Websites: The $60 question

Can a site that costs just £35 be any good? Clint Witchalls outsources his home page - and is surprised at the results

Computers defeated me. After 15 years of frustration and boredom, I finally abandoned my IT career in March 2002. I had lost. The machines had won. I vowed never to attempt to program one ever again, not even a two-line macro.

I took to writing about them instead. The only applications I'd use would be a word processor, e-mail and occasionally a spreadsheet - just to please my accountant - but that was all. No more monkeying about with code. But then people started asking me what my web address was. When I told them I didn't have one, they were incredulous. A technology writer who didn't have a website? What kind of strange beast was I, they wanted to know.

Shamed by my lack of HTML skills, I told a friend, who'd launched several unsuccessful e-commerce ventures during the Nineties boom, that I planned to build my own site. "You don't want to do that," he said. "You can't even program your washing machine. You should outsource." I reminded him that I'm not a multinational PLC. I'm one man with a very tight budget.

That's when he told me about personal outsourcing. Apparently, it's possible to pass on the teensiest IT problem to a third party in the developing world. It's all done via a website called www.rentacoder.com - you write down the details of the program or website you want developed, post your requirements on Rent A Coder, and wait for bids.

On Sunday 18 September, I wrote a simple request for a personal website. I thought it best to give the bid process 21 days, to give the developers enough time to prepare their pitches.

The following morning, there was an e-mail in my inbox from the Rent A Coder facilitator. She said: "Hi Clint, I have good news. Your bid request has been approved for posting. Your bid request is now: 1) Available to 115,007 programmers for viewing..."

Following that were 63 bids. The first message was from Florida. It said: "Hello, i can do your work what you want. i have very good work experiance in Flash as well as Html sites and logo designing." She offered to do the work for $100 (£58). Someone called "Babe" offered to build the entire site for $10. Her message enigmatically read: "When can we start. Cursed." Most of the messages were equally strange. A guy who bid $17 wrote: "Is there anything else an amateur journalist could do for a pro, just send him a reply!"

The e-mails ranged from the technical - "I am hardcore programmer into asp, visual basic, xml and Ms-sql" - to the bizarre - "I, Shine caprio, is Ranked No 13,244 out of 115,483 (higher than 88.53 per cent of my peers)" - to the barely comprehensible: "sir I'n make you one only on html." Someone called Osama offered to do the work for $800. He advised: "As a journalist you need a blog to post your articles in it and get comments from the public on it."

The e-mails arrived faster than I could process them. I decided to go cheap, but not too cheap (what could I really expect for $10?). I settled for a company, eNFINITY, which said they'd do the job for $60. I assumed eNFINITY was based somewhere like Manila or Guangzhou, but it was from New Mexico.

At first, I was nervous about paying a company on the other side of the world for a website I'd only very loosely specified. Luckily, it wasn't much cash, but in any case, the whole process has been carefully thought through. The funds are held in escrow and only released when you're happy with the work. If you're not satisfied and can't settle things with the developer, Rent A Coder conducts an online arbitration to settle the dispute.

Shortly after I accepted the bid, I had an e-mail from Luke at eNFINITY. He said my request was basic and he could get the whole thing done and dusted very quickly. It was at this point that I realised I didn't have much content to give to the developer. I grabbed a few bits, scribbled some text (I could always change it later), and sent them to Luke.

A couple of days later, I e-mailed Luke to see how things were going. No reply. Damn! I knew it was too good to be true. My $60 would be locked in escrow in perpetuity. Then an e-mail arrived from eNFINITY to say the site was done and I could take a look (www.clint-witchalls.co.uk).

My expectations weren't high, but I was impressed. The site isn't going to win a Webby, but at least I have something to build on, and when I finally decide on some proper content, I know there's a company in New Mexico that can help.

My last e-mail from Luke said: "Hi Clint, I'll write you a little tutorial on how to update and add to your site. Of course, if you ever need any assistance with this at any time, you can contact me directly via e-mail and I'll help ya out. I can send to your e-mail directly or on here if you want. Let me know. Thanks, Luke." Now, that's what I call service. I paid £35 and he's still offering to do more work.

I asked Pedalo Limited, a London-based web design agency, what they thought of the site. Their marketing manager Beth O'Connor sent a written reply: "It is obviously a very basic design, likely to have been designed from a template as opposed to a bespoke design. Even with a small budget, the agency could have added a splash of colour."

She went on to say that "the simplicity of the site's design and functionality suggests that it was delivered on a very small budget". Too right. "We would not consider delivering a site of this quality, with our author clients generally investing between £1,000 and £5,000 for the development, hosting and promotion of their personal websites."

For development and hosting, I paid the grand sum of £75. It's horses for courses, I guess, and my old pony will do me just fine.

Arts and Entertainment
books
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
peopleAlice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
The Digicub app, for young fans
advertisingNSPCC 'extremely concerned'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, RSPSS, R, AI, CPLEX, SQL)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Law Costs

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - This is a very unusual law c...

Junior VB.NET Application Developer (ASP.NET, SQL, Graduate)

£28000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior VB.NET ...

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution