You’ve scrolled through the shiny new parallaxed websites of your major competitors seventeen times in the past hour, scratching your head over “blogs” and “user experience” and “mobile optimization”. Here you are, left in the dust with a rapidly aging online presence, while your contemporaries ride off into the sunset on their thoroughbred internet steeds. Your website, once launched into the world as a young, dappled stallion, is now the geriatric mule hobbling in their wake. It’s time for a trade-in.
Naturally you are itching to get this thing done and dusted and up on the web already. It should have been live yesterday, for crying out loud! So you’ve taken action, researched a few awesome vendors to work with, and you’re ready to go. Great — now when can you expect to get this prize-winning pony back in the ring?! The answer is: it depends.
There are many different opinions on the ideal timeframe for a website project, but whatever you’ve heard, it is probably longer than you think. Sure, throwing together a quick page on a free website builder won’t take very long, but having an agency do a thorough and professional job for you will. And to be perfectly honest, it SHOULD take time. Your website is one of the major (if not the biggest) sales tools you have. Not to mention a big financial investment. So if you’re going to do it, do it right! You’ve already waited this long — what’s a few extra weeks?
Now let’s go ahead and explore the main factors that contribute to the length of a new website design and build:
When weighing your options for which vendor to use for your website, it’s easy to dismiss some companies based purely on their schedules being booked up in the near future, or because of the timeframe they’re suggesting. I would strongly advise against this kneejerk reaction. I know, I know, you want the site up ASAP! But this step is important.
The truth is, most companies worth their salt are going to be busy with multiple projects in the queue. This is a good sign. It means their work is in high demand, because it’s quality work. (And if you’re lucky enough to come across a company that does good work and has a slot open — take it!) Once that company is ready to tackle your project, expect that it will pay you the courtesy of giving you the same amount of time it gives its other clients (which may be more time than you’re expecting). This is also a good thing! Good work takes time. If you’re considering a vendor whose quality of work is a little more questionable, but you’re willing to overlook that little detail because they’re promising to deliver your website in substantially less time, take caution. It may be ready sooner, but you’re likely to end up with a product you’re not happy with. Better to take the time to do it right the first time.
The next major factor that affects how long a website takes to build is the complexity of the website’s features. The more bells and whistles you add to your website, the more time it’s going to take to design, build, and test. Need to integrate your website with a third-party software or system? Create a complicated web form or calculator? A virtual tour of your facility? All of these things take extra time.
Another big thing you may not consider that always adds to the timeline is any custom photography, illustration, and/or video. If you’re incorporating custom imagery into your website, you have to remember that there are many steps involved in those projects alone. A 30-second video for your homepage will require scheduling, scriptwriting, storyboarding, pre-production planning, shooting, editing, rendering, and more. It’s really a whole project of its own. That doesn’t mean that it’s not worth adding any special functionality or imagery to your website — it totally is! It just means that you need to be realistic about the timeline.
That’s right, the final key factor to the project timeline is YOU! You’re the one who reviews everything, provides important content and feedback, and gives the final thumbs up. You’re the golden key to the whole kit and caboodle. Any lag on your end can throw off the entire project schedule.
So how can you ensure that your website launches in a timely fashion? Start by being prepared before the project starts. Find out where your current website is hosted and where your domain is registered. Gather any major assets your design team will need (logos, photo libraries, etc.) and other materials you think you will want to incorporate into the new site. Don’t feel like you have to have absolutely everything prepared up front, but it’s always good to get a head start where you can.
Once the project kicks off, it’s important that you continue to be an active partner to your website team. Set aside time to review what your team sends you, whether it’s content, design, or a beta site. Provide whatever it might need from you, like case studies, leadership bios, or any other info that could only come from your brain. I know you’re busy, but make this work as high a priority as your regular workload so that you can all stay on schedule. The biggest causes for delays in website launches are half-finished content and unanswered questions. So if you know you’re probably going to be a bottleneck, make sure you account for that extra time in your launch expectations.
At the end of the day, it’s perfectly fine to have a deadline. I’m certainly not suggesting that you should need to wait forever for your new website. But if you do have a specific fast-approaching deadline you’d like to meet, just make sure it’s for good reason. Is it important enough that you are comfortable potentially compromising the thought and quality of work that goes into the final product? If you give the project the time and attention it deserves, I assure you that any small disappointment you might feel by having to wait a little bit longer will be outweighed by the excitement of having a website you are truly confident in and actually look forward to launching into the world. Now get that thing saddled up and back in the race!