One of the most common questions that people ask web developers is: “How long does it take to develop and launch a website?” Of course, the answer varies quite a bit with the size and complexity of the project. In any case, it is important for developers to establish goals and follow a timeline before embarking on a project, as this keeps the team focused, facilitates planning, and ensures that the final results are delivered on time.
A website project timeline should list the most important milestones that represent the major stages of creating the website. Each stage should be given a set length of time that corresponds to its size and complexity. Also, there is a set of objectives that need to be accomplished in order to complete each stage. A typical project timeline of tasks done before and after a website's launch is as follows:
1. Planning And Discovery
The importance of this initial stage must not be underestimated, as it is the project’s foundation for success. This stage usually lasts from 2-10 weeks and often consists of the following elements:
- Requirements and/or definitions document
- Creative brief
- Technical briefs
- Discovery sessions
- Detailed architecture briefs and site architecture documents
- Wireframe (a skeletal design diagram that provides a brief overview of the intended site functionality)
Discovery is so important, we have made sure it's a primary component of our business development process. Without discovery, how can any agency know how long a project will take, or even more importantly, how much it will cost? For illustrative purposes, this video details our thoughts on how Discovery & Architecture should work:
Once the research and planning are done, the project is ready to move on to the design stage. A major part of this stage is the creation of mockups that are presented to the client for approval. The goal of this stage is to establish a look for the website that the client is happy with and to determine the functionality that the client needs. The design stage typically lasts from 4 to 12 weeks. A mockup, which is a visual representation presented to the client in order to demonstrate the website's intended look, usually includes the following items:
- Homepage design
- Internal page designs
- Desktop and Mobile views
3. Content Creation And SEO
Not only is it important for a website to have appealing style and functionality, but it is crucial for it to have great content that will appeal to the intended audience and perform well on search engines. This stage can be time-consuming if it is a large site, taking an average of 5 to 15 weeks, often overlapping with other stages. However, the effort is well worth it. Website content consists of the following elements:
- Key messages
- Calls to action
- Content migrated over from existing sites
- Effective page titles and headings
- Search engine optimization: keywords optimally placed within content, titles, headings and image tags
4. Development And Coding
Once the design is approved and all the content is ready to be placed, the task of building the actual website can begin. Although there is little to no involvement of the client at this stage, it still takes up a significant portion of the overall project timeline, from 6 to 15 weeks on average.
5. Beta Testing
Once all the developing of the website is complete and it is fully functional, it must go through a period of testing before launch. The beta testing phase typically takes 2-6 weeks and should accomplish the following objectives:
- Review and receive feedback from intended audience and investors.
- Ensure proper functioning across multiple devices, screen sizes, and web browsers.
- Make sure the site looks and functions as per the specifications of the client.
Once all parameters of the beta testing are fulfilled, the site is ready for its official launch. Since all the work of developing and testing is done, this major milestone should be simple and quick, taking only one day. If the website is extremely complex, involving a variety of apps and components it can take a bit longer.
7. Ongoing Improvements
The work of creating a website should not stop at launch. There are plenty of opportunities for the client to gain more from the website by performing maintenance and providing updates. In order to stay competitive in search engine results, new content should be added on a regular basis, and as time goes by, a website may benefit from design tweaks that keep the site’s style current with rapidly changing internet trends.
After looking over this timeline, the process of creating a website may seem more time-consuming than you may have thought, but bear in mind that projects vary a great deal from one another. A simple website could be done in as little as 2 weeks, while some of the largest projects may take over a year. Regardless of the project's size, it's crucial to establish a timeline of stages and objectives in order to facilitate the best results done within the shortest amount of time.