A Peek at How the Website Development Process Works
First, it’s important to understand that every website is different. We can’t just say: “Your website should take exactly two months to build” since we don’t know what kind of project you have in mind. Even if we did, chances are high that you want particular functionality or a specific look. Translating all of that from your head into a fully-working website takes time.
There are so many variables to the website development process that estimates are hard to make. We’ll give it a shot in a moment and share some numbers from our experiences. However, before we get started, it’s important to understand what actually goes on when you hire someone to develop a website for you.
Here’s how that process might look:
- You share your needs with the developer or team you’re working with.
- They put together a plan of action, which you need to approve.
- You get to look at some mockups, also known as wireframes, for your site’s design and approve them or ask for changes.
- The development and web design process gets underway with some back-and-forth between you and your developer(s).
- Afterward, there will usually be a final round of revisions to get everything just right.
One thing that surprises a lot of people is the amount of work that goes on before a serious developer or agency even begins to code. If they just launched into the development process without a solid idea of what you wanted, things would get messy. More importantly, a lot of time (and money) could get wasted.
Even if you only want to build a small website, you’ll need to be methodical about it. Now, let’s break down how long each of the necessary steps is likely to take.
How Long It Takes to Build a Website (The 4 Basic Steps)
For this section, we’re assuming that you plan to hire someone to build your website for you. Whether it’s a single person or an agency, the same advice still applies, although lengths of time can vary depending on the scope of your project. We’ll provide you with some rough estimates of what it would take to build a standard business website, however, so you don’t walk away empty-handed.
If you think you’d like to tackle the task of building a website on your own, we’ll talk about what your options are soon. Even so, getting acquainted with these steps is fundamental so you know what process to follow.
Step 1: Gauging Your Needs and Creating a Plan (1–2 Weeks)
When you work in a kitchen, you learn that preparation is half the battle. If you know exactly how you want your final dish to look and what the necessary elements are, you’ll end up with a winner in most cases.
In this scenario, you won’t be doing the actual cooking (or development). However, you still need to know exactly what you want your website to look like and what its elements should be. Without that information, whoever you hire will spend a lot of time trying to figure out what you need, which is not a productive use of their time.
Keep in mind that an experienced developer will be able to provide you with insights you might not come up with otherwise. For example, they might tell you if a particular feature doesn’t make sense for your website or if the design you have in mind might affect the user experience. You should always listen to what they have to say, but ultimately, the decision on how to proceed is yours.
If you want to build a website for your small business, here’s what you might tell a developer so they have an idea of what you want:
Hello Ms. Developer,
I’m interested in putting together a website for my business, John Doe Incorporated. I don’t have a web presence yet, so I want it to cover all the basics. This includes information about my company, details on to how to contact us, and examples of our past projects.
Ideally, I want the website to look both professional and modern, but I’m open to suggestions on how to tackle the project. Here are some examples of other websites with designs I like, so you have an idea of what I’m looking for:
- Website one.
- Website two.
- Website three.
I look forward to hearing back from you and talking about any ideas you might have and getting a sense of how long the entire process might take.
In a best-case scenario, this step will take one to two weeks and involve several rounds of back-and-forth over email, Skype, messenger pigeon, or whatever method of communication you prefer.
Be aware that if someone jumps onboard your project without asking too many questions about what you want, that is a red flag. The best kinds of developers will ask you a ton of questions before signing on so they have a clear idea of what you need and whether they can deliver it.
How Long Does It Take to Code a Website?
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Step 2: Getting Started on Your Website’s Design (1–3 Weeks)
Once you have a plan of action in place, it’s time to get started on your website’s design. In most cases, the developer or agency should have dedicated web designers, who will provide you with mockups of how your website might appear.
Mockups are like sketches on steroids. They show you what your website might look like based on your requirements so you can approve it. At this stage, you’ll probably want to make changes to your site’s design, which is encouraged. Development hasn’t started yet, so these revisions shouldn’t set the project back too much.
If you’re ever in this situation, you should ask for full mockups of every page you want your website to include. They can consist of filler content and images, of course. What you really care about is seeing what elements each page will include, what their layout looks like, and even how everything will appear on mobile devices.
This is the stage where your website really begins to take shape, and it can take anywhere from one to three weeks. So it’s important to remain a participant in the process and be proactive about asking questions and requesting changes.
Step 3: The Main Development Phase (1–2 Months)
This stage is where the magic happens. Your team will take the information you’ve given them, and turn it into a fully working website that (hopefully) looks just like the mockups you approved.
This part takes a while, partly because there are always setbacks in any project like this. You may want to change a key part of the website once you see it in action or a tree might fall on your developer’s laptop. Either way, in our experience it will take at least a month to fully develop a website for a small business.
What most savvy agencies do is overestimate how long it will take them to complete your project. That way, they’ll give themselves some breathing room for any problems along the way, and you’ll be impressed when they finish work early.
Again, it’s important to stay in touch during this phase. Good developers will keep you in the loop and show you how things are progressing, but you can and should be proactive about contacting them as well. After all, sometimes the team might be too busy figuring out how to inject caffeine and optimize your website to remember to send you updates.
Step 4: The Final Review (1–2 Weeks)
Before you can say that your website is officially finished, it needs to go through a final round of revisions. You’ll want to take a close look at how every part of the website looks and works, and decide if it meets the plan of action you traced out together at the beginning of the development process.
In our experience, there are always corrections to be made, particularly if you commission a complex website. The fact that changes are required doesn’t bode ill of the development team, however. It’s just something to be expected when it comes to web development.
Ideally, you’ll catch most of the big issues during revisions for the earlier steps. At this point, there should only be minor fixes left to be made, but your mileage may vary. In any case, if nothing important is broken, expect this process to take anywhere from one to two weeks.