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$100 Drupal Site Series: Part 7 - Wrapping it Up

Thanks to everyone who read the posts in my $100 Drupal site series. Today I will be responding to some of the points people have raised in comments and via email as well as adding a few closing comments.

Undervaluing Labour

Some have suggested that the only way to make a venture like this work is to work for a few dollars an hour. I completely disagree with that! If you are building every project from scratch and only charging your clients 100USD, you will be working for peanuts, but I'm not advocating that model. I'm encouraging people to rethink how they manage their development workflow. Although there are initial costs in learning new tools, over time you will end up spending less time on site builds and so increase your profits.

$100 is too Cheap

I agree that 100USD is very cheap for a high quality Drupal site and in most western markets it is probably too cheap. Sure you can do it and make the profit on the margin, but you have to sell a lot of sites to recover your initial investment. The "$100 Website" can be a useful sales pitch. Don't charge 100USD per site if the market will happily pay 5 or 10 times that. It doesn't matter if you are charging 10USD per site or 250kUSD per site, the same basic rules apply - understand your client's requirements and know the market.

There is a growing list of freemium services out there too, including Drupal Gardens and WordPress.com. Depending on your business model you may want to have a basic freemium offering.

What Does the Competition Offer?

Investigate what the competition is offering. There is a large market for hosted CMSes these days, go see what some of them are doing. What do you think they are doing right? What do you think they lack or could do better? A quick list of services I'd recommend you check out are (in alphabetical order):

I'd recommend spending some time searching for hosted CMS solutions. Sign up for the free or trial services and see what they're like.

Do I Need a lot of Money to do this?

Although in the Resources and Infrastructure post I outlined the positions I thought your team needed to make this happen, it wasn't a list of must haves. You need to figure out what works with you. It would be possible for a couple of switched on people to do this as a basement startup, so long as you have the skills and connections to get everything you need in place. If you can only drive a server using cPanel, then you need to find a sysadmin. If you can't even draw stick figures, then you will need to hire a designer. Your staffing costs are really going to dictate how much money you will need to get this up off the ground.

Why did you do this?

I wanted to put the idea out there. I wanted to see how people would react. It wasn't that long ago that people could build a profitable business selling websites built using Dreamweaver, and some people still do, but the market is changing, so too is the Drupal market.

For some time I have been thinking about how you'd develop a low cost Drupal based hosted CMS solution. There are 2 main reasons why I haven't just gone and built it already. The primary reason is I hate being on call and running a hosting service such as this requires me to never be out of range of a 3G tower for more than 30 minutes, customers won't accept that the server crashed 15 minutes after I hoped on a flight to the US or Europe. Secondly building such a solution takes time and I have a family to feed, I don't think my landlord would cop me not paying the rent until this thing started to turn a buck.

I have very consciously put enough information into this series to allow someone to head off in the right direction. At the same time I've held back on some of my execution specifics, because if I was to go build something like this I want to have some things which make my service unique.

I was hoping to present a session at DrupalCon Chicago on this topic, but I found out yesterday that my proposal hasn't been accepted. As I understand it, there will be a small number of sessions announced sometime in the next 2 weeks, but I'm not holding out much hope of being selected then. There is always London.

Can you Build this for me? / I need Help!

If you are serious about building a service like this or using some of the tools I've discussed, I'd be happy to talk to you. I have about a decade's worth of experience running my own business and developing web apps. I have offered training and consulting around many of the topics I have discussed in this series.

So neither of us waste our time, I will be up front about how I see things working on my end. I expect to be paid for my time, I'm happy to take some equity, but I've got bills to pay. I have put a lot of thought and energy into this, so I am very unlikely to sign a contract which gives you ownership of my IP. If you can live with the above, then please contact me.

It didn't Work for me

Sorry that just the way things go in business sometimes. Not everything I've tried over the years has worked either. Learn from the failure and try again, maybe doing something completely different.

Disclaimer: Don't sue me if this doesn't work out, do your own research and seek professional advice before acting on anything on this site.

Will you Write More on these Topics?

Maybe. I will probably turn some of the content from Horizontally Scaling Drupal workshops and talks into blog posts, and possibly a book. I tend to blog when I feel passionate about something. Subscribe to my RSS feed, or follow me on twitter to find out what I'm working on.

In the mean time, I'd recommend you subscribe to the following blogs / follow these people on twitter:

I welcome comments, feel free to leave one below.

Nice series

K wrote:

I enjoyed reading some of this series, though I don't think the $100 price point is ever going to produce quality sites unless they are < 6 pages and just contain static copy and an ability to blog/post stories. People simply want too many features, and this is why they use Drupal, because it gives them the power to add a lot of features. If you are going to build $100 sites might as well stick to WordPress and outsource to India (and deal with the sites that seem as if they are written in Hindi that you will get back).

As you say, perhaps a really good shop could churn out enough sites a day to turn a profit, but then where would be the fun and excitement in the work? You couldn't attract good talent because you would just be a site automaton with no creativity.

Added Mon, 2011-01-03 17:09

Rats, I was looking forward

Anonymous wrote:

Rats, I was looking forward to your DC session, I gave it a 5!

Added Tue, 2011-01-04 04:54

Hi, very interesting article.

Arn wrote:

Hi, very interesting article. I created a spreadsheet with a start of the costs/income. You can view it here: http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=0Ao0Vltv_V_hmdGgxb2R1VWctNXQtQWp2... Just to get a better overview of the feasibility.

Added Wed, 2011-01-05 06:36

Just building?

Jaza wrote:

For me, the main conclusion to be drawn from this series is that it's not possible to offer $100 Drupal sites, unless you build an entire business around supporting that concept on a large scale.

You can't just build 10 Drupal sites for that price, or even 100, or perhaps not even 1,000. You need a very high critical mass in order to break even on this ultra low-end market. And you can't just take care of building features and building themes. You need to handle hosting, deployment, testing, support, etc.

What if the number of sites you anticipate building (per month, per year, etc) is below the break-even threshold? And what if you want to just build features and themes for sites, as your core business?

It would seem to me, that for people who plan to start small-scale Drupal site offerings, but who answer "yes" to the above questions, that you should consider only handling the core development and theming tasks in-house. Everything else could be offloaded to services such as Drupal Gardens - and I think this series pretty well demonstrates how sorely needed such services are right now.

Added Thu, 2011-01-06 11:45

Thanks Dave

Ruben wrote:

It's an interesting idea and I agree with you that Aegir, Features and Drush-make are changing the game.

These and other tools could potentially be used to roll out thousands of customised drupal distros for incoming customers. I think it is entirely possible.

Marketing could initially be expensive as your clients could be mainly 'Mum and Dad' web users. Microsoft is probably already looking at the same group with their 'Webmatrix Beta' - [http://www.microsoft.com/web/] and you can expect to see some of their staff surveying the competition at the Drupalcons.

Looking forward to your talk in Brisvegas :)


Added Tue, 2011-01-11 17:14

$100 web site

parkbenchbruce wrote:

Excellent article,

The mum and dad segment could be replaced by the IT student. I have given some students an exercise to do the same. They may host on Linode but the pathway you presented it a great explanation of the low cost path,


Added Thu, 2011-03-24 22:32