One of the most common questions we get asked when partnering with a new web client is, “How long will it take to finish my website?” You might think the answer would be fairly easy, but it’s a bit more complex than some realize. In order to give an accurate answer to this question, there are a few things to consider…
What kind of website do you need?
The amount of time it takes to build a website can vary greatly based on the type of website you need. If you just need a simple 1 to 3 page website, you should expect a professional developer to take roughly 4 to 6 weeks to complete (timelines vary significantly, for other reasons that we will unpack in a bit).
If you need a middle of the road website, that has under 10 pages of navigation, you can typically expect a professional web developer to turn a web project of that size around in about 6 to 8 weeks.
If it is a full-blown online e-commerce store, those can take much longer. Your web developer will have to get very detailed information about your inventory, number of pages, and any special functionality that your online store will need (for example: payment portals). The same is true of a database website – those are a beast to build and will likely take several months to turn around.
Who is building your website?
Turnaround times also depend a bit on who is building your website. If you choose to do it yourself (unless you have a web developer background) you might be able to pull off a simple website in a couple of weeks. Just know that this timeline is based on you being able to work full-time on the site and that you will undoubtedly hit technical stumbling blocks that can cost hours, days, or as much as a week to remedy. If you have a web developer or technical background, you can cut the troubleshooting time down significantly. Even if you are not technical, there are lots of online forums, videos, and blogs that can help you figure out common issues.
If you have an independent contractor build your website, your turnaround time will likely be based on two things: how many projects the contractor currently has, and whether or not building websites is their full-time job. In other words, if a freelance contractor already has a full-time or part-time job, they will be working on your website during evening and weekend hours which can sometimes stretch out the launch date.
Professional web development firms can usually give you a pretty clear estimate on completion times, as they usually have the tools, processes, and people necessary to design, build, and launch sites on a regular basis. Here again, those turnaround times can sometimes be based on how full their web project queue is and how many people they have on staff.
What is your availability for correspondence?
If you take nothing else away from this blog, know that correspondence on either side of the web project can make or break deadlines. If you have a developer who is poor at corresponding, your website will definitely not launch on time. By the same measure, if you, as the client, are not diligent in your response times, it will definitely hang up the website’s launch. The number one problem we see with launching on time is business managers and owners who are too busy to respond to our updates and questions.
Luckily, it’s relatively easy to avoid this common pitfall. Establishing a point of contact for the web project helps tremendously (as long as that point of contact is committed to the process of staying up on correspondence). The second thing you can do is be very upfront with your web developer – ask what their process is for updates and ongoing correspondence. If they say they don’t have one, or that it is “as needed,” know that your project MAY be in trouble before it even gets started. Look for a developer who has a regular correspondence cadence – once a week outreach is most common. More than that is too much and less than that is not enough.
What kind of images would you like to feature on your website?
Imagery is a surprisingly crucial piece of your web project. It’s important to know before you even contract with a web developer to have an image strategy. It’s important for two reasons – websites live and die by imagery AND imagery can hold up a project if the client is uncertain what images they want. A library of professional images is ideal but rare. Typically, most web developers end up using a mix of client-provided images and stock imagery. Just be sure to have this discussion with your web developer so you both know going in how you will handle the image piece of your web project. Make sure your developer has a process for uploading – setting up a Dropbox folder for you is the easiest and most common solution.
How much content do you need?
Like imagery, nothing will hold a website up faster than web copy. In order to have a successful, on-time launch, be thinking about how you will handle the copy for your website. Will you repurpose what you already have on your current website? If you don’t have a website, do you have the time to write the copy yourself? If the answer to that is “no” (which is almost ALWAYS the case), consider hiring a copywriter or look for a web developer who has copywriter services built into their web package. Having a website copy strategy before starting a web project will help tremendously when it comes to keeping your project moving along and launching on time.
The key to a timely, successful launch
Knowing what you need and what questions to ask a web developer upfront will set the tone for a successful web project. Your web developer should be able to give you an accurate estimate and you will know what is required of you before the project even begins. Having a website built is a partnership between you and your web developer. Both have to be committed to the same outcomes. When looking for a web developer, make sure that you come away from your initial meeting feeling like you could work with that person for weeks at a time, because that is exactly what is going to happen.