South Africa’s Most Expensive Website
Provincial Government Website Costs Taxpayers R140M
Well, that’s one version of the story. The Free State Provincial government claims it spent only R40M – on 38 websites! Whichever version is true, the questions remain;
- why does a provincial government need to have 38 websites?
- hho in their right mind pays over R1M for any small website?
- if the R140M is correct, then surely the websites must be massive – with thousands of pages, highly functional, and completely custom designed from the ground up.
Expensive Free State Website
The website causing the controversy is the official website of the Free State Provincial Government (Province is similar to a US State) www.freestateonline.fs.gov.za
What Is Special About This Very Expensive Website?
In short – nothing. In fact the Free State website is a WordPress site, using a cheap commercial theme. The theme is London Live. a $40 USD theme from Themeforest. It has not been extensively customised.
Is it massive? Definitely not. Although I haven’t counted the number of pages, looking at the menus and links, it’s less than 100 pages, plus a handful of news (blog) articles.
Is the Website Well Built?
No, it’s not. From a professional web developers point of view, whoever built this website was not a ‘professional’ The site lacks some of the most basic requirements for a modern website.
- No Sitemap! I was not able to find an XML sitemap for this site. Who gets paid to build a website, and doesn’t know a sitemap is a basic requirement.
- Not Cached! As far as I can tell, the site is not even cached.
- No SEO markup! This expensive website has no meta markup – no meta title, no meta description, no robots markup.
- No Open Graph meta data. Surely in today’s world, Open Graph meta is the norm, not the exception.
Maintenance seems poor as well. As a commentator writes on Mybroadband.co.za
The Free State Online website is not updated particularly often. According to the website’s ‘recent additions’ list there were only 5 new articles over the last 3 months.
The website’s comment system contains spam comments, which raises questions about the level of maintenance on the website.
This most expensive website is poorly indexed in Google SERP. A site search for “freestateonline.fs.gov.za” and “site: freestateonline.fs.gov.za” doesn’t even bring the front page up on page 1 of Google.co.za SERP, nor any other pages for that matter. In fact, ‘site: search’ didn’t return a single page in the top 10 SERP results pages.
Unknown Web Designer
The company claiming credit for this website “Powered by: Cherry Online Design ” doesn’t have their own website. They have a domain, with a message stating the website is’ coming soon’. Question is, how does a brand new or totally unknown company get awarded a 1M, 40M or 140M contra\ct to deliver a website. Judging by Cherry Online Design’s example of their work with the Free State Government website – I certainly won’t be offering them any outsourced web development work.
Whatever the cost of this website – whether 1 million, 40 million or 140 million Rand, it cost too much. In my opinion, a reasonable price would have been under 100,000 rand, well under R100k. I charge above average fees (by South African standards) for web development – I would have charged less than R100k. But then, I wouldn’t have put in a quote – I don’t take government or state contracts…
- South African province spends $15.4m (140m ZAR) on WordPress site (techcentral.co.za)
- The most expensive WordPress template in the world? (lennymaysay.wordpress.com)