As you consider your new website, one of the questions that you’re sure to ask is; "how long is this going to take?" Most of the time someone who is seeking a redesign is dealing with a site which was last updated at least 3-4 years ago. And in our experience most of the time we are dealing with an old website we are also dealing with an outdated strategy. So we often start a web project discussion trying to understand what they are trying to accomplish that their old site is preventing them from doing. In web terms, the technology changes that have come around in those 3+ years are VERY significant. You’ve seen all these great new designs on other sites and it’s become apparent just how dated your site is. Now that you’ve made the decision to go ahead with your project, understandably you’re anxious to get your new site launched.
Before you select the web shop that has told you they can build your new site quicker than all the rest, there are a few things to consider. What can the timeline tell you about your selected website provider? Do you have all your content together? What’s the worst thing that will happen if your new site takes a little longer to be launch ready?
What a timeline can tell you?
I’ve only ever met a handful of prospective clients who didn’t want their project started and finished ASAP. For many, not being able to start right away is a good enough reason not to select a particular partner. This means that most companies you could choose to work with will have multiple projects on the go. Beware when one of those companies suggests that they can deliver your project in substantially less time than the others.
A company that isn’t busy will be able to get your work done more quickly — they don’t have other clients to worry about. That sounds great, but it’s worth asking why they’re not (and don’t plan to be) busy. When a company consistently delivers high quality work, they’re going to be in higher demand. A company that does good work AND isn’t busy is a rarity.
Beyond the busy factor, there are a few other things that a timeline can tell you. A shorter project cycle may mean that your chosen designer is doing less “thought work”. It could be a sign that your content is going to be shoehorned into a “standard” website template. Perhaps many different team members will each have a small part in your project, allowing the work to get done sooner. Don’t discount the possibility of poor time estimation. Understanding the factors built into your timeline will help set the baseline for your expectations.
Get ready to work
Building a new website is hard work, and not just for the company you’ve hired. There are certain things that only you can do. Gathering content, reviewing deliverables, providing feedback, answering questions. Seldom does it happen that a client is looking for a website when they’re not busy. Taking the time to respond and provide the necessary input for your project isn’t always convenient.
We understand that you’re busy, most people are. Part of what goes into determining the timeline for a project is knowing that sometimes we’ll be waiting. Many clients over the years have told us how much more effort there was on their side of the project than they expected. We do our best to make it as simple as possible, but the reality is, your web designer can’t do a good job without your input. Launching your project right will mean putting in the time and sometimes will mean extending the timeline so you can make it all fit.
So, how long does it actually take?
Banyan Creative has launched nearly hundred websites over the years. Through that experience we’ve come to understand the time that it takes to launch a great website. Most web projects should allow for 12 to 16 weeks from the time that the project kicks off to the time that the website launches for basic website where the client is actually prepared with what they need to have. Where complexity is higher or the scope of the project is particularly large, or you don't have your ducks in a row projects can take 6 months or longer.
Yes, completing a project in less time is possible. Yes, we’ve done it. No, we don’t recommend it. Your project is best served by having a timeline that is reasonable, realistic and achievable.
Keep that in mind when pricing out your own website project with a web shop. Do you really want to pay as little as possible for a project that averages 3-4 months to complete and expect a high level of quality? While price and speed seem like a good idea when you are comparing proposals, your goal should never be to "get a website live" as fast as possible.
Sam Casey is the Chief Creative Officer and Managing Partner at Banyan Creative.