This is one of the most common questions I hear. It’s also one of the key factors in the success of your project.
The short answer is: longer than you would expect, but don’t rush it. There are three main factors in a project’s timeline:
- How soon can they start? High quality service providers are usually booked, so can’t start on your website immediately. There could be some delay from when you first hire the provider to when they actually get started.
- How long before a website is ready for review? Most designers and developers have a clear process for building a website, and can describe roughly how long it will take to get a website in your hands.
- How long before you can launch? This final factor is the biggest variable and depends largely on you, the client. It involves reviewing the website, making change requests, and finalizing content.
How soon can they start?
If your initial inquiry contains something similar to “…and I need the site live in the next month”, you’ll get fewer responses. You’ll eliminate many great service providers because they are booked up so can’t begin immediately.
A better approach is to share your needs and let them describe how they would solve it and in what timeframe. You can then select a service provider based on many factors, including recommended solution, quality of past work, timeline and cost.
There’s no “standard” amount of time that developers are booked up. It completely depends on the individual (or company) and their current workload. My team is typically booked 1-3 months in advance, but it varies. Right now, we’re scheduling projects starting February 5, 2018.
Last year an agency with whom I’ve worked on many projects reached out to discuss another project. The client was in a rush and they were trying to accommodate. They ended up using a different developer who was available a few weeks before me. I followed up a few months later; they ran into lots of issues with their developer and ended up launching later than they would’ve with my timeline and with a lower quality website. From the agency: “We so missed your expertise on our last website. I won’t make that mistake again.”
How long before a website is ready for review?
My team uses a three stage approach to site development. We begin with discovery to examine your needs and define a solution that meets your goals. This includes a sitemap to identify the overall content structure, and documentation describing the features and user experience on all key pages. For existing websites we also perform a technical site audit.
We then move to design, where we mock up exactly how all the pages will look across all devices. The completed designs are like pictures of your future website. Finally, we move to development, where I build a website that matches the approved designs and functionality described in the discovery document. The completed website is then sent to you for review, beginning the modification period.
These three stages take twelve weeks. Here is a sample timeline based on our current availability:
Feb 5 - 9 (1 week)
Feb 12 - 16 (1 week)
Feb 19 - Mar 2 (2 weeks)
Mar 5 - 16 (2 weeks)
Mar 19 - 23 (1 week)
Design Phase continued
Mar 26 - Apr 6 (2 weeks)
Apr 9 - 13 (1 week)
Apr 16 - May 4 (3 weeks)
May 7 - 25 (3 weeks)*
Migration and Launch
May 28, dependent on Modification Period*
How long before you can launch?
The final item in the timeline above is “Modification Period”. We don’t limit it to a certain number of weeks – it can take as long as you need to perfect your website. This typically includes change requests for minor bugs or design inconsistencies. I recommend budgeting at least three weeks for modifications.
The best way to get your website launched in a timely manner: be prepared. This means:
- Block out time in your schedule to review and test your website. You know when it will be delivered, and it’s obviously a high priority for you. Schedule it like any other work in your day. The quicker we can iterate through changes, the sooner the site gets live.
- Know what content will be needed and have it ready. Planning to have 10 case studies on your website? Write the content while we’re designing and developing the site so they can be added immediately.
The number one cause for delayed launches is incomplete content. No one wants to launch a half-finished website, and content creation is difficult. Consider including content strategy and copywriting in our project’s scope.
Summary: How long to build a website?
A typical website will take 14 weeks at a minimum from start to launch. This includes 2 weeks discovery, 3 weeks design, 3 weeks design revisions, 3 weeks initial development, and 3 weeks of modifications. It could take much longer if you wait until the end to start writing content.
We will provide a list of dates we will have deliverables ready for review, and the date by which we’ll need your feedback to stay on schedule. Add these to your calendar so you’re ready. If there will be any conflicts (ex: you’re gone on vacation), let us know as soon as possible so we can adjust the schedule accordingly.
The time estimate above doesn’t include the time you spend selecting your designer/developer team, nor the potential delayed start due to their availability. You should be actively researching and hiring service providers 4-6 months before your desired launch date.