How Long Should It Take To Design and Build a Great Website
is the Head of Marketing at Lean Labs. His experience ranges from higher education to SMBs and tech startups. When not doing digital marketing, he's sure to be enjoying some kind of nerdy pastime.
Creating a website not only requires a significant investment of money, but also of time. As an agency that specializes in building high-converting website designs for our clients, every project we take on is met with the same question: how long is this going to take?
How Long Does Web Design Take To Build a Good Website?
How long any task takes to complete depends on how complex it turns out to be. Is it more straightforward to start a car, or to drive one?
The 5 Design Phases that Impact the Project Timeline
When we are building a website for a client, we go through a process that involves 5 phases. Following these steps is a traditional approach to website design, which is much different than the newer method of Growth Driven Design.
Here’s the process when we take the traditional approach:
1. The Discovery Phase
The first thing we do for every website project is ask our clients to qualify the market that they are targeting. Here’s what we want to discover in this phase:
- Who are your intended, or ideal, customers?
- Why are they coming to your website?
- What experience do they want to have while they are there?
- How can we address their needs on your website?
- What kinds of designs resonate with them?
Some of our clients have considered these questions (and others like them) for themselves before they come to us. This gives them the opportunity to move the website project forward more quickly. But because answers to these questions aren’t always immediately forthcoming, it can take some time before we are told who we are trying to help our clients reach and how to reach them.
2. The Planning Phase
Next, we make a comprehensive plan of the website’s content. From our perspective, putting design before content is one of the top 10 mistakes companies make when designing their websites. Failing to design from a content-first standpoint is like taking a photograph with a bad lens: it’s possible, but clearly out of focus.
While we are planning the content, there are a number of things we have to figure out. Every buyer is on a particular journey, and we have to figure out how to facilitate that journey and make it as enjoyable as possible. There are some things that go through our minds as we plan to make this happen:
- What content is critical for the buyer’s journey?
- How can we arrange the content to complement and support this journey?
- What graphical elements can we use to excite the buyer and support the website’s message?
- What mood, layouts, and design work best for the ideal customer and the business overall?
The amount of time this phase takes depends on the amount of content the website contains and how that content has to be implemented to support the client’s new website. If a company releases content over time, for example, we have to apply a timeline that allows the company to grow as new content is released. Everything is connected, and we have to figure out how to keep it that way.
3. The Prototype Phase
This is where our ideas begin to meet the page. With a well-rounded plan of the content in place, we can begin to create that content. From here on out it’s pedal to the metal for us.
When the content for the website is written, it has to be revised on-the-go to capture the best Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and the best design for the website’s initial wireframe. The wireframe is the skeleton of the website: without it the flesh has no structure. It is what allows us to begin designing each page.
The prototypes of each page then get driven through an approval process with the client. How quickly a client responds to what we have done so far directly determines how quickly we can revise the content again or move forward. We’ve found that what makes this process go even slower is too many conflicting opinions. Generally, committees are slow-moving because nobody wants to take responsibility for the final decision. If a stall occurs here, the whole project is placed on hold.
4. The Coding Phase
This phase drives all design toward a complete and finished website; it is where the body we have created begins to gain life. As we start coding each page, we also enter all the content into our Content Management System (CMS). Each page we turn brings us closer to completion.
But the life we have created quickly becomes complicated because all coding efforts are met with troubleshooting and debugging. All of the problems we encounter here have to be ironed out before we can move on.
The amount of time it takes us to code, troubleshoot, and debug each page is relative to how big and heavy the new website will be. It also depends on how much content our clients want to include. If we implement dynamic content, for instance, it can take more time to develop something that is satisfactory. No matter what, it’s important for us to make sure the design is error-free and ready to go live.
5. The Launch Phase
Before we decide to make a splash in the public with a press release and a marketing blitz, we soft-launch the website. Things don’t always break when the website is taken from the developer environment and dropped on a live server, but when they do the issues are typically minor.
Once all the bugs are worked out after the soft-launch, anything that remains gets finalized, approved, and signed-off by the client. Now it’s time to let inbound marketing do the work!
The Question Everyone Should Be Asking
How long it takes to design a new website isn’t the most important issue. What everyone should be asking is how the best website can be created on a reasonable schedule.
We’ve proven that we can turn website projects around on a very short timeline, as our work with clients like ZinePak shows. Projects with this sort of time sensitivity are unique and rare, and truthfully we would prefer not to focus on them.
Although we work on a schedule, a website project’s content needs to revolve around content, and content must rest on the needs of the customers. Pre-determined timelines aren’t always friendly to new ideas or exciting developments.
In the end, a website project needs to be oriented toward delivering the best user experience to your customers, and to do this you must give yourself the room to build the right thing, not the wrong thing really fast.