How long does it take to build a website?

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:

  1. How soon can they start?
    High quality WordPress developers are usually booked, so can’t start on your website immediately. There could be some delay from when you first hire the developer to when they actually get started.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

This information applies to the creation of a custom WordPress website. If you don’t need a custom website, there are faster and more affordable options. Here’s how to setup a WordPress website yourself. With a few hours of work you could have a basic website up and running.

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 designers and developers 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 make your selection based on many factors, including their 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 Jun 3rd, 2024.

Last year an agency I’ve worked with before 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. When I followed up a few months later, I heard they ran into many issues with their developer, launched later than they would have using my timeline, and are unhappy with the quality of work. My agency contact said: “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 website 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.

The three stages typically take twelve weeks. Here is a sample timeline:

Discovery Phase

(3 weeks)

Design Phase

(6 weeks)

Development Phase

(3 weeks)

Modification Period

(2 weeks)*

Migration and Launch

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 two weeks for modifications.

The best way to get your website launched in a timely manner is to be prepared. This means:

  1. 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.
  2. 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 3 weeks discovery, 6 weeks design, 3 weeks initial development, and 2 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 WordPress developer, nor the potential delayed start due to their availability. You should be actively researching and hiring your designer and developer team 4-6 months before your desired launch date.

Bill Erickson

Bill Erickson is the co-founder and lead developer at CultivateWP, a WordPress agency focusing on high performance sites for web publishers.

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  1. Yam says

    Hi Bill, thank you for posting this. I’m currently unemployed and do some freelance stuff. Right now, I’m building a site (from scratch) for a small insurance agency. I was recommended by the IT guy (after three different people attempted to do the job and just disappeared after being paid half in advance) and he’s complaining I’ve been working on it for three weeks now, he commented how it should have been finished in three days because “that’s the longest it takes for a regular developer to code” (note that I haven’t done anything involving HTML/CSS/JS/JQ in five years and I’m learning PHP). That made me feel down and my motivation and the fun of it seemed to have died down, but reading this has made me feel better.
    I’m adding content from the executive presentation, and creating graphic content on the clock (it’s a simple website with only five menu options). I’m basically working miracles with this thing, I’m glad I’m not a failure.
    I really appreciate you took the time to write this article. IT guy knows nothing.