QWE2000 Session 4I

Mr. Adrian Cowderoy [UK]

Complex WebSites Cost More to Maintain- Measure the Complexity of Content

Full Technical Paper in QWE2000 CD-ROM

Key Points

Presentation Abstract

The proposed paper addresses the use of metrics and measures that describe the complexity and size of the different types of content within web-sites, for web-sites that are content rich.

These measures serve short-term commercial needs, such as:

- Maintenance cost reduction. Complexity measures provide indications of which digital objects are likely to be difficult to maintain. (The cost of maintenance for websites is typically 50-200% of the original development cost, and can be many times the cost of the original project.) Often high-risk objects can be designed differently, or documented better.
- Development planning. Simple size measures are useful for allocating work between the team. Complexity measures (and technical quality requirements) indicate the level of skills, testing and quality improvement methods that are needed.
- Change-rate control. Externally visible size and complexity measures are needed for defining the size of the product, so that subsequent major change-requests are charged separately.

Measures are also useful for giving crude indications of cost (such as via analogy-based estimation) and for simple benchmarks (such as to assess whether there is a significant difference resulting from the introduction of a new tool). However there is so much volatility in the development process, and so many uncontrolled influencing factors, that estimation and benchmarking are unreliable processes.

Web-sites consist of both content and functionality. The quantity and complexity of the content is typically the main cost driver in many software projects. Software is generated automatically from HTML editors, graphics tools and movie/animation editors. Further (relatively simple) code may be added by staff who are not professional programmers. The effort to assemble the code is small, but the effort for testing and correction can be considerable. (A persistent problem with these tools is that the reliability and performance of their embedded code, such as in browser plug-ins, constrains the reliability and performance of the final product.)

Some web-sites involve also major software components - e.g. e-commerce sites. Such projects tend to perform overlapping projects, one for the software component and the other for the content, followed by a period of system integration. There are significant differences in the software and content development processes and skills. This paper addresses content development - the use of size and complexity for software is covered by the software industry.

The paper introduces different sets of size measures for each of the main concurrent activities within a web-development project. Table 1 below gives some examples of complexity and size measures for different types of digital object.

About the Speaker

Adrian Cowderoy is Managing Director of the Multimedia House of Quality Limited, a company which he established to promote quality-improvement methods for the production of websites and multimedia.

Mr Cowderoy was the General chair of ESCOM-SCOPE-99 and ESCOM-ENCRESS-98 conferences, and was Program chair for ESCOM 96 and 97 (The European Software Control and Metrics conference promotes leading-edge developments in industry and research, worldwide see www.escom.co.uk). He is the METRICS-ESCOM Coordinator for IEEE METRICS 2001 and was on the Program committee of Metrics 98 and 99, European Quality Week 99 and COCOMO/SCM 96-99. In 1998 he was acting Conference Chair of the Electronics and Visual Arts conference in Gifu, Japan. He is a registered expert to the European Commission DGXIII.

He has provided consultancy and industrial training courses on quality management, risk management, and cost estimation to the aerospace and medical industries in the UK, Germany and Italy since 1995. He also lectures at Middlesex University (www.mdx.ac.uk) on e-commerce project management and managing Internet start-up's, and at City University, London (www.city.ac.uk), on project management for systems development.

Mr Cowderoy was project manager and technical director of MultiSpace, a 14-month million-dollar initiative sponsored by the European Commission in which 12 European organizations explored the potential to apply quality-improvement methods to multimedia and website development projects. (See www.mmhq.co.uk/multispace and www.cordis.lu/esprit.)

He was a Research fellow at City University from 1990-1998, and a Research Associate at Imperial College from 1986-1989. He was also a quality consultant and software developer at International Computers Limited, UK, from 1980-1985, where he worked on operating and networking systems for mainframes and distributed systems.

His academic qualifications include an MSc in Management Science from Imperial College, University of London in 1986, and is a member of the Association of MBA's. He received a BSc in Physics with Engineering from Queen Mary College, University of London, in 1979.

Mr. Cowderoy has published and presented extensively on multimedia quality and software cost estimation. He was joint editor of Project Control for 2000 and Beyond (Elsevier, 1998), Project Control for Software Quality (Elsevier, 1999), and Project Control: The Human Factor (Elsevier, 2000).