How long does it take you to deliver a client’s website from start to finish? Three weeks? Three months? And, what if there was a way to cut that time in half?
The process for designing and developing a website depends on the size of the project, and the work that will go into it. One of the first questions that clients ask is “how long is this going to take?”
I always hated answering this question, especially when I was starting out as a freelancer.
I’d over-promise on what I could deliver, and how quickly I could do it, then find myself slamming coffees to hit the next deadline.
However, once you build enough websites you start to get an idea of just how long it takes. From the first email with a client, to getting paid, doing revisions, and delivering the final product, there are a lot of parts to think about.
This article will guide you through everything you need to know about the web design timeline, as well as show you how to massively reduce the time you spend on a project.
So, without further ado – let’s dive right in. 🏊♂️
How Long Does It Normally Take to Design a Website?
A good website requires extensive planning and research. Starting with gathering information about the client and figuring out the purpose of the website, to building wireframes and writing content – which needs to be updated on a regular basis.
Every website development project is different, with milestones set by the designers and developers before it begins. In some cases, if the requirements are fairly straightforward, the design and development process may take anywhere between 2-4 weeks.
However, if it’s a complicated project that requires extensive client feedback and back-and-forth, it may run on for several months. Understanding the timeline from start to finish is important before you sign up for a project.
The Web Design Timeline From Start to Finish
There are several key sections that you must consider when creating the web design timeline. Let’s talk about them.
1. Initial Contact with the Client
This step is vital, as it’s your first meeting with the client to discuss the project. As a designer, this meeting plays an important role because it allows you to understand what the client really demands from you. You can discuss the requirements of the project and find out what kind of vision the client has in mind.
If you have any questions, this is the time to ask. You don’t want to create comprehensive wireframes or mockups only to find that the client had something completely different in their head.
2. Research and Planning – What’s the Website For?
The research and planning stage is the next step in the web design timeline. At this stage, you will conduct comprehensive research about other competitors, discuss any specific requirements or features with the client, and then set milestones for the entire project.
A detailed sitemap is created at this stage and sent for approval to the client, and as a designer you’ll have to figure out what tools or technologies to use throughout the project. This is also known as the project discovery phase. Key deliverables are decided at this point, with both technical and creative briefs written and sent for approval to the client.
Approval from the client is necessary before proceeding further, but make sure you’re utilizing your experience to steer the project in the right direction.
They’re paying you, remember? It’s not the other way around.
3. Wireframing – The Initial Mockups
Instead of creating a detailed layout of the website right from the get-go, designers start by creating wireframes. A wireframe is essentially a page layout that showcases all the major elements, and gives some brief notes about how it should look. The primary objective of wireframing is to provide a visual outlook to the client about how the pages are going to look once they have been designed.
Wireframing is essential at the start of the project lifecycle because it helps bridge the gap between the work you will deliver and the client’s expectations. If the client doesn’t like the layout, they can provide their suggestions, and the designers can amend their original designs.
Client suggestions, messaging, and back-and-forths are some of the most time consuming parts of a project. This is where having an intuitive management system in place makes all the difference – which we’ll talk more about later.
Practically, wireframes help ensure that the website’s functionality and content is appropriately positioned and aligned with the client’s business, as well as providing a great experience for the end user.
4. Content Creation
The next step involves content creation and marketing strategy. The success of any website can be measured by the quality of its content. This is what attracts users and ensures that they keep checking the website again and again.
Content covers a wide variety of things:
- Blog posts and content strategy
- Keyword research
- Copywriting and headlines
- Brand voice, about pages, and team introductions
- Imagery and media
It’s also essential for SEO purposes. Using the right keywords will boost visibility and make your website show up in search results. It’s always a good idea to work on the content before the design stage gets underway. Creating a link between the content and the design is important, so if you have the content ready, the design stage automatically gets easier.
The timeline for this usually varies depending upon the size of the website. How many pages does the website have? More importantly, will your agency be handling the content, or will the content be provided by the client for all the pages? Are you outsourcing any of the work?
Regardless, it’s important that you follow up with the client regularly. Poor communication will result in confusion and delays, which is only going to slow things down.
5. Delivering the Landing Page Designs
A landing page, also known as a lead capture page, is essentially any page that a visitor lands on when they open your website through a link. The purpose of a landing page is to “capture a lead” by offering an incentive, such as a lead magnet, or to provide a great deal of value to somebody and provide any necessary information they need to become a customer.
At this stage, the designers will create accurate mockups for the landing pages, as well as any other internal pages that need to be done. Then, the client will be asked to review the designs and give their feedback. Once they do, you can incorporate this feedback and tweak the landing page designs until everyone is satisfied.
6. Development – The Crux of The Web Design Process
In most cases, the design and development stage take up the longest time. Once the client has given their approval over the initial designs and wireframes, the agency will work with developers to bring these designs to life. Videos, slideshows, and other pieces of content can be created, and the website’s code will start taking shape.
This entire process involves coding, validation, and extensive testing to make sure everything is working. Nowadays, creating a responsive website is an absolute necessity, so device testing is carried out to check whether the website runs well on every type of device from tablets and phones, to small laptops and 4k monitors.
To keep the client updated on the web design process, a demo installation in a staging environment is usually offered. The client gets to view the pages and interact with them as they’re built, and if they have any feedback you can incorporate it while the pages are being developed.
7. Optimization – Fine-Tuning the Website
Next up, we have optimization. The goal of search engine optimization is to ensure that the website has been designed to rank high in search results, attract organic visitors, and gain authority over time. This means checking to see if relevant keywords from the niche have been used in headings and titles, creating shareable content, and ensuring the site loads quickly.
If you’re not to start when it comes to optimization, we’ve written an in-depth guide for web developers on SEO and content marketing.
8. Beta Testing and Review
After the optimization stage, a comprehensive beta test is run to ensure that all of the website’s features are working as intended. This can take anywhere from two to six weeks, with rigorous testing to check everything from back end server performance and buttons, to social links, spelling errors, and page speed.
More importantly, the website is also tested on multiple platforms and devices to check whether the pages load up properly on different screen sizes. Further optimization might be carried out if that’s not the case.
You want to avoid having to make changes after the project has been finished, so doing as much as you can during the testing phase is vital to save both time and money down the line.
9. The Launch
And finally, after you receive approval from the client you can have a deep breath and take the website live. Depending upon the requirements of the client, the launch process could be as simple as hitting a switch, or it may require detailed interaction with the hosting company beforehand.
Keep in mind that developers need to be ready for after-launch problems. Some of these include:
- Difficulties in website getting crawled
- Poor security (no SSL certificate)
- Slower load speeds
- Plagiarized content
- Broken images or links
You will have to fix these errors as they are detected, and providing great after-project care can make a huge difference on how a client rates your work.
Why Do Websites Take So Long to Build?
In some cases, websites can take several months to build properly.
One of the major points of friction here is the amount of time that it takes to go back and forth between clients.
When you work on a feature or create a mockup, you have to present it to the client. Then, it takes a few days before they are able to check it and give their feedback, provided they even know which exact part of the site you’re talking about.
All of this running about significantly increases the time it takes to create and launch the website.
That’s where Atarim comes in. Atarim is an all-in-one platform that web developers can use to get comprehensive feedback on their website. Once the plugin is installed, clients can view changes and give their comments, without ever having to leave their own site.
Instead of having to use tools like Basecamp, Google Docs, or Sheets, you can manage client communications through a centralized platform.
The visual communication aspect of Atarim gets rid of unnecessary friction, with clients able to highlight and leave comments on different aspects of the website’s design. You’ll get notified via email with an automated screenshot of the problem, removing the need for any back-and-forth.
You also don’t have to worry about creating lengthy tutorial videos. Just leave comments explaining different features, and the client will be able to view them through the platform at their own leisure.
Simply put, web development takes so long because of inefficiency. Once you fix this, you’ll be amazed at how quickly you can deliver a project.
The Bottom Line – It’s Time to Streamline Your Web Development Processes
When was the last time your agency reviewed its web development processes and timelines? Better yet, are you even measuring turnaround times and keeping a pulse on what the average turnaround time has been for the last 10 clients you’ve taken on?
Imagine being able to take on double the number of clients, live a less stressful life & spend less time juggling expectations with all of your clients all at once than before…