May 28, 2015 | Web Design
This post was updated in February 2022.
There are many factors that influence how long it takes for a web site to be created and launched. And there are ways to be more efficient and get your new web site live more quickly.
What slows the process down and more importantly, how can you help speed it up?
Here are 7 factors that can affect how long it takes to design, develop and launch a web site, and tips on how to assist your web team.
1. The complexity of the design
When you look at some web sites, you’ll see that nearly every page has the same structure. For example, there’s a navigation bar at the top, sub-navigation on the side and the content is mostly text sitting in the main column.
Example of a simple and consistent website design
The website for Crystal Reporting Solutions is an example of a simple site we designed that uses limited types of page styles. It’s also mostly text and simple design elements.
Example of a complex website design
On the other hand, some sites have different layouts and styles on different areas of the site. The website for Defend Our Health is an example of web design that uses many different layouts to show different content. Compare how a page that talks about their ‘Campaigns’ looks like compared to their ‘About Us’ page.
Defend our Health uses different page layouts throughout the site. It also uses more photography and graphics. Both sites have similar amounts of content, but how they are displayed is much more variable in the Defend our Health example.
Tip: Start looking at web sites and see whether it’s important that each page or section have a unique feel or not. Also consider how much time will be needed to find photography or develop unique graphics.
2. The extent of revisions and options
Some people love options, but others would like to simplify the process and move faster by limiting their choices.
The number of options
For years, our standard contract included three design options. We would provide three mockups for the look and feel, the user interface and many of the details that make up the design of the site. These include variations on layout, color, typography, imagery, navigational arrangement and more.
If you have a new business and we’re developing the visual brand and figuring out the best way to tell your brand story, then three options might be needed to help us explore the best way to create the site.
But if you have a well-established brand and clear goals for an updated site, focusing everyone’s efforts on just one best solution will be more efficient.
If you trust your website firm, use their expertise to your advantage by only focusing on the best quality solution rather than having them develop a large number of options.
How extensive are revisions
We also plan for three rounds of revisions. But how drastic those revisions are will factor into how long the different iterations and options take us to mock up.
For example, we may show options 1, 2 and 3 for the web site. The client chooses option 1 and requests a small adjustment to the color. In this case, it’s a very fast for us to turn out the next round of mockups. Now consider an alternative where the client likes parts of each design, yet also has things she doesn’t like in any of them. Exploring and building out these additional options will take more time.
Think about how you and your team works. Some organizations have a culture of efficiency where others value exploration.
Tip: Take the time at the beginning to share ideas about what you like and dislike about your current site. Also review other sites before you get started. Be specific with your feedback.
3. The complexity of the development tasks
Once the site design is approved, there is variability in how complex the development requirements are. You may have a very simple, brochure-style website, or your site may have much more robust functionality.
Consider the functionality you’re looking for. All of these add to the time needed to develop a site. Common website functions include:
- a blog
- a calendar or events listings
Also, think about automations that will make your life easier. These may add time before launch but save you lots of time over the long run. Some examples include:
- automatically featuring new blog posts to your home page or social media channels
- syncing your contact form with your CRM or e-newsletter list
We like to automate a lot features for our clients to make everything as easy as possible for them as they continue to update their site. But this can take extra time up front. Some tasks can be completed quickly by using a plugin, but some development work may need to be done manually to meet your specifications.
Tip: Ask about any features that are on your dream list. You may be surprised what’s easy to do, and what will take significant time to develop. Get an understanding from your web developer about how long things take and the sequencing of tasks.
4. Do we have all the content?
Web content doesn’t just mysteriously appear, it must be created.
This is a big stumbling block for many clients. And whether the client creates it or we do, it needs to developed, scrutinized, and optimized before it’s ready to go live. Many people underestimate what’s required of this step and delays occur.
There are two major challenges with getting all the content ready for placement on the new site.
Good copy writing and clear messaging
We always help our clients with the copy writing for their website. Not only does this speed up the process but it creates a better overall web experience. The best website copy is created in conjunction with the design. What sounds good as a written Word doc often looks overwhelming when put into a website.
People like to skim, and words should be used carefully, in relation with design to make your message clear and impactful.
Organizing content and managing the process
Once your site grows beyond a few pages, you need to think carefully how your content gets organized into pages and how those pages get placed within the navigation.
Many times when we redesign a complex site, we help our client reorganize their website content and site architecture. If you’re transferring a lot of content from an old site to a new one, you need a system to organize the process. Making sure all content has been reviewed, updated and approved can take more time and effort than you anticipate.
Tip: There are no shortcuts, don’t wait until the end to think about your content.
5. Is someone dedicated to moving the web design project forward?
When it’s time for an organization to re-do their web site, it can suddenly feel like a second job for whoever is in charge of the project. After the site is done, they can go back to their real duties. And honestly, those real duties never went away during the web design project and they can often feel much more pressing that getting a new web site complete.
It’s difficult when we don’t know who to talk with about missing information or approvals. It’s also difficult when we get mixed and conflicting feedback on design mockups or copy edits. Setting up clear roles for shepherding the project forward and getting finalized (unified) approvals is key.
Be realistic about the time that’s needed on your end if you need to review options, provide updated content or just need to find time to get all your stakeholders in one meeting to make a decision.
Tip: Don’t send conflicting feedback to your web firm. Assign one person to spearhead the project and compile feedback.
6. Create a project schedule
Most people want to know how long it will take for a web site to be ready. It can be just out of curiosity, or it can be because they have a specific, hard deadline such as a key presentation, a tradeshow, etc.
Without exception, a project without deadlines will go slower than a project that is planned out with milestones and agreed upon deadlines. It is often these deadlines that push people to focus and make a final decision, search their archives for content, or decide that getting that testimonial should not hold up the entire web site.
Tip: Request that your web firm put together a project schedule and keep the project moving forward by meeting your own deadlines.
7. Have a launch plan
There’s nothing more frustrating when you’re almost at the finish line and you run into an obstacle. There are three common things that stall the project at this point: the hosting, a plan for redirecting old content and the domain name access.
Logins and access
We need access to the web hosting account to install WordPress and get the files for the site prepared. If we’re building at your existing web hosting we need logins to your account and usually your c-panel. If we’re moving to a new web hosting account, the hosting package needs to purchased and set up. Remember, this is different than your WordPress access.
The domain name registrar login should also be at the ready. If your site the being built on a new hosting account, before we launch we need access to the domain name to update the DNS record.
Yup, there have been times when a site is ready to go live but no one can find the password to update the name servers to make the DNS change.
Plan for redirects to avoid 404 errors
If you are redesigning your current website, you’ll want to think about how you will redirect any web traffic from old URLs to new ones. If you don’t do this, website users who are accessing your site from an old link or bookmark may see a 404 error. Not only is this frustrating for your website viewers, Google may penalize you for these type of errors.
You can’t implement redirects until you launch your new site. But, the time to plan for redirects is way back at the beginning when we’re figuring out your content and creating a sitemap. Depending on your host, and the number of redirects, there are several methods for completing this work, but make sure you know the plan before you plan to launch.
Tip: Keep all your logins in one central place so they are at your fingertips. Pro Tip: Try them out in advance to see if the usernames and passwords actually work!
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Give yourself time for a successful launch
Congratulations, your website is about to launch! Hopefully, you’ve planned well, and this has all gone quickly and smoothly.
Just remember that sometimes, turning on the new site does not happen instantaneously like flipping a switch. If you’re updating your DNS records, it can take a few hours or even a few days for the new site to be seen universally on all browsers. If you’re planning for a big debut with your new site, take this into account!
We always recommend launching a site a few days before any big presentation to give the team a chance to handle any unexpected bugs that arise when the site goes live.