If you’re reading this, chances are your business is in need of a new website, and you need to figure out how long it will take and how much it will cost. The good news for you is that I have the answer; the bad news is it might not be as fast as you would like it to be. So, how long does it take to redesign a website? The short answer is, it depends.
Here’s a different way to look at it. Your family is growing, the kids are getting bigger, you adopted a dog, and it’s time to find a new house because you’ve outgrown your current one. How long will it take for your family to move? Are you looking to move into the suburbs where your model home is identical to all of your neighbors and ready for move-in? Or maybe you are looking to build your house from scratch, so that it can be custom built around your family’s needs? Or maybe your current home isn’t that bad and all you need is to expand the kitchen and add a coat of fresh paint? And don’t forget the time to pack and unpack all of your stuff. My point here is, there are a lot of factors that can impact how long it takes to move from start to finish.
The same thing applies to redesigning a website. I get asked this question from business owners all of the time. And I’m going to walk you through a very typical conversation that I have with every person who asks me, “How long will it take to redesign my website?”
John Doe (Business Owner): I’d like to redesign my website, is this something Acumium can do?
Me: Yes we can! But first, can you tell me a little more about why you are looking to redesign your website?
At this point John gives me an eight minute overview of how his current website was built four years ago and that it’s the second site in seven years. He tells me about how his company used to rank in Google in the top three positions. For some reason, that changed and now their competitors are ranking better than they are. John knows his company should have a blog and that they need to work on their SEO. He also knows that they should probably pump up their social programs and that they’ve yet to see any great results from paid search advertising.
Me: Yes, it definitely sounds like redoing your website is a smart investment for you. Can I ask you what some of your key goals are for your new website?
John: It needs to look modern, it needs to be easier to use and it needs to integrate with our back end system. It also needs to work on mobile. It could also use some new imagery and some updated content. Again, it’s been four years since the last time we updated it.
Me: <while looking at John’s website> Hmmm…Your site looks like it has around 115 pages, eight different major sections, a blog that hasn’t been updated in nine months and it’s built on an older CMS. Are you planning to keep all of the content?
John: Most likely. We are thinking about adding a few new sections.
Me: When is the last time you have audited your website pages to be sure you have the right content?
John: Probably the last time we did our website…three years ago.
Me: Ok…a few more questions: Do you have any committees or other stakeholders that will be involved in this redesign process? Who will be handling the new content creation? Do you have an internal person who will coordinate the content migration? Also, are there any special integrations that need to be considered?
John: Those are good questions. I’m not really sure. Our president and one other person will be involved, but mainly in the beginning of the redesign. I’m not sure about the content. We will probably do this ourselves since we know our business best and can probably save money on the project if we keep that in-house. But the major thing is that we want to have the new site up by the end of the year.
Me :< scratching my head and pausing for about three seconds> John, that’s in three months. What if I told you that with the size of your site, your situation and your goals, you’re looking at about a four to eight month project?
John: Oh. It will really take that long?
Me: The short answer is yes. We’ve been helping companies rebuild websites of all sizes for over ten years. It can easily take four to six months and sometimes longer for strategically planned websites. For an ecommerce site, this is more like six months to a year, sometimes even longer. For a basic business website, say for a small Ma and Pop business that only needs their site to show up when people are searching for the closest dry cleaner, we can have a site done for them in about two to three months. On the other hand, we’ve been working on some sites for nearly two years. These sites being major multi-language, highly customized ecommerce sites with a lot of integrations. Remember, the time frames I am giving you are from kickoff to launch. You should keep in mind that you would still need to share more information about the project for us to prepare an agreement that accurately outlines the scope of the project and the services we would be providing (i.e. are you writing the content or are we?). You should consider that the process of picking a strategic partner might take a few weeks when picking your target launch date.
John: Oh. We’re not ecommerce and not a Ma and Pa shop, so you’re saying three to four months at the minimum?
Me: <smiling> Yes, that is correct. On the other company, does that time frame seem reasonable to you knowing everything that you just told me about all the new features, design requirements, the new content and your availability?
John: Not really. So why does it take so long then?
Me: Well, there are many phases to a website redesign project. Our process includes discovery, planning, user experience design and testing, development (both in terms of website content and programming), fit and finishing, content review, SEO considerations, and a lot more, but you get the idea. Did that company talk with you about their process?
John: Not really.
Me: Beyond the basic requirements of the project there are other factors that can extend the project timeline including:
- Development of your brand message, tone and positioning of your content and design, and usually rewriting content that actually makes sense to your visitors.
- Any system integrations your business may have.
- Content. Content is hands down the number one reason websites are delayed. Product data and written content, that is. Once you’ve made the commitment to a new website, content should be the number one item on your to-do list.
- Your internal approval process. What committees need to make decisions on the new site? How long will it take to get an answer back from them?
- Your availability. Clients who aren’t involved tend to slow down the process. But that’s to be expected, after all you’re not going to be sitting around solely working on your new website.
- Content migration takes time. If you’re not already on a modern platform, each page needs to be moved over manually.
- Depending on the content, it can take anywhere between five to 30 minutes per page. And you said you have 120 pages, right?
- And user experience research. You need to invest time in understanding who your audience is and how they want and need to interact with your website.
John: Well, we don’t have any integrations other than MailChimp.
Me: Let me share a little bit about our process. The discovery phase usually includes competitive research, basic usability testing, SEO planning, design concept planning, navigation planning, etc. It’s important that you don’t skip this early step, otherwise you’ll end up with a website that you don’t love and worse yet, a website that won’t meet all of your goals that we discussed earlier. We ask a lot of questions so we fully understand what the requirements are to build your website. Our discovery phase can take up to a month and is usually accomplished with a couple of meetings and a few phone calls.
I’m going to send you over this graphic on building a website.
John: I guess I didn’t realize there were so many things to consider when redesigning a website.
Me: So how does that other company who could do this in one to two months sound now?
John: I am starting to understand this much better.
Me: The bottom line is that a website redesign project takes a lot longer than most people expect. But since we know all of the elements that go into a website redesign, we like to be upfront with clients before starting projects so that their expectations are met. Even small websites can be big projects with many moving parts. This is your website, and you’re going to invest a fair amount of time and money into this, so you should really do this right the first time.
John: I appreciate your insights. This gives me a lot to think about.
There are a lot of decision points and factors that go into building a website. If you’ve done this before, you will appreciate why it takes this long. If you’ve never done this before, consider choosing a web/marketing partner who will hold your hand and guide you to making good choices and focus less on the speed and more on what the end result will bring you.
Do You Need it Built Faster?
Consider building your website in phases over a longer time frame. Trim down your initial requirements to get to a minimal “loveable” website. Then plan out and implement updates every three months with your website partner. You might find that you can have a new site up in 3 months with an initial smaller investment. In the big picture, it might cost the same or even more, but this approach sometimes allows you to adapt your website and marketing needs as you go, giving you much better product in the end.