed all the other frameworks that I have seen.

Using Uniface 6 I built an application which had 44 tables, 91 relationships and 110 forms in 12 weeks. That’s 9 forms per week.

Using Uniface 7 (with a new framework) I built an application which had 19 tables, 18 relationships and 60 forms in 5 weeks. That’s 12 forms per week.

Using PHP I built an application which had 130 tables, 240 relationships and 1000 forms in 26 weeks. That’s 38 forms per week.

So in my experience the same application will take significantly less development time when built for the web. That is provided that I am able to use my own framework – anything else and all bets are off.

Tony Marston Send private email
vrijdag 26 juni 2009

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 
 

As mentioned, there no one simple answer here.

I am surprised that we see a good number of comments that web development can be cheaper then desktop (this is the FIRST time I ever heard this point of view).  As for deployment, and updates, well I think any software for the desktop these days has some type of automated update system built in (my software does, and just about anything else does these days).

While the nature and functionally of web screens tend to be more simple (this is good!), the coding required to built applications tends to be more work then desktop systems. 

A few here pointed out the 3-5 times is ball park figure for increased costs when doing a web system. As I mentioned, several people I talked to said the factor is greater. So $5000 project for the desktop will cost about $25,000 to $30,000 if you build it for the web.

Of course, for people only doing web applications and not desktop, then it becomes hard to compare without previous experience.

I mean, if web development is so much cheaper then for just about any business application why write for the desktop then? We not taking about a graphical editor system here, but line of business applications like accounting and payroll, quotes etc.

Anyway, while I not surprised by a few people here mentioning 3-5 times more work for a web system (that very much what I heard for the last 10 years). It is a BIG surprise to hear several people here having the view of web systems are less cost to develop.

 If web systems are such less cost, then why on earth would anyone be developing desktop systems for most line of business software like a quote system, invoicing system, or employee management or payroll system?

Why would a business spend 2 or 3 times the cost to have a desktop system when they can have a web system that cost less? I mean for the most part desktop systems are built over that of web systems becuase they cost so much less to develop.

I not trying to throw bath water on web stuff being cheaper to develop, but this point of view is a surprise to me.

Albert D. Kallal
Edmonton, Alberta Canada
kallal@msn.com

Albert D. Kallal Send private email
vrijdag 26 juni 2009

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 
 

James "Smiler" Farrer: "that sounds like the holy grail of development"

It was interesting. Of course, the business loved it, but the existing IT guys felt threatened and became really hostile, even sabotaging the system when I was away on holidays (they dropped all the indexes and duplicated the data dozens of times, then said it would never work as it was too slow).

It was flexible enough to allow 2,000 screens, etc because it was completely generic. It would be useful for pretty much any Line of Business application.

Sadly, I can’t give away all the secrets, as it is not unrelated to the next project my µISV is working on 😉

Scorpio Send private email
vrijdag 26 juni 2009

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 
 

>Why would a business spend 2 or 3 times the cost to have a desktop system when they can have a web system that cost less?

I don’t know about your business, but in ours, the desktop apps have about 15 years of incremental development in them, and if we "moved them to the web" then it would be like Joel’s description of Netscape rewriting everything:
http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/fog0000000069.html

Our web app is mostly a collaboration piece, while the desktop apps do most of the number crunching. If we moved the number crunching to our servers, we’d need much larger and expensive servers.

Peter Send private email
vrijdag 26 juni 2009

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 
 

When I had to develop my first web app and did not know how to estimate I asked a friend from a consulting company, he said I should estimate as a desktop app and then:

x3 if there is nothing strange
x5 if you have to do esoteric things (like a strange database or a combination of frameworks unknown to you)

So far he’s been right

regards

Jorge Diaz Tambley Send private email
vrijdag 26 juni 2009

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 
 

Just because it has been *MY* experience that I can develop a web application in a shorter time than a desktop application does not mean that *EVERY* programmer will have the same experience.

I have only achieved this developent speed because I use my own framework which is written in PHP, so if someone else is NOT using my framework then their development times can be (and usually are) considerably larger.

So just because SOME programmers say that web development will take longer and therefore be more expensive than desktop development does not necessarily make it so. There are too many variables to be considered, but the skill of the programmer, the choice of language AND the framework can have a significant impact.

As someone who has many year’s experience in both desktop and web development my findings should not be dismissed as the ravings of a lunatic (which I expect they will be).

Tony Marston Send private email
vrijdag 26 juni 2009 

 _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
 

"I created a "framework" which allowed the business users to create their own forms, and reports, data sources, business rules, etc."

That’s funny – I inherited a system a while back which should have been a nice simple data entry app with maybe 50 forms tops. The guy they brought in to do it put on his Architecture Astronaut suit and spent almost a year coming up with a "framework" that was so inflexible, we had to make 1900+ forms instead of 50, to work around all the little things he didn’t think of in his beautiful generic design.

After he left we had to add indices all over the place to fix fundamental problems in his database design. Nowadays, to add a new form in his generic framework is 10x more complicated than it would be just to create in code, and the performance is horrible. We are in the process of rewriting it, looks like it will be about 10% of the code, faster, and a lot simpler.

GregT Send private email
vrijdag 26 juni 2009

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 
 

"I am surprised that we see a good number of comments that web development can be cheaper then desktop"

I’m not sure why you should be so surprised — web applications are inherently *simpler* as long as you aren’t trying to emulate a desktop application.

An automated update system is not really the same as having  your entire application run on the server.  I’m presently pushing out a new update every day and the users don’t even have to log off.  I have the system email me exception reports automatically, sometimes I can fix and deploy within 10 minutes.  Quick turnaround really improves development time.

If I want to add new functionality to the app, I can do so pretty much without affecting any other part of the application.  If it’s buggy and crashes, it affects just that single request. 

There’s more up-front coding time, in my opinion, in a web application but the curve flattens out over the long term and eventually it becomes easier and cheaper.  Most of the cost is building up a reasonable framework to support your look and feel, forms, etc.  Once that’s done, most of the pain is behind you.

"I mean, if web development is so much cheaper then for just about any business application why write for the desktop then?"

Presently that’s what I’m finding — everybody wants web applications and there’s very little traction on desktop applications.  In the separate consulting that I do, I work specifically with a product that has both a desktop and web versions installed and the web versions is by far more popular and gets updated more frequently. 

"If web systems are such less cost, then why on earth would anyone be developing desktop systems for most line of business software like a quote system, invoicing system, or employee management or payroll system?"

Ironically, I develop a invoice, employee management, calendaring, and payroll system for the web.  The difficult parts of the project really have nothing to do with the web; I’d have to solve the same problems for either style of client.  Sometimes the UI constraints are a pain the ass but then users seem to prefer a simpler UI.  It’s *way* easier to market but that’s not really part of this discussion.

"I not trying to throw bath water on web stuff being cheaper to develop, but this point of view is a surprise to me."

That’s because you’re a desktop developer, probably hang out with desktop developers, and everybody is protecting their turf.  But in the same respect, web developers will tell you that their way is the best/cheapest too.

Almost H. Anonymous Send private email
vrijdag 26 juni 2009

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 
 

In terms of development I’d say they’re roughly equal. You need a dev machine, dev tools and training for both. It is running costs which make a huge difference. Web apps cost a LOT more to run than desktop apps. Both require support costs but web apps require you to purchase/rent servers while the hardware purchase is pushed to the user in desktop apps so you only pay for bandwidth.
Martin Pilkington Send private email
vrijdag 26 juni 2009

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 
 

"hardware purchase is pushed to the user in desktop apps"

Assuming, of course, your application is not client/server in any way.  Which, if it isn’t, then it doesn’t even seem to part of this discussion.

Almost H. Anonymous Send private email
vrijdag 26 juni 2009

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 
 

@ Greg T

> Nowadays, to add a new form in his generic framework is
> 10x more complicated than it would be just to create in code

That shows that his framework is a pile of cr*p.  Using my framework you can create a database table, and in 5 minutes you can import it into the data dictionary, export the class files, generate the maintenance transactions, then run those transactions, all without writing a line of code – PHP, HTML or SQL.

If you cannot do the same with *your* framework then you don’t understand the meaning of Rapid Application Development.

Tony Marston Send private email
zaterdag 27 juni 2009

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 
 

+1 to Tony Marston.

Frameworks are generally a good thing, but I guess there can be exceptions, as GregT suggests.

Scorpio Send private email
zaterdag 27 juni 2009

 
 

Thanks for the inputs. As mentioned, some of the shops I know that are involved with both teams of desktop people and web people. They continue to tell me that the web side is far more expensive.

What kind of frameworks as mentioned can make a difference here.

I also very much agree with the concept that web tools and web development Approaches tend to encourage more parameter and template type driven software. I believe this is simply the nature of the beast.

The web is simply so much based on strings (XML, HTML).  Because of the tags and string based nature of the output (rendering) side, then web software lends it self to template types of solutions BETTER then does desktop solutions. I think good web developers take advantage of the template ability and the nature of web environments that render their output with some type of markup language. In fact I would go so far as to say I think this string based nature for the output "presentation" side is the most significant advantage from a productivity point of view for web development.

For those that come from a desktop development environment, the screen rendering tends to be some binary type of system and not a string based layout type language. This has much changed with new desktop tools like .net.  (zammel anyone???).

>>I’m presently pushing out a new update every day and the users don’t even have to log off. 

Sure, you can do incremental releases easier with the web. However, I don’t think that is the deal breaker here (desktop updating is much automated these days anyway).  I understand your point about it being more incremental, but at the end of the day I don’t think it’s a deal breaker from a cost point of view either way.  I’ll suspect this might depend on the kind of software and how much active development is occurring here. Are you being called in every few months to make changes for a client, or do you have two developers actively working on the product all the time for the company, or you are an internal IT deparment.

Albert said: >"I mean, if web development is so much cheaper then for just about any business application why write for the desktop then?"

>>Presently that’s what I’m finding — everybody wants web applications and there’s very little traction on desktop applications.

Well, everybody wants them, but being able to afford a web application is another matter.

Quoting $4000 for a desktop system, or $14,000 for the equivalent web system will change the above opinion quickly.

At the end of the day, the additional development costs of a web system have to be justified.

Building a payroll system for the web that going to be used by one person in the payroll department does not justify spending 3 times the amount.

The benefits of web applications are not so much that it is web based, but web based systems are more suited to self service tasks. With a web based payroll system then employees can check things like their hours worked. They can check how much holiday pay they have coming. They can check how many days off they can take with pay. They can scheduled or request when they want to take their holdays or time off. They can check how many sick leave days they took last year or this year.

A business will spend REAL money for these self serve systems because 20 phone calls in a day x 6 minutes per call  = TWO HOURS of labor saved with a self serve system. You prevent 20 calls in one day you just saved TWO HOURS of labor. That is a lot and just about any business I know will instantly open up the wallet for this kind of stuff.

So spending 3-5 times building a web based payroll system that going to be used by 1 human resource person in the accounting department does not make sense. However, those self service parts can often clinch the deal.

Another approach is to build a hybrid system.  So, the employee part of the system can be justified for being a web system, but the guts and most of the payroll system will be written for the desktop. This approach can save a lot of money in development costs.

To be fair and honest, a lot of times these hybrid systems are a result of legacy software. So it is not practical to rewrite everything in the application for the web. In these cases, then adding the self serve parts for external customers or internal employees makes the most sense.

I’m not really sure if it’s the desktop developers protecting their turf over that of web based developers protecting their turf in terms of pointing out which is more expensive or less. I’ve found in most cases when I come up with budgets, the web ones are a lot more in cost.

On the other hand I’m about to start playing with some nifty new tools that in my humble opinion will bring web costs down to that of the desktop (sorry, it is a NDA product right now…but I have high hopes for it and will make mention of it when I am allowed to do so).

Albert D. Kallal
Edmonton, Alberta Canada
kallal@msn.com

Albert D. Kallal Send private email
zaterdag 27 juni 2009

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 
 

Strange question.. it’s like comparing oranges to refrigerators. Some applications fit better for desktop, some fit better for web. How on earth can anyone compare without knowing the nature of the app? I’ve seen several projects failed miserably when web technologies were selected instead of desktop rich clients. And the other way around. Flipping the forms and paging around fits better for the web stuff. But once user experience gets a bit more complex – things are falling apart.
Dima Send private email
zaterdag 27 juni 2009

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 
 

"Quoting $4000 for a desktop system, or $14,000 for the equivalent web system will change the above opinion quickly."

That’s a pretty big difference — I don’t know where you are getting your numbers from.

"So spending 3-5 times building a web based payroll system"

Again, why is it assumed that it’ll be 3-5 times as much?  I do both web and desktop and I have enough web experience to bang out your basic CRUD application in less time than the equivalent desktop application.

"I understand your point about it being more incremental"

No, I don’t think you do.  I just finished a simple one-page web application for a client.  It was designed to solve a simple business task that needed to be tracked electronically.  The requirements were spelled out, but when a client sees the final product they always want some change.  You want to move around fields?  Rename them?  Add a few here?  Take away a few here?  It literally takes minutes to make these changes and get them right back into the clients hands.  That’s a significant savings.

Almost H. Anonymous Send private email
zaterdag 27 juni 2009

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 
 
>Again, why is it assumed that it’ll be 3-5 times as much? 

Because that is very the much experience and numbers I seen in our industry.

And, it also the numbers that owners of IT shops I know have told me. And we even have several posters in this thread that also agreed with and much reiterated those numbers. 

>It literally takes minutes to make these changes and get them right back into the clients hands.  That’s a significant savings.

It not always a big savings. It not less time to move around things for a desktop application then as compared to a web one? Thus, the issue becomes how much additional work and time is it to have the client get a message that a new version of their software is available and they press ok to get the update?  This takes less then 30 seconds of time in TOTAL.

For the example we been talking about that payroll system. You only have 1 or 2 people using the desktop application, so exactly what kinds of big huge extra huge deployment costs are we talking about?

Sure, lets be fair, the issue of savings for deployment can come into play here if there is lots of desktops. However, this issue will OFTEN come down to how the software is updated in these cases. For a typical small business or even a department within an large organization this often a  non issue. Again: not in all cases, but for most cases the update issue is not the big cost issue here.

> I have enough web experience to bang out your basic CRUD application in less time than the equivalent desktop application.

Great! If you have consultants and people you know with different numbers, then that is exactly why I asked the question here. I wanted some feedback if these numbers are in fact changing in our industry. The fact that YOU can build applications in the same time changes nothing for the general average in our industry.

It would be great if all developers were like you but that is just the not the case and that is not the numbers I getting from IT shops that do both kinds of development.

I have seen some improvements occurring for web based systems however. This is especially the case with really great development tools. So, good software designs and good IDE’s with good languages and DECENT compilers etc allows one to build applications with lots of code in LESS time these days. Or at least in the time approaching that of a typical desktop app. 

I mean, the guts of the coding and program logic should not really be really much different these days. As several people mentioned here people are not building these web applications with PHP by using notepad anymore. Since most of the program coding can be done really good languages and great compilers and great IDE’s, then things are much improved in this regards. I not sure I would want to write code for the tax laws in PHP.

It is quite amazing that Joel said that only 4 people built stackoverflow. Joel said he used the .net environment and commented that the performance of the system is really amazing. (that .net web stuff is compiled). Joel said he has 3 million developers signed up on stackoverflow. The whole thing runs on just two servers. So, I think the number of people being serviced, and the fact that the application was built by 4 developers is incredible. Tools are MUCH better today, no doubt about it.

Hence, I think it is reasonable to assume the gap is narrowing for the costs of desktop vs that of web, but the gap never the less still exists in our industry despite some people’s experience like yours.

Albert D. Kallal
Edmonton, Alberta Canada
kallal@msn.com

Albert D. Kallal Send private email
zondag 28 juni 2009

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 
 

 
"You only have 1 or 2 people using the desktop application"

That’s so small, I’m not sure I’d even bother with a custom desktop solution.

"that is not the numbers I getting from IT shops that do both kinds of development."

There are web design shops doing development — they don’t have experience building software.  They create small scale solutions and are occasionally tasked to build something beyond their ability.  The results are typically way over-budget and of poor quality.

Then there are the more traditional shops, who build desktop applications but really don’t understand web development.  Microsoft fell into this trap originally with ASP.NET and has now gotten it with ASP.NET MVC.  Their is a huge difference in approach between these technologies.  If you have skills in proper desktop app development, you’re not going to be comfortable with the differences in web development.  So, of course, the cost is going to be greater.  I don’t think it’s an issue of tools, I think it’s merely an experience issue.

"It is quite amazing that Joel said that only 4 people built stackoverflow."

See that doesn’t surprise me at all.  I don’t what to underestimate the effort that has gone into it — but honestly, when you break it down, it’s basically just a big forum.  How many developers should that take?  These developers were experienced in building web applications, they know all the issues, and so they just got it done with minimal design mistakes.

Stackoverflow could have just as easily been written in open source tools (like PHP even) and have similar performance and development time.  Pick one of the hundreds of frameworks for your platform, target project, and development style and half the battle is over already.

Almost H. Anonymous Send private email
zondag 28 juni 2009

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 
 

>There are web design shops doing development — they don’t have experience building software.

To me the above hits the nail on the head. We have to distinguish between a web site with content and that of application development. They are very different issues. The above is factor in these longer dev times. (great point).

>Stackoverflow could have just as easily been written in open source tools (like PHP even) and have similar performance and development time. 

You know, I can’t say one way or the other.  I am not here to toot ones horn one way or the other for someone’s favorite platform.

Considering there only about 9 million developers on the planet, then stackoverflow has 1/3 of them, that is stunning achievement and success on Joel’s part. The social engineering Joel has on that board sets the standard for all other question + answer forums ( I love how it works, and even penalizes one for too many comments – it is just brilliant).

Anyway, I am not sure if PHP is generally compiled like .net is (.net uses a JIT), but regardless the numbers of people being served with Joel’s designs seems VERY impressive. As always, it seems good developers with good tools and training make software run very well indeed.

Albert D. Kallal
Edmonton, Alberta Canada
kallal@msn.com

Albert D. Kallal Send private email
zondag 28 juni 2009

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 
 

"To me the above hits the nail on the head. We have to distinguish between a web site with content and that of application development."

Absolutely.  Although they tend to mixed up in people’s minds.  For example, I only do web application development and couldn’t visually design a web page to save my life.

"Anyway, I am not sure if PHP is generally compiled like .net is (.net uses a JIT)"

It’s byte-code compiled and then interpreted.  It’s usually even re-compiled per request unless you use a code cache.  However, the run-time speed of the language is rarely the bottle-neck in web performance.  Huge sites like Facebook and Yahoo run on PHP. 

Good performance rarely comes from the tools.  It’s about managing caching, reducing requests, and doing all sorts of things you’d know how to do if you’ve been doing it long enough.  No matter what tool you use, unless you plan for it, you’re performance will be average.  However, average will most often be more than good enough.

Almost H. Anonymous Send private email
maandag 29 juni 2009

 
______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 

 

@Albert
With all due respect to you, I just don’t get the same experience as you with the difference between desktop development and web development.

I would say that web development is easier and cheaper than desktop, not several times more expensive.

I have many years experience (25) of designing and building both desktop and web applications, and there is no way I would ever go back to doing desktop stuff now.

Of course, YMMV, IMHO, etc.

Scorpio Send private email
maandag 29 juni 2009

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 
 

>With all due respect to you, I just don’t get the same experience as you with the difference between desktop development and web development.

That is fair. Fact is we had quite a few people step in here, and say that they’ve not found these major differences in costs of development. So there are people making your case here.

>I would say that web development is easier and cheaper than desktop, not several times more expensive.

It’s interesting, because several posters said that you can’t make comparisons and it’s apples and oranges.  I think Comparisons can be made. I don’t think anyone’s going to argue that making a full windows like interfaces with AJAX going to cost more than a simplified web interface. However that’s not my point.

My point is lets  take a functional spec, and have some developers build an application. Fact is good web developers will simplify the interface, and that can save money, but at the end of the day I’m still not totally convinced it’s cheaper to do it this way. It’s hard to cut through that initial my tools or design methodology is better than those guys kind of thing we seeing here!!

For the most part that one of the beauties of the web is we tend to pare down the interface to the basic requirements needed. So I’m NOT actually trying to make the comparison with some type of fancy windows interface here at all.

I think the other issue that’s not been touched on, is often web and desktop applications have a different nature. So one might write a payroll system for the desktop, but the part that allows employees to view some of information such as their holiday pay is going to be a web based interface. That web interface does not need very much application code then does it?

That web application is often displaying information that’s already been built and gathered through a complex software application in the first place. This is somewhat more akin to a writing reports for a system that already has its data.

Of couse, if there is no legacy system involved, then the web developers are writing the application code AND ALSO the web display + interface part (and this is the same for the desktop).

And, there’s some significant savings to be had with using things like SQL server reporting services for the web.  I guess where I see some of these silly numbers in terms of cost is that you have some developers hand coding their web reports and that is just plain silly.  It like doing web layouts by hand!!!

So, I do think web applications tend to be more gathering and presentation of data and thus this skews one into thinking that softwaer applications will cost less. Alternatively, perhaps this gathering observation is simply because there’s so much legacy software out there, then that’s going to be the nature of most web applications by default anyway.

Albert D. Kallal
Edmonton, Alberta Canada
kallal@msn.com

Albert D. Kallal Send private email
maandag 29 juni 2009 

 ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
 

"Fact is good web developers will simplify the interface, and that can save money, but at the end of the day I’m still not totally convinced it’s cheaper to do it this way."

Your OP stated "an application that has say about a 100 forms".  So we’re talking about a CRUD application.  I don’t see why the web interface necessary has to be simplified.  You’re dealing with forms, you pop those on a window or pop those on a page — the difference isn’t huge.  If you want to get fancy, you’re going to spend a lot of time on form #1 and then reuse that for the other 99 forms.

The question is, why you’d think developing such an application on the desktop is so much simpler?  The only real significant difference here is the canvas for your controls. 

"So, I do think web applications tend to be more gathering and presentation of data"

That’s true, they don’t call it a browser for nothing!  But, I didn’t really think that was the topic of discussion here.  I think we’re talking about real honest-to-goodness applications with all the data entry you could want.

"Alternatively, perhaps this gathering observation is simply because there’s so much legacy software out there, then that’s going to be the nature of most web applications by default anyway."

This is true, but as soon as you show people information from another application in the browser, they immediately want to be able to manipulate it there.

Almost H. Anonymous Send private email
maandag 29 juni 2009 

 _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
 

From the sounds of it, you do not have much experience developing for the web. So especially for your first few projects, this will take longer then an equivalent desktop application.

While others can do it quicker and produce something simpler, that just means in the longer term transitioning over some of the applications to the web may end up being beneficial.

You then just need to consider what the benefits of making a web application are. As others have mentioned, deploying updates is easier from the users’ perspective because there is less for them to do. From my experience I find that the web applications can be simpler to deploy assuming that you have easy access to the web server and can easily transfer the files to it.

Some of the other benefits to consider is where is the user getting and saving her data to? Is this from a database which they have easy access to, or it is easier for a website to gain access to that data. Where does the user need to access the application from. Do they always need to be in the office, or would it be useful for them to access it from outside the office, maybe from their home computer? Does the user need to work in an offline mode, and if they do the desktop version can be easier to implement this in.

What it comes down to is understanding the trade-off between the two different approaches and how they apply to your situation.

Ross Goddard Send private email
maandag 29 juni 2009

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 
 

Albert: "So, I do think web applications tend to be more gathering and presentation of data and thus this skews one into thinking that softwaer applications will cost less"

There our paths diverge again, Albert.

I suspect that you are going to remain unconvinced regardless, so with the greatest of respect, I will not offer further thoughts on this matter.

Scorpio Send private email
dinsdag 30 juni 2009

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 
 

Albert, I think that your main problem here is not that you’re using the wrong metric to compare desktop and Web applications. As you say, we could take two teams of comparably competent developers, give them the same functional specs and see which will cost more to complete.

However, the total cost of development is far from being the only, or even the most important factor here. The bottom line is that different factors will matter differently to different customers, and the decision to build for desktop or Web will be affected with all of them, not only cost. One factor is time — if one of the teams above is able to finish its task a couple weeks before the other, this alone might be the deal-breaker for some customers. Other factors involve communication with legacy software, speed of execution, ease of deployment to many users, customization of interface, scalability, maintainability etc etc.

The fact is that you can’t decide on the desktop vs. Web based solely on the cost of development — one should list all the requirements and decide for each one which approach is better suited or maybe even impossible. It’s not a Web vs. desktop question at all — it’s the question of finding the best tool for the job.

To cut the long story short, Albert — I strongly urge you to take some time and do some Web development. I don’t know what platforms/languages are your forte, but I’m pretty certain that you won’t have a hard time finding a Web development framework in it. I’m not asking you this because I think that Web is better than desktop — I just think that you can’t understand all the arguments before you experience the both sides yourself. You are obviously not taking anyone’s word for granted, and you shouldn’t — do the research and make up your own mind.

Berislav Lopac Send private email
dinsdag 30 juni 2009

 _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

2 thoughts on “Cost of web development vs desktop development.”

  1. Oh well. The guys that are starting their careers builing websites, build lousy applications. The guys that are used to buidling Uniface applications build stable rock-solid business applications, but lousy websites. Maybe both groups should join forces?

  2. i came along this question in the office some time ago. Doing the web-thing is more slick, platform-independent BUT requires more time for the UI and knowledge in HTML, Javascript and Stylesheets. The funny thing is, that one of our customers increasingly prefer the web interfaces … 😉

Leave a Reply