How long does it take to build a website?
May 5, 2022
Aside from the question of cost, the main thing we’re asked by new clients is how long does it take to build a website?
So, as a sort-of companion piece to our recent article ‘How much is a single page website’, we thought we’d try our best to answer this question.
Website development timeline
Trying to calculate a website development timeline is always tricky. Especially if the project has yet to be fully defined. In fact, we often don’t receive a proper brief with many enquiries, in which case it’s very difficult to provide a timeline.
So, the first step towards helping your web agency calculate the development timeline is to send them a well-written brief. The brief should outline what you would like the site to be in terms of size and functionality. (more on those below).
Let’s look at the elements which you should consider when creating your brief for your web agency. All of which will impact the amount of time it takes to build a website.
Although not considered a part of a website project itself, great branding is the cornerstone of any website. Without it, you’ll struggle to build a lasting relationship with your users and sufficiently communicate the quality of your products or services.
Branding is particularly important for entrepreneurs and new businesses. Without great branding, you’ll find it hard to compete against competitors who re already established within your sector.
The brand itself should directly influence the design of the website. After all, every piece of marketing material – be it on or offline – needs to present a consistent look and message.
So, before considering what your new website needs to be, make sure you have a great brand in place that will form a strong foundation for your business.
Depending upon the requirements, we tend to allow anything from 2 to 4 weeks to create a new brand identity.
Before an agency even considers opening Photoshop or Figma to create some beautiful website designs, they should first understand the full scope of the project.
LWDA always undertakes a period of website planning prior to any design work. This stage of the project allows us to produce a full site plan, which in turn helps us identify the various page templates that we need to design.
The planning stage is also used to outline functions that the website needs to provide to both end-users & administrators. Additional to this will be systems integrations, such as linking to a CRM, and potentially SEO.
We tend to allow anything from one day to two weeks for planning depending on the complexity of the website.
The time spent during the planning stage should be considered an investment. With the website requirements clearly outlined, the time required for each subsequent stage should be kept to a minimum.
More page templates require more time
In our previous article, we explained that the number of page templates required would have a direct impact on cost. The more templates that an agency needs to design and build, the higher the quote.
A similar train of thought can be applied to the time factor. Each page template takes time to design and build, so a website with four page templates will take far less time to build than a website with 10 templates.
We always encourage our clients to keep the number of templates to a minimum. This helps reduce costs and enables us to meet tighter deadlines.
We help our clients define the templates that are needed and suggest ways to re-use templates for other pages.
Website design & development review stages
It’s often overlooked that time is needed for both the agency and client to review the progress of the website.
During the website design phase, the client will have the opportunity to review each page template and request changes. Usually up to two rounds of revisions are accommodated.
Likewise, the build of the website (both front-end & back-end) should also be reviewed by the client. This is an opportunity to make sure you are happy with the way the site looks within a web browser, and also that you feel comfortable with the CMS.
Small websites for companies with only one or two stakeholders may only take 24-48 hours to review at each stage. But larger companies with many board members can easily take up to a full week to review at each stage.
Our advice is to make sure that all essential team members are included during these review stages. Doing so will help avoid unnecessary changes having to be made once the site is ready to go live – or even after – which can cause delays and incur additional costs.
We mentioned system integrations in the website planning section above. During the planning stages, an agency should be identifying the system that the website needs to integrate with and estimating the time it takes to perform those integrations based on detailed research.
If at any point during the project there are changes to the original specification, then the agency may need to allow more time for system integrations during the development stage.
Once integrated, the agency will need to test each system. The client should be included as part of this process, monitoring how data is managed and passed to their CRM or other admin tools.
Simple integrations, such as adding an email address to a mailing list in MailChimp may take less than a day. Other more complex integrations with much larger amounts of data may take a number of days to thoroughly test.
Another task involving the client that should never be underestimated is inputting content.
It’s a common belief that the web agency will input all of the content for any website that they build, but this is not actually the case in many instances.
A web agency will add some content during the build, focussing on pages such as home, about us and contact. But other pages such as product listings would need to be added by the client.
The simple reason for this is the old adage ‘time is money’.
Most agencies will be happy to quote for inputting content, but costs can rapidly increase if there are dozens or even hundreds of pages required.
In simple terms, if we’re to estimate that a product page takes up to 15 minutes to populate with content (text, images and metadata), and a website includes 100 products, then a web agency will likely need to quote for an additional 25 hours of time to populate the website.
We always populate at least one example of each page type so that clients can successfully review site progress. They gain a much better understanding of how to populate the website after engaging with us in a CMS tutorial.
Any good web agency will do all they can to help their client populate their website. They can do this by:
- Allowing CMS access as early as possible and providing a tutorial for that platform.
- Migrating content from an old site if that content is in a format that can be easily transferred.
Migrating blog content and product databases can often be actioned if moving from one well-established platform to another. Or even better still, from one website to another that is being built using the same platform, such as WordPress.
Content migration can take anything from one day to several days depending upon the size of the database and the type of content that need migrating.
Website creation timeline
Hopefully, this article has helped outline the stages that a web agency such as LWDA would use to estimate a website creation timeline.
In summary, these stages are:
- Branding – Creating a logo, colour palette & tone of voice.
- Website planning – Site map, wireframes for each template & detailed technical specification.
- The number of page temples – For both design & development.
- Website design & development reviews – Allowing for up to 2 periods of review for each stage.
- System integrations – Google Analytics, Tag Manager, CRM, Payment systems, etc.
- Inputting content -All text, images & metadata.
The time required for each stage can vary depending on the scope of the project. Smaller sites such as De Havilland Gin can often be planned, designed, built & tested within 4-6 weeks. However, larger sites such as Peach Properties which require complex integrations and a larger number of templates would need more time. Generally 3 months or more.
A good web agency will always try its best to deliver an accurate estimate of both cost & timing, and this is best informed by an accurate brief.
So the answer to the question ‘How long does it take to build a website?’ is dependent upon the size & scope of the brief.
Don’t be surprised if an agency wants to discuss some elements in more detail. If this happens, this is a good sign. It just means they want a fuller understanding of some crucial details which will help them deliver the best website cost and timeline estimate.
We produce quotes for multiple websites every week and no two are ever alike.
If you have a website project in mind and would like us to quote, please feel free to fill out our quote form and we’ll get back to you asap.