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How Long Does it Take to Build a Website?

We kicked off Answering the RFP by tackling the biggest RFP question, “how much will the  project cost.” But the second biggest question is usually “how long will it take?” The website design and development process can take considerable time—and I’ll describe the process a bit more in a minute, but first I need to address the two big X-factors that significantly impact a website development schedule. 

And these two factors are almost entirely outside the control of the developer. They’re both client related factors. 

The first client factor has to do with their team make up and availability. We discussed how the make up of a client team can impact price in this video. For example, are there more than two or three members on the team? How quickly will we be able to get meetings on the calendar? How quickly will they respond with feedback after milestone presentations? 

The responsiveness of the client team significantly impacts project schedules. And so you need to ask about availability. I usually provide a baseline. For example, I’ll mention that our standard project schedules assume we can get milestone presentations on the calendar within a week of completion, and that after the milestone presentation, we expect feedback within three business days. For some clients that rhythm is fine, but for others with large teams—they might need significantly longer intervals—which significantly stretches a schedule.

The second big client X-Factor has to do with content creation, editing, and migration. In another of our pricing videos I mentioned that overall page count did not impact price as much as you might think. But the extent of content does impact a project’s schedule. Especially since content typically needs to come from the client. And client’s almost universally underestimate how much time is involved in content creation, editing, and migration. 

In the web development process, there comes a time when the site is essentially built and the ball moves into the client’s court for content. Occasionally, a client will engage us for some content migration or even some content creation help, but even with our help, clients still need to review and edit content before a site can go live. 

So, how quickly a client can work through the content creation, editing, and migration process directly impacts the project schedule. 

So assuming the baseline I mentioned above, and providing about three to four weeks for the content phase, I usually tell clients that project schedules range from three to four months for average projects and five to seven months for larger projects. 

So what are the phases and milestones that make up a web development schedule? Most projects follow pretty much the same process. It begins with discovery, followed by planning using wireframes, then visual design, followed by development. Next training and content work and finally testing and launch. 

But allow me to share one key differentiator in how HOLTER Strategic adapts this process. I’ve been developing websites since 1995, back when your website could be any color you wanted as long as it was gray. I’m talking pre-Netscape. Oh man, Netscape, that was a game changer! You really could change the background color, and the color of links, and use jpegs. I digress… 

Not too long into my web development career I discovered the core reason why web projects were so fraught with miscommunication. As you might expect it had to do with failures in communication very early during the planning stages. As I just mentioned, most firms plan and document using wireframes. Wireframes are generic representations of a website’s content, structure, and functionality. They used to be delivered on paper, or with a PDF. Today there are much better wireframing tools out there like Figma and Sketch. But they all share the same flaw. They describe a website but they don’t actually function like a website. And there are so many subtle dynamics that clients care about but don’t know how to express that never come up using wireframes. 

That’s why we begin our projects with a fully functional browser-based prototype rather than sophisticated mockups. This simple change transforms communication with clients in that critical early stage of discovery and ideation. If you’d like to learn more about our prototyping process check out this article on our website, and I’ve linked to it in the description below.

Among all the questions clients have in the website sales process, pricing will always be number one, but schedule is usually a close second. Especially if there is a product launch, major event, or rebranding campaign driving the process. And so this is another opportunity for building trust by being clear on what is involved, and making sure the client knows that their responsiveness and availability are key for hitting project deadlines.    

Until next time…

Be Clear. Build Trust. Win Clients.

Why do some charge $1,000 for WordPress development and others $100,000? Everything about WordPress pricing is explained in our eBook “Why Pay Less?”