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How Long to Build a Website – Theoretical Approach

How Long Will It Take to Build a Website

When designing and building a website there are three primary concerns, the first two that get mentioned are cost and design. The third key consideration when it comes to creating a website is time. The longer it takes to build, test, and deploy your website (whether its a replacement site or a brand new site), the more potential customers you’re losing to other businesses that have already have quality websites in place .

  • But what does a realistic web development timeline look like?
  • What steps are part of the website development process, and how much time does each one take?
  • What are your options when it comes to designing and deploying your site, and how do they impact the overall time required?

In this article we look at what you need to know about how long it really takes to build a functional website from scratch.

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Website Development: A Theoretical (Text Book) Overview

While it’s possible to design and build a website in-house, most businesses opt for professional web development firms or freelancers to ensure the reliability and usability of their site.

From an external perspective, many websites seem simple: A few menus here, a few buttons there, some links and some images, and you’re done, right?

Unfortunately not, there’s a lot going on under the bonnet compared to the interface presented to customers and staff. Thing such as HTML and CSS to PHP, Java, and other programming languages needed to deliver the correct website user experience.

In practice, the process of building a website with a web design company typically encompasses six steps:

  1. Web Developer Research and Selection
  2. Initial communication and goal setting
  3. Creating an web marketing action plan
  4. Design concept and feedback
  5. Web development
  6. Review and revision

Each of these steps is reviewed in more detail below.

Web Developer Research and Selection (1 week – 1 month)

The first step in website development is choosing your web developer. Depending on your needs, complexity of project and budget, this part of the process could / should take between one week and one month.

Case 1: Small business looking to create a simple website that gets your message and brand online, then all that might be needed is a quick compare and contrast of several smaller website development firms may to select one and start the process.

Case 2: For larger organisations, with multiple management layers the decision could extend this stage by several weeks.

In both cases, key considerations remain the same: You’re looking for a development firm

  • With a solid reputation for delivering on-time and on-budget
  • Who have a proven track record, and are in the business for the long haul
  • The web design company can work with with your brand’s style and aesthetics. This third consideration is  subjective. On one hand you want a company who understand the sector on the other hand you don’t want someone who works with your competitors. If you are a manufacturer of Cultivation Machinery just because the web company has never worked in this niche doesn’t mean they cant create a website that will resonate with the customers

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Initial Communication and Goal Setting (1 day to 3 weeks)

Once you’ve selected a web site agency, the next step in the process is getting in touch and setting out basic design goals.

The starting point – what is the purpose of your website

Option 1: Let the web developer / marketing specialist make all the decisions based on information you provide about your brand’s vision, mission, and required business objectives. You may also have some basic idea of what you want the website to look like.

Some challenges with this option

  • Do you already have a formalised and structured business plan
  • Does this contain a clear marketing action plan
  • Are your brand guidelines clear and consistent (Do you have any brand guidelines?)

Option 2: Work with a Web / Marketing agency who will work on your website and specifically look at the business purpose of the site. Essentially they will want to create a website action plan.

They will ask you difficult questions – many of which will have nothing to do with fonts, colours, styles. Most of which will focus on the target customer, what you want to communicate, what you want them to do.

Option 3: Just leave it for your web developer to do everything and then feedback / critique  for you up-front, This approach means they have to spend more time reviewing your brand and creating several proposals. If you provide a general outline, meanwhile, developers can hit the ground running and offer specific feedback on what works, what doesn’t, and what could be added to improve your website’s impact.

Site Structure and Feedback (1 to 5 days)

Design mock ups and feedback come next. Think of these mock ups as a very basic version of the finished website product. Also called wireframes, these mock ups provide a sense of where things like text, images, and buttons will appear on your website along with the general scale of these elements.

You should get a mock up of every page style that will be included on your website. If you’re hiring a developer to create your homepage, about us page, category page, sub category pages, and product pages, you’ll want a mockup of each one.

This stage is the ideal time to provide detailed feedback. As a Peterborough Web Design Agency we like to do a large element of this task as a 1:1 session with the client. This way at discussion stage if they aren’t sure about something or don’t like how a page is working they can comment. Additionally this stage provides proper thinking time to consider and evaluate how the website can help improve the visitors user experience.

Since no actual development has happened at this stage changing elements is easy. If you wait until the main development phase, changes are still possible, but they can significantly set back your timeline.

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In-depth Development (2days to 2 months to even longer if you cant dedicate time to it)

The in-depth development is where a web developer takes approved mock ups and turns them into a fully functioning website that includes all of the content you’ve approved. Now this sentence carries a MASSIVE HEALTH WARNING

  1. “Includes all of the content you have approved” – The vast majority of sites that we build the one thing that is missing or client dependent is written content.
    • Where clients are going to supply copy, we provide clients with docs that they can add copy specifically around the page URL. That way we can take the copy and add directly into the site
    • Getting written content from a client can be like pulling chickens teeth. Where we are waiting on content Lorem Ipsum is added by way of a placeholder
    • We have seen simple tasks like getting testimonial statements from happy customers take over 3 years to be obtained , by which point the website needs to go through another redesign
  2. “Includes all of the content you have approved” – the super simple task (NOT) of supplying imager. Lets consider some of the actual reasons for delay
    • The client has no suitable imagery. This can take many forms
      • images too small with the biggest image at only 400px these are unsuitable for a full width web layout
      • The client supplies you with 30GB of unlabelled images that they have accrued over a period of time. So you get thousands and thousands of unfiltered images
      • My next door neighbours, friends brother-in law knows someone whose got a really good camera, we will get them to come in and take some pictures
      • We have used these pictures before on a previous site – not sure where they came from but we didn’t buy them
      • Great or even good Imagery will make or break a site. I have lost count of the number of time that we apply a clients images to a website and they say they “That page would look so much better with different / better images”

Depending on the size and complexity of your website, this  phase could take months or even longer if setbacks occur. Make no mistake, nothing ever goes exactly as planned. As web developers we build extra time into projects and allow for delays on client input, but if it takes 2 or 3 months to respond to website changes a site is going to be delivered in a timely manner

During this stage, your developer should be in regular contact providing updates and about the project and providing snapshots of how things are progressing. If you do see something that isn’t going as planned or doesn’t look like the mock up, mention it to them.

One to two months is fairly standard for site-building, but this could stretch to three or even four if you regularly make additions or changes. We regularly build sites in less than 5 days where the client spec is agreed and all content available.

Review and Revision (hours, to days, to weeks)

Once your website has been designed, tested, and optimized, your developer will send it to your team for review and revision. In this stage, you’ll evaluate the final product and ensure that it looks and performs as expected.

If previous stages have gone to plan, only minor corrections will be needed — small issues such as font size or color choice can be easily rectified before your site goes live. Expect this to take between one and two weeks as your team reviews the site and identifies any issues.

Worth noting? Website design and development doesn’t end after review and revision. Weeks or months down the line, you may discover features you want to implement or updates to keep your site running smoothly. As a result, it’s a good idea to look for a developer that offers both up-front and long-term support to ensure optimal website operations.

Want to pick up the phone and speak to us about your Strategy, Website, Marketing or Business Development project?
Call us on: 01733 361729

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