With every website proposal we send to clients, we always include a section for timings, with an overall assessment of how long we think the project will take. This estimation is based on our experience of building similar websites and takes into account the average time spent on each different phase of the project.
Before undertaking a new website development, it’s important to understand how long the whole process will take, and agree milestones with your designer/developer/agency. This way there are no surprises, and you’re establishing realistic expectations from the onset.
Typical website design & development timescales
Since the beginning of Pixel Kicks and our evolution into a full service agency, we’ve probably worked on around 300 individual website projects. If we were to put all of these into a spreadsheet and add the full project duration, I imagine you would see something like the following:
- < 1 week or less: 5%
- 1 to 4 weeks: 10%
- 4 to 12 weeks: 25%
- 12 to 20 weeks: 25%
- 6 to 12 months: 20%
- 12 to 24 months: 10%
- 24 months +: 5%
So you can see, the simple answer for how long a website takes to build could be 1 week, or it could be 2 years.
But that’s not very helpful, is it? So let’s delve into exactly what is involved when planning, designing and building a high-quality modern website.
Setting project milestones & customer expectations
All websites we produce are typically broken down into the following six common phases:
- Onboarding & Discovery
- Design Prototyping
- Adding Content
- Review, Testing & Modifications
- Migration & Launch
The following sections detail what’s involved in each phase, along with a time estimation. For the purposes of this article, let’s assume we’re working on a “Small to medium sized brochure website”.
To give a bit more meaning to what this could be, let’s say the website is for a new high-class events venue in the North West of England, specialising in weddings and corporate events. They have supplied a sitemap of around 50 pages and a detailed website brief on exactly what they’re looking for.
They have supplied us with 50% of the written content, a large image gallery, and a bank of high quality videos that they would like to embed throughout their site.
Onboarding & discovery
This phase can typically take 1 to 2 weeks on average.
Even though we may have received a very good brief from the client, it’s important that we delve into things as much as we can, asking the right questions in order for us to make sure that there are no “grey areas” in the project. We have to make sure that both ourselves and the client understand the exact scope of work.
We’ll also discuss other things like UX, SEO, project management and where the website will eventually be hosted.
Average length of phase: 4 to 6 weeks
Once we are happy that our team have everything they need to get started, your chosen designer will then use Adobe XD to start laying down some ideas for your website.
Using your sitemap, brand guidelines, key requirements and all other important information supplied, we’ll look to establish a clear user journey for your full website. This may start off in wireframe form, or we may choose to move straight to high-fidelity designs much earlier.
Typically we start work on the homepage first before moving onto the other key pages, creating both desktop and mobile designs simultaneously. With your feedback we’ll then go through a series of design revisions, aiming to get your full approval and “sign-off”.
We’ll look to design all key pages in the sitemap so you can clearly visualise how everything is going to look in the end. For certain pages that might not need working up completely we will showcase a set of “design blocks”, that we can use to construct future pages easily.
Average length of phase: 4 to 6 weeks
Keeping you updated at regular intervals, we’ll create a staging site, mobile-friendly from the ground up, and build each unique section of the site individually before it slowly starts to come together, allowing you to click from page to page.
Slowly but surely, your magical new website starts to come to life.
Average length of phase: 2 weeks
If the content is ready in advance, our team can start adding this straight away into the website via the CMS. Alternatively we’ll add what we have, and use placeholder content for everything else. This allows the final content to be added at a later date once it is ready.
During this stage, you may actually decide that certain pages don’t quite work with the new content, or you may have slightly improved ideas about how sections should look. We anticipate a degree of “client uncertainty” with every project we work on, so of course we can allow for this.
Unplanned changes can of course add to the total project time, and we’ll regularly review how far along we are against how long we predict is left.
Review, testing & modifications
Average length of phase: 2 weeks
We know you might be in a rush to get the site completed and live, but we won’t launch your website until it’s been extensively tested. All sites produced by Pixel Kicks go through a series of intensive audits, comprising of the following:
- Device, browser and operating system checks
- Functionality, content and spelling
- Loading speed optimisation
- SEO audit
Once we’re happy, we’ll then get you to make your own checks. The last thing we want is for you to find problems with the site, so it’s our job to find them for you beforehand.
Migration & launch
Average length of phase: 1 day (brochure websites), (up to 1 week for larger ecommerce websites)
Once everything is complete and both parties are 100% happy with the new site, then we can look to get the new website live.
During the initial onboarding state we’ll have discussed hosting & support options, and depending on whether or not we’re hosting the website for you, our team will make the required DNS changes to put the site live whichever server has been chosen.
Final post-launch checks are made to make sure everything works, consisting of contact forms, SSL, speed optimisation and 301 website redirects for SEO purposes.
Larger ecommerce websites which require migration of orders, customers, products and other essential information can take much longer, as there are multiple steps which need to be performed, as well as additional testing to make sure everything is done correctly.
Total time required for our example brochure website project
Adding up all the time from each of the sections above gives us a range of 13 to 18 weeks (3 to 4.5 months).
In our experience, a major sticky area that can negatively affect the time includes getting final copy and imagery in place. Having this content ready earlier will usually always make a project go smoother.
So taking the above time range as an example, a very smooth project could be done quicker. Adversely, a tricky project (due to various unforeseen factors) could end up taking longer.
In our latest blog post, Dan Parr discusses finding the perfect balance between creativity and usability when it comes to website design.
— Pixel Kicks (@Pixel_Kicks) November 6, 2020
Does my choice of CMS (content management system) affect timings?
Popular open-source options such as WordPress, Magento and Craft CMS form the bulk of the CMS options that we use. WordPress in particular powers around 35% of the internet at the time of writing, an increase of 2% on the previous year, and this is the option we have used for the purpose of this article.
Hosted platforms such as Wix, Squarespace, Shopify and BigCommerce are fast gaining popularity due to their simplicity, and generally you would expect to see quicker overall timescales when using these systems.
You could even look to explore the “headless CMS” approach by looking at systems like Prismic, Butter CMS, Netlify and Directus. Currently this is the more bespoke option and would tend to add on a certain amount of time to the project due to the complexity.
How do different types & sizes of website affect timings?
Brochure websites will always be the quickest sites to produce, but of course any brochure site with a more complex UI and highly CRO optimised nature will naturally take longer.
Next up, ecommerce sites will generally add an extra layer of complexity due to payment options, shipping configurations, user account considerations and many more additions.
Finally, if your brief was for a very bespoke application which required a lot of custom development, then you would look to add extra time for all of the phases above. In our experience these are the projects with the highest degree of uncertainty, and therefore require a much longer total timescale.
Your chosen website agency’s workload
It’s important to understand another factor which may affect how long it takes to build a site is your chosen agencies’ own workload. For example if they are juggling many projects at once, it could well be that you find your website taking a lot longer than expected.
Also, how many designers, developers and project managers do they have? Bottlenecks can easily occur in all busy agencies, so we advise asking questions in the beginning to make sure you don’t suffer because of this.
So the answer is really “how long is a piece of string”, but hopefully our examples above should give you a good idea of standard timescales for different types of websites.
We often get asked by new clients how to put together a website brief – so to make things easier we wrote a separate blog post called “How to write the perfect website brief”. Reading through this and preparing a full brief for yourselves is a great starting point.
Alongside this, you may wish to get a good estimation of potential costs by reading our post “How much does a website cost?”.
Whether you’re looking for a new website for your law firm, eCommerce business, healthcare service, or anything in between, we can help. Get in touch with us to find out more about our web design services.
Not local to Manchester? Not a problem. We work with companies nationwaide, offering a range of cost effective digital services. Find out more about choosing a Manchester digital agency.
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