How Long Does it Take to Build a Website?

Hi, I'm Matt Olpinski

I teach thousands of freelancers how to get more clients, raise their rates, and create a better life for themselves.

Updated: July 2, 2014

Whenever I am prospecting a new opportunity with a client, I often get asked how long it will take me to build the new website or application. The short answer is, it depends. It depends on how complex the website is and how robust the features and functionality are. It also depends on a myriad of other things. The truth is, your website is a valuable business tool and it should take time to build. This isn’t the part of your business you want to rush to get fixed.

The start date.

There are only a few prospective clients I’ve spoken to over the years that didn’t want their project to start immediately and sadly, this is often what determines who they choose to work with. If you have chosen your business partner wisely, they probably won’t be able to commence work on your project right away. That’s a good sign that the people you are investing in are worth your money and can deliver a solution that will help grow your business. They are busy and in high demand, which means they know what they are doing.

Prospecting takes time.

Before you can even sign on the dotted line, there are usually a few weeks worth of discovery phone calls and meetings to help determine the scope of work that will then determine the price, that will then determine the timeline. Remember, your partner is most likely learning about you and your business for the first time, so they will need to ask lots of questions to ensure their complete understanding of your goals and objectives. This process can be as short as 1-2 weeks and as long as a few months depending on the size of the project and how willing the client is to do things right.

Design and development take time.

The contract you sign will have a definitive scope of work to be done, start date, and end date. Cost estimates are most commonly based on how many hours it will take to do the work required to get you the results you want. That makes it pretty easy to form a timeline estimate. X hours total/Y hours per week = the number of weeks it will take to complete your project. Voila!

As a freelancer with a full time job, I know I can spend no more than 20 hours a week on your project. Most of my design-only projects take about 3-4 weeks to complete after a contract has been signed. Tack on development and you’ve got another 4-5 week wait time. If you are hiring an agency, it is most likely because the project is too big to outsource to a single freelancer. Therefore, you can expect a much longer project timeline. At Dumbwaiter, our small projects usually take 2-3 months, medium projects take 4-5 months, and large projects can take 6-12 months. This accounts for strategy meetings, design, and development, but does not account for delays in communication, content entry, and site launch as those are the responsibility of you, the client.

Cause for Delays

Communication – If you send me an email, there is a very good chance you’ll hear back from me that same day because communicating with my clients is a part of my job. However, it is difficult for most clients to reciprocate that gesture because unlike me, their job is not centered around making their company a new website or application. They hire me, meet with me, and review my work while still maintaining their full-time position in an industry that is probably much different than mine.

Therefore, it usually takes clients an extra day or two to respond and even longer when I deliver files for review. A clients 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 just 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.

Content Entry – Although there is a big red button hidden in some developers workstation that will make your website “go live”, they are not responsible for entering all the content into your new website. You as the client are usually responsible for doing this and will need to allot sufficient time for the grueling activity, unless you pay your partner to do it for you, which is always a reasonable option. Depending on the size of your website and how much content you can reuse from your old website, I have found that this process usually takes between 1-3 weeks for most websites. Only after the content has been entered and reviewed can the website go live on the web.

Don’t Rush It.

I believe in doing the work correctly rather than trying to rush it for an increased, expedited rate. You should pay less money and give your partner the proper time needed to deliver successful results instead of paying more to have it done before your quarterly meeting.

While I try to account for all factors affecting the timeline, the “go live” date is really up to you. Your partner will need sufficient time to do the work, but beyond that, the completion date is subject to how quickly you can approve their work, respond to emails, and enter your content into the website.

Rome wasn’t built in a day. The highest quality work out there takes time to create. Try giving your designer some breathing room on your next web project and see what their creative mind can do for your business!