Whenever we are prospecting a new opportunity with a client, we rarely get asked how long it will take us to build the new website or application. Nearly all projects are motivated by a business (ROI) objective and there is almost always a predetermined deadline in the client's mind.
Imagine that this dialogue takes place on June 1st:
DW: "Hi! Welcome to Dwaiter. Can you start by telling us about your project?"
CLIENT: “We need a fresh, professional-looking e-commerce solution for our products and a web presence that will better cater to the needs of our customers and clearly define our services.”
DW: “Awesome! We can do that. Can you tell us more about what features and functionality will need to be included on the website?”
CLIENT: “We will need an interactive map of where you can find our products, a blog, advanced sorting and filtering in the store section, and several templates to fit our remaining content into.”
DW: “Perfect! That was very helpful. And when do you need this new website to go live on the web?”
CLIENT: “We need it to go live by August 1st for our quarterly business meeting. Can you do that?”
To which we would politely respond, “No.” and begin working towards a more realistic scope and or launch date. An August 1st deadline is unrealistic for a project of that scale. But why? What takes so long anyway? There are many different factors that determine the timeline of a project. Let's take a deeper look into a few of the most common ones.
We have a business too.
Much like your business, we carefully schedule our projects and meetings according to what we know we can handle in a given timeframe. With strategically small teams such as ours, we have to be careful not to overbook ourselves (which is difficult because we will get really excited about your project). That being said, there is a good chance your project won’t start right away.
Even if we can't start immediately, we are ready and able to move as quickly as you can towards a signed proposal to secure a place in our project queue.
We have an existing project schedule and rarely have immediate availability. But even if we did, we can’t put you in that calendar until we received an autographed contract and a down payment. Getting there usually takes some time.
Prospecting takes time.
When you come to us with a web project, there is guaranteed to be several phone calls, emails, and meetings before we can do an accurate cost estimate. Remember, we are most likely learning about you and your business for the first time, so we will ask lots of questions to ensure our understanding of your goals and objectives. This process usually takes about 1-2 weeks depending on how our schedules line up and how responsive you are being as our client (yep - you become a client the moment you call us).
That puts us at about June 15th in the above example, assuming we can start right away.
Everything else takes time.
The contract you sign will have a definitive start date and end date. We form our cost estimates based on the number of hours we determine, based on our experience and understanding of your project, it will take to do the work. That makes it very easy to form a timeline estimate since we can divide the number of hours in the estimate by 40 to get the number of weeks it will take to complete working at full capacity.
We love what we do and work hard to get it done right, but also as quickly as possible at all times.
It typically takes us 2-4 months to actually do the work, depending on the size and scope of your project. We adhere strictly to our process, which is broken into phases, all of which are subject to your approval. This usually accounts for meetings and revisions but does not account for delays in communication, content entry, and site launch as those are dictated by you, the client.
That puts us at August 15th in the above example (for a small scale website).
Cause for Delays
If you send us an email, there is a very good chance you’ll hear back from us that same day because communicating with our clients is a part of our best practices. However, it is difficult for most clients to reciprocate that gesture because unlike us, their job is not centered around making their company a new website or application. They hire us, meet with us, and adhere to our process while still maintaining their full-time position in an industry that is probably much different than ours.
Therefore, it usually takes clients an extra day or two to respond and even longer when we deliver files for review. A client's internal review process can take days or even weeks depending on how much approval it needs. HINT: If you want to speed up the process, select a few team members who will have the authority to approve or deny our work from the beginning instead of gathering feedback from the entire team.
Although we do push the big red button that makes your website "go live", we are not responsible for entering all the content into your new website. You, as our client, will need to understand this and allow sufficient time for this content entry. Depending on the size of your website and how much content you can reuse from your old website, we have found that this process can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months.
That conservatively brings us all the way to September 15th in the above example for a site launch, which is about 1 month after the originally anticipated launch date.
We truly believe in doing the work correctly rather than trying to rush it for an increased, expedited rate. We would rather have you pay less money and allow us the proper time to deliver successful results than pay more to have it done for your quarterly meeting.
While we do try to account for all factors affecting the timeline upfront, the "Go Live" date is more up to you than it is to us. We need sufficient time to do the work, but beyond that, the completion date is subject to how quickly you can approve our work, respond to our emails, and enter your content into the website. Consider the following estimated timelines when hiring us for your next web project:
How Do I Know How Big My Website Is?
Here are a few traditional descriptions of web projects that should help you determine how big your project is. These do not anticipate time for prospecting and content entry. Please keep in mind that every project is different and these basic examples are only to help you grasp the scope of your project.
Small Website (2-3 months): Consists of mostly text and images, includes minimal features, minimal unique pages, and usually ranges between 10 - 20 pages.
Medium Website (3-4 months): Consists of text, images, video, includes features such as search functionality, 5-10 unique pages such as blog and news feeds, and usually ranges between 20 - 50 pages.
Large Website (4-6 months): Consists of text, images, video, includes advanced features such as e-commerce solutions, many unique pages as well as advanced custom navigation, and usually ranges between 50 - 100 pages.
To get a sense of how much these websites cost, please read How Much Will My Website Cost?