When someone mentions redesigning your site you probably reach for your bottle of aspirin in anticipation of a monster headache. Redesigning a website can and should be exciting, but it’s a big lift and contains many pitfalls along the way.
Too often, the story goes like this: You spend six months agonizing over designs, tweaking little pieces of copy, your site isn’t finished, your CEO is breathing down your neck and you’re over budget. It happens. The complexity of building a website can grow exponentially as elements are added, making it difficult to meet a hard deadline if you don’t start with clear expectations.
The truth is: Building a website shouldn’t be painful.
If you take the time to plan well, establish measurable goals and stick to your blueprint, then your website will come together on time. Now, what “on time” means can vary from project to project. That’s why I chatted with Victoria Wolski, Project Management Team Lead, to get an idea of what a reasonable website design timeline looks like.
Like most things in marketing, the real answer to the titular question of this blog is, “It depends.” How long it takes to build your website will depend on things like the number of pages you need, if you’re starting from scratch or already have branding elements, what type of content will live on your web pages, the specific functionality and capabilities you need, and more.
If you don’t know the exact answer for any of these questions, don’t worry. Your website development partner can help you work through it as you plan your new site.
Despite needing specifics for a realistic timeline, Victoria notes there are a few rules of thumb you can use to gauge how long your project will take.
“For a redesign where someone has all of their branding in place, it can take anywhere from 30 days to four months,” Victoria says. “It depends on the size of the site, how much data is on the old site, the complexity of the functionality and if the site is developed from scratch or using a theme.”
She adds that using themes or templates can help you speed up the web development process because it does a lot of the heavy lifting for you.
“If we’re starting from scratch, however, our first step would be a branding project,” Victoria explains. “That typically takes 6-8 weeks and we’d start the website after it’s complete.”
- Website redesign: 30 days – 4 months
- New website: 3 – 8 months
New Site vs. Redesign
“The process for websites is pretty standard, but what makes the timeline vary is simple, what does your website need?” Victoria says.
The heart of your needs will reside in what type of project you’re doing. Do you need an entirely new website built from scratch? Or do you need to redesign your current website to reflect new branding or reach a new audience? The scope of work will vary greatly depending on your answer.
In the last section, we noted that designing a new website can take much longer than redesigning an existing website. “That’s because you need to establish brand elements before designing pages,” Victoria explains. “A new website often means a new brand, and a new brand likely needs to establish a logo, color palette, typography, and graphic styles.”
All of these elements are tackled by your web design team in that 6-8 week window that’s budgeted for branding. You’ll nail down your messaging and create a design moodboard to ensure the foundational elements of your brand are solidified before applying them to your new website.
It’s worth noting that this process is recommended even for the most basic websites. We go through this process with clients whether they have a one-page website or hundred-page site. Although it takes a little more time in the design phase, this planning can help keep the development phase on track and avoid time-consuming changes.
But what if you already have a website? Many businesses embarking on a redesign assume it’ll be quick and easy since they have something to work off of. Although this is true in part — it’s definitely not as intensive as starting from scratch — it still takes time to get this project right.
“Redesigns take time as well because there’s already a current website with existing data analytics,” Victoria explains. “We want to use that data to make informed, data-driven suggestions on a redesign. We don’t want to just update your website —you don’t need us to edit your homepage. We want to build a website that performs better and provides a better overall experience for your visitors.”
If you’re not sure which type of project will benefit your brand most, Victoria offers these few considerations to help you decide:
- Did your brand undergo changes?
- Have your CMS goals changed?
- How quickly do you need your project completed?
- Does it affect your website’s speed?
- What is your budget?
We’re always here to help too! Feel free to reach out to us to discuss your needs and concerns, and we can point you in the right direction.
A Proven Process
Whether you choose to work with a designer, developer or agency to build your website, you need to ensure they have a proven process. Without a method to the madness of website design, you could get stuck in a lengthy project that ultimately delivers subpar results.
At Lone Fir, we break up all of our website projects into three sections:
- Research and planning (4-6 weeks)
- Design and development (8-16 weeks)
- Website launch
Research and Planning (4-6 weeks)
This initial phase is where you solidify your brand elements and start getting an idea of how your site will be laid out. It encompasses a few different tasks, including:
- Data analysis
- Design mood board
- Sitemap/User Flow
- Design mockups
“The key in this stage is knowing why you’re embarking on a web project and the goal you want to achieve through it,” Victoria notes.
She recommends focusing on a few key elements in the planning stage, including:
- Ensure the data being analyzed is accurate.
- You and your website team are aligned on design elements.
- You have planned for all pages that will be included on the site and added them to the user flow.
Each of these elements can take time and discussion to solidify, but you shouldn’t feel like you have to do it all alone.
“At no point should you feel out of loop with where your site is or how it will look,” Victoria says. “Our website blueprint process helps the client and our team go through a step-by-step process to help identify the business goals, existing data (if any), our recommendations, competitor comparisons, an outline of the proposed new site, mood boards and mockups for inspiration.”
Design and Development (8-16 weeks)
With all of your foundational elements completed, it’s now time to send your site over to the design and development teams to start the building process.
Just like with research and planning, this doesn’t mean you stop interacting with your web team. You should remain in contact and have regular meetings where you can see and give feedback on site as it’s built.
“An agile method throughout the process is recommended to ensure continued alignment with expectations and outcome,” Victoria explains. “It also gives you an opportunity to do QA testing throughout the build process.”
It’s much easier to make changes as you go than to overhaul a finished site. As you see and review iterations of your site, keep in mind that it should be user-friendly, accessible and easy for you to edit or make revisions after it’s launched.
Ideally, your site will be built on something like HubSpot that features a drag-and-drop editor and easy-to-use content management system (CMS). This way you can quickly make changes or add pages without affecting the custom design of your site.
Another element to this timeframe is the QA testing that’s performed throughout the build process. Again, it doesn’t matter what type of website you have — a simple website with three pages, a vast eCommerce website, a freelancer portfolio site with lots of content — you always need to test as you build to ensure your desired capabilities are functioning properly.
“Our team tests after initial development, after content implementation, before launch, and after launch to ensure the site is functioning as expected,” Victoria says.
All in all, much of this stage is up to your designers and developers. However, you play a vital role of being the final approval and offering helpful feedback throughout the process. To help you keep a sharp eye on your budding website, Victoria recommends looking out for these things:
- Functionality testing
- Site performance (page load speed, SEO, are integrations and plugins working, etc.)
- Web security
- Mobile and browser responsiveness
- Accessibility testing
Launch Your Site
With everything finalized and approved, it’s time to launch your new website! Although this step is fairly quick — usually accomplished in less than 48 hours — there are more steps involved than you might think.
Some final development time is used up in this phase to ensure everything on the backend of your website is ready to launch. Your developer will check your hosting license (if applicable), DNS access and CMS or plugin licenses. They’ll also validate your HTML, double check CSS coding and configure your CMS for best performance.
“Once you push go and your site is live, you still want to ensure it’s showing up as it did when you tested it pre-launch,” Victoria says. “That’s why it’s helpful to also use a post-launch checklist. Check that integrations, forms, CRM connections are all working as expected. Sometimes things can happen during the launch or things come up that were missed in testing that will need to be fixed.”
She adds that if bugs are found, it’s critical to meet with your developer as soon as possible to ensure they’re fixed immediately.
Can I Go Faster?
Even after all of this explanation, you’re probably still wondering, “But can I make my site go faster?”
We understand. You’re up against a deadline or maybe you want to get leads rolling in ASAP. However, going faster often means sacrificing the results you need.
“Speeding through the website process creates more gaps in understanding how the site is going to work and what happens in different scenarios,” Victoria explains. “Often projects that are rushed have more room for error and misalignment. Plus, they often cost more in the end to make changes and re-align.”
She emphasizes once again how important it is to define the goals you have for your website. What impact will it have on your business? Always take the time to define what you want to achieve and outline the details. A website project will have a better end result if you’re thoroughly involved in research, planning and development.
“Make sure you are building something that is data driven, and is what your customers want and need, not just what you want. Taking the time up front and building something of quality versus quickly can save your business from having a website that is sub par that might not meet your business needs.”
Do You Want to Build a Website?
Whether you’re building a personal WordPress website or a professional website on HubSpot, the building process is all the same. If you want to get the most out of your website project, you need to be prepared to take your time, outline your goals, and go through each step with the appropriate care.
To learn more about how to approach planning and developing a website, check out our blog about website blueprints.