One of the hardest things for a new company to do is predict how long their new website will take to cross the finish line. That makes sense, right? These companies don’t build sites themselves, so they have no way to know what’s realistic.
There’s also a reason they want to redesign their site – their current site isn’t effective at achieving their digital marketing goals, and they want something new as soon as possible. By the time that most companies start reaching out to agencies, they’re often already 6-12 months behind where they want to be, and they want to make up ground, so there’s a lot of internal pressure to launch a new site quickly. That’s a fertile environment for poor decision-making.
So how do you go about setting a realistic timeline for your redesign? Here are a few tips to help you out:
Don’t be Arbitrary
Define your Current Problem
Don’t Forget About Content
Simplicity is Vital
Consult A Nerd’s World
We all want to prove that we can get things done, and there’s no better demonstration than setting an aggressive goal and then meeting it. The thing is, your clients don’t care how fast you launched your site – they care whether your site serves their needs.
Most companies that approach us choose a nice round figure or an appealing date, such as “two months,” “end-quarter,” or “by the end of the year.” Generally, these estimates have nothing to do with how long a project should take; they just sound good in a meeting. Investigate how long this should take before you ever start discussing deadlines. Remember, you impress people in your organization by launching a site quickly, but you impress your clients (and build your business) by taking your time.
Define your Current Problem
What will the new site do for your company that your current site does not?
Once you’ve defined your problems, you can start to think about scope. When discussing project scope, many companies focus on functionality, but there are other factors to consider, such as the size of your site, the level of your competition, the expectations of your audience, and the complexity of your message.
The other major scoping question is how prepared your team is for a redesign. Do you have a style guide? Messaging? Market research? Good content? If your organization can handle these things internally, that’s fantastic, but if not, they should be part of the project scope and accounted for in the timeline.
When you look at everything you want to accomplish, if the list is too long, consider breaking up the project into phases.
Remember, your team is just as responsible for launching on time as the agency is (often more so). Think about how much time your team will be able to devote to the project. How fast can your team provide feedback? If your vendor needs you to pull together some information for them, how long will that take? How big is your team, and how easy is it to schedule meetings? We have found that, for every two hours A Nerd’s World puts into a project, our clients put in about one, sometimes more if they’re working on new content.
A good test of your team’s decisiveness is how long it takes to select a web designer. We’ve had potential clients who set up a six-month vetting process and then wanted a site live in one month from selection day. One month is a very aggressive timeline in general, but a company that needs six months to make a decision probably won’t be able to handle a process that fast.
Often, timelines are based on a best-case, perfect-world scenario, but there are external factors that affect timeline as much as if not more than the project plan. Holidays are a great example, but so are your company’s busy season, vacations, and when one of your key team members is having a baby. Once you select a timeline, look at the calendar and add a day for every day that a key decision maker or content producer will be out of the office.
Don’t Forget Content
At A Nerd’s World, we believe that content should be the focus of your marketing, and the website is the delivery device for that content. A well-designed website will present your content to users in an intuitive and aesthetically pleasing way, but the whole thing falls apart if your content isn’t up to snuff. Not only that, but content has to serve many different purposes now: in addition to providing information about your organization and services, it also has to drive search visibility and site engagement. This is a tricky balance, and it takes time to get right. That’s why more projects are delayed by content creation than anything else on this list.
Simplicity is Vital
The fact that the Internet user experience keeps getting more intuitive often leads people to the conclusion that the process of building sites is getting easier. To some extent, that’s true; you can build a site using a template relatively simply and easily. But creating a simple, intuitive experience for your specific audience is a complicated process that takes significant time and effort. When it’s done right, you should never know how much work went on behind the scenes, but ignore that work at your own peril.
Remember your primary goal. When you ask many organizations about their goals, they start with functionality – for example, they may tell us that they need a blog, a client login, and responsive design. Those may all be important to your success, but only to the extent that they help you achieve your goals.
That distinction is important because your primary goal should be to grow your business. That’s never been harder; 2015 is the year we’re expected to hit a billion websites, so you’re competing with 999,999,999 other sites for your audience’s attention.
With that in mind, does it really make sense to sacrifice quality to launch a website in 14 days?
Typical A Nerd’s World Timeline
At A Nerd’s World, our average template project is 30 days. In the right circumstances, we can launch a project faster, and as you might expect, we’ve also had custom big projects that have taken 6-8 months. If you need help with your web development in Toronto visit our online pricing and portfolio today.
Chris A. Hughes