As an agency, prospective clients often ask, “How long does it take to redesign a website?” or “What’s a new website going to cost me?”
Those are good questions. They’re also tough questions, especially early on. The most accurate answer to start is a very unsatisfying “It depends.”
Luckily, a better answer is usually only a few conversations away, and we’re quickly able to propose an initial expected timeframe and budget range once we know a bit more. If you’re considering a website redesign, here are some key factors that we’ve found often contribute to how long your project will take and how much it will cost.
Business decisiveness and focus
Website design and development is like building a house: it’s best to be decisive and request significant changes early. Changes at the blueprint stage? Pretty easy. Changes once the paint has dried and fixtures are placed? That’s a different story.
Websites are no different. While scope is never fixed and we can always revisit decisions, as your project progresses, the cost and time required to make changes (sometimes even those that seem simple on the surface) naturally goes up. But our goal is an end result you love, and any good partner will offer options to accommodate whatever you need, whenever you need it.
Here are some tips to keep your project timeline efficient and use budget effectively:
- Come with a clear understanding of your website goals and requirements
- Be able to make quick and unambiguous decisions that you can stick to
- If you’re working with budget or time constraints, avoid pivots and scope changes as much as possible
Every website has a job to do. Some have lots of jobs. We call those things that let your site fulfill its role, for your business or customers, “functional requirements.” These form the structure of your project, and are the things we need to plan, design, develop, and test.
The set of functional requirements you request for your initial release makes up a good portion of the project scope. And there’s generally a direct correlation between size of project scope and length of project timeline.
Scope decisions can be hard, but it’s good to remember that websites are never done, and what isn’t done today can usually be done tomorrow. Rigorously prioritizing the features and functionality you need for initial launch is one of the best ways to shorten your project timeline.
While it’s ultimately a business call to prioritize what constitutes critical scope, we’re always ready to advise on the best candidate requirements to deprioritize to subsequent releases without technical ramifications or other ill effects.
And, if multiple phases are warranted, we don’t even need to pause! We literally can be working on building your second release while we’re flipping the switch on your initial launch.
Creative design approvals
We have very few clients who express strong feelings about database or API design, but visual design is a dependably hot topic. We completely understand. Creative mocks offer the first glimpse into how your new website will look, and that’s exciting.
But, precisely because they’re so relatable and interesting, they can also prompt a lot of stakeholder feedback, ideas, and opinions, which the project team then needs to parse through, discuss, and address.
While any good website design partner wants to find a design approach that everyone loves, the cycles required to reimagine and refine visual designs can quickly extend a project timeline if not carefully managed.
We’ve found this approach greatly helps streamline the design and review process:
- Identify key members of your team (ideally 1-2 people) who will own review and approval of the designs
- Task those people with sharing the designs internally, collecting feedback, and prioritizing it before bringing it back to the designers
- Keep an open mind and trust that your design partner is bringing digital design best practices to the table, while keeping your best interests at heart
Your website platform
You can build and launch a website on many platforms, ranging from simple drag-and-drop builders (great for DIY, limited capabilities) to fully custom solutions, powered by hand-coded static site generators and headless content management systems.
While some clients come to us with a particular platform in mind, most want us to help them make that decision. We’re happy to do that, using information we’ve gathered on requirements, budget, internal support resources, and business needs.
Platform plays strongly into project duration. There are some, like Webflow, where we can legitimately build a site in a few days. We’ve done it on multiple occasions, though we like to allow 1-3 months for these builds. There are others, like WordPress or Magento, that are usually more middle of the road from a project timeline perspective, maybe 3-8 months. And then there are custom builds which can take a bit longer, often in the 6-18 month range, but you get a site that’s built for your exact business needs, with lots of flexibility and scalability, and very few compromises.
Every platform has pros and cons. Our job is to use our expertise to identify and advocate for which one best fits your business. We want you on a modern, flexible, well-supported solution that meets all of today’s business needs and allows you to gracefully grow into what’s coming next.
Most modern websites need to connect to other pieces of software to provide functionality or data. You’ll hear us call these “integrations,” and the number and complexity of the integrations you need directly plays into website project turnaround.
We’ll guide you through these discussions, but you can get a head start by thinking about how your website might integrate with other systems to do its job for you and your users. These could be things you’re already using, or new needs you haven’t been able to accommodate yet.
Here are some common integration points to consider:
- Google Analytics or other tools for data collection/analysis
- Email marketing platforms, like Mailchimp, HubSpot, or Constant Contact
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, like Salesforce, ActiveCampaign, or Microsoft Dynamics
- ERP systems, like SAP, Sage, or NetSuite
- Internal or external APIs that provide data or resources
- Other custom business applications that facilitate business workflows or processes
Your team’s involvement
We wish a website redesign project could be a “set it and forget it” exercise for your business, but that’s rarely the case. You are critical to the project’s success, and your team’s ability to actively participate and collaborate with ours as we move your project ahead directly affects speed to launch.
When we work shoulder-to-shoulder with a highly involved, decisive, and collaborative stakeholder team, we can do big, complex things in relatively short order. And, honestly, those are our favorite projects. We love geeking out with highly engaged stakeholders.
We certainly don’t need you to eat, sleep, and breathe the project, but your team can help shorten our timeline by doing the following:
- Having a single primary stakeholder who can be a communication hub and represent the whole team’s interests
- Promptly giving feedback and making key decisions that affect project progress
- Providing clear and prompt answers to our questions
- Being available for meetings and ad hoc conversations as needed
If there’s one “usual suspect” culprit to a website taking longer than expected, it’s content. Content is mission critical to your website. It’s one of your most powerful assets. But it can also be nuanced, complex, and sometimes a real pain in the butt. It has a tendency to take a lot longer than anyone thinks it will.
But we’re here to help make it as easy as possible. As we start discovery on your project, here are some of the content-related questions we’ll have:
- How many pages and sections does your site have now?
- Do you have a blog? Do you know which of the posts are providing value?
- Is your content current, or are some pages obsolete?
- What percentage of current content will need to be migrated? Will that migration be manual, or is there potential for automation?
- Do you need to add more sections or pages? Who will write those?
- Who will populate content into the new system?
Feeling proactive? You can jumpstart this work by doing your own internal content audit. Assess your current content for what’s good as-is, what needs minor edits or full rewriting, what is old and should be deprecated, and what is entirely missing and needs to be written.
It’s also good to think about what in-house resources you have for content creation, editing, migration, and population. If you don’t have internal capacity to do everything, it’s okay. We’re happy to step in, and we’ll work with you to figure out how we can best help.
Take the next step
If you’re new to website builds, we know this post may be a bit of an eye-opener. These are good-sized projects! There are a lot of decision points and factors that go into building a website, especially one that gets you a great end result within your desired timeframe and budget.
But these are also very important projects. Your website is your digital brand ambassador and a critical channel for information, commerce, and connection with your customers. It’s important to get it right. And one of the best ways to do that is to choose a digital partner who’s ready to listen, learn, and guide you, shoulder-to-shoulder, through the whole journey.
At Acumium, we’ve been building websites and applications for over 20 years. It’s some of our favorite work to do. We would love to bring our experience and skills to the table for you, and partner on building something great. Get in touch today, and let's start the conversation.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in October 2019. It has been completely revised and updated.