I have been working in the digital industry for around ten years or so and find that one of the biggest and most difficult questions we as designers and digital agencies face is, “how long does a website take to build?”. In the last ten years, lots of clients I have worked with feel that building a website is a simple process and shouldn’t take the estimated timeframe we give for the milestones or completion of a project. This is something I would like to call the magic wand effect. The reason I call it the magic wand effect is that like a magician, some people believe like waving a magic wand, a website is built in next to no time. As people become more aware of the digital age, designers get a better appreciation on why a website build will take longer than expected.
There are many reasons why a website project may take longer than expected. In this blog, I will be going into detail about the lifecycle of a website build and how different factors can determine how long a website will take to be live on the internet.
## Website Design and Build Misunderstanding
One of the biggest misunderstandings for delivering a website is that one person is solely responsible from the first contact to the website going live. This may be the case for a freelancer or very new start-up but with an established business such as Mosaic Digital Media, we have a team of people who have the best skill sets to do particular tasks. Instantly your first thought would be that sounds expensive, but this is not the case.
A single person cannot guarantee to give you the same level of expertise across all the lifecycle of a website build. With a freelancer they are forced to take on all manner of tasks such as sales, marketing, design, build, SEO, customer support, hosting including technical, etc. A one-man band business may need to take more time in different areas of the website lifecycle to ensure you are looked after causing the price to inflate or the project to take much longer to deliver.
With having the right people looking after you in the different areas of a website design and build, you will find the cost of a project will be similar to a one-man band / freelancer or even cheaper. Not only can a website design / build be much cheaper but the overall factor of taking less time to complete is much easier when having a team able to handle the build with different section spread out evenly.
## Website Design and Build Lifecycle
It is difficult to provide an accurate estimate on how long a typical web design and build project will take, as every website has different requirements.
Below are several steps that we at Mosaic Digital Media like to take, with a brief understanding of each step of the work we do during the website design project to ensure it is done in a timely manner and on budget.
### Initial Meeting and website discussion
No website design can take place without an initial conversation about the requirements of the build. This normally starts with the business owner approaching a digital agency to discuss the requirements for the website build. They could provide a specification of what is required or this could be built up during the opening discussion. Using this specification allows us to research the project and build an accurate proposal for the website build.
This initial discussion and spec form the initial backbone of the whole website design and build. Without this, the project would be non-existent and as website designers, we always refer back to these initial conversations, documents and meetings for inspiration or understanding of the project.
Once the initial discussions have taken place regarding the website design and the scope of the project the next step is to research the project. For any web design project, the aim of the research is to scope out whether the build of the project is feasible first and foremost. Next, we need to establish can the project be achieved within the clients budget and within their expected deadlines.
This is a pinnacle point as the website design and build may not be deemed feasible if the client expects the build to be completed in too short of a timescale or the budget is far too low.
If at this stage all is agreed on how the website is to be built, the budget is sufficient and the expected timescales are realistic, a full proposal of the work can be conducted.
### Delivery of Website Proposal
The next stage is to feedback to the client exactly what work is going to be carried out, the timescales, and the cost of the intended website build. This document is usually a contractual agreement between the client and the digital agency agreeing to the work to be carried out.
Once the document has been signed and any relevant fee’s / deposits are exchanged the website can be put into the build process.
### Content Gathering
The next step is pretty critical to the build process. Without any artwork or content, the designer will not have any inspiration to proceed with the build. Normally the minimum requirement of content and artwork for the website design would be:
* Logo for your business
* Contact information for your business
* Colour schemes / branding guidelines
* Image library for use across the website
* Page content for each page on the website
* Example website designs and why you like them
These are just a small sample of some artwork that would help the designer build your website. Before any work can be carried out building design etc, we would require at least the majority of the above.
### Website Planning
This stage of the website design process usually coincides with the website design stage. During this stage, the website designer will review both the initial specification, the proposal and all artwork submitted by the client.
### Website Design
The next stage is where a designer initially starts the website build. At this stage in the website design process, the designer will take all the information and begin the process of creating wireframes and mockups for different pages in the website build.
Once the website has been designed these will be sent to the client to review. This will be the first opportunity for the client to see how the website build will look. They will be able to submit changes to the design and once happy this can then be approved ready for the coding of the website to begin.
### Website Build
Once any designs for a website have been approved these will be handed over to a frontend developer who will take the flat designs and turn them into a fully functioning website. The designer will generally work with the developers to ensure the project stays on budget and within the timescales.
At Mosaic we normally use an agile methodology to build the website meaning once on page or section has been completed it can be tested internally before passing this over to the client for testing. Between developers and the client, a full test of the website is performed; checking the functionality of the site, and making sure the website meets the requirements initially set out for the website design and build.
Once the testing phase has been completed and both the digital agency and client are happy the website is then able to be set live.
### Website Go live
This is the final stage for all website builds but does not mean the website is fully finished and never to be touched again. Normally once the website build is completed there will be minor snagging to be completed once the client has been using the website for a couple of weeks. These snagging pieces are usually minor spelling or grammatical errors, or minor bugs not found during testing.
Once the website has been live for some time the client may request new features, additional website content or minor image changes in the website.
## What affects the delivery time of a Website Design and Build?
A typical website design and build on the surface can take anything from one week all the way through to six months or maybe even longer. The initial indication of how long a website design and build should take would be decided on the two factors previously mentioned; when the client expects the website to be delivered and realistically when a digital agency can deliver the completed project by.
Some additional factors can also affect the delivery of the project however:
### Delays in build
During the website design and build stages, there are several points in which the ball is firmly in the court of the client and requiring them to action a task for the build of the website to proceed.
For example, during the content gathering stage, we ask for artwork to be supplied which can be a difficult process. Normally a client will find it difficult to envisage what content is required for the website design when they cannot see anything at this point. This process can take some time and can delay a project in getting started.
### Third Party involvement
Even though a lot of agencies such as Mosaic Digital media have an array of talented website designers, graphic designers, SEO specialists, customer support staff, and many other talented people, sometimes third-party involvement to complete a build may be required.
Some agencies may not a have a particular skill set in-house to do one small part of the website build and require this to be done third party or external. By doing this the website build could be put in jeopardy if the third party do not complete their part of the build.
### New focused urgency for completion
Sometimes the goalposts of any project can change after the initial proposal of the work and the schedule of the website build has been agreed.
This can sometimes happen if the website is required for an urgent marketing expo or event and would help them sell the product or service better. Ideally, any reputable design agency will try to revise the timescale based on the new requirements but sometimes this is not always a feasible task as other websites maybe planned in or other projects.
If a design agency is able to accommodate the change in circumstance a revised budget may occur to allow sufficient staff to complete the project without affecting the website design or build.
In summary, a good digital agency is able to accommodate a website build within a reasonable timescale and fair budget. If your expectation is for a fully custom website with lots of different features a digital agency will be able to guide you well during the initial meetings and conversation on a rough average on how long a particular website design and build would take based on previously complete website projects.
The best course of action is to always be prepared and if you are requiring the website for a particular event or date make sure you give your potential web designers a good amount of time to complete the project to the best quality possible. It is also advisable before speaking to a digital agency to make sure you have a suitable budget for the project to ensure you get the best finish possible.