Why do websites take so long to make?

A client once asked me if I couldn’t have his website finished in a week. At best, it takes me about a month from start to finish when designing and building a small business website of about 6 to 10 pages. He had only a small, one-person business and was giving me the text and the images. “So what could possibly take so long? After all, you’re only using a WordPress template rather than programming from scratch. I really need this website right away.” So here is the answer that I laid out for him:

1. Estimate. I will find out what’s needed in terms of the number and types of pages and content at the initial meeting, lasting an hour or two. Creating an estimate and contract with specifications and a payment schedule will take another couple of hours, which is then returned to the client. A reply and initial payment back from the client might take a day to several months, depending on how soon he/she can afford it and wants to start.

2. Domain Name and Host. Typically the purchase of a new hosting site with a new domain name just takes an hour or so. Occasionally, I’ve had problems getting access to someone’s pre-existing website because they have lost the password or someone else has it, but they still want to use it. Straightening that out can take a week or so. Moving a former domain name from an overseas host to a more familiar local host may take daily phone calls and filling out the right online forms with particular information and can a last a couple of weeks.

3. Content. Ideally, the client would send the logo, text, images, and video all at one time to me, so I could then construct the pages in a logical fashion. This has never happened yet. But the more content that I have, the faster the job would go. Every re-edit adds time and work. Getting the content from the client can take a week to months.

4. Template. Finding the right template and appropriate plugins and constructing the framework of pages, posts, and navigation takes another a day or two. Then the client needs to approve it or it needs redoing. Specialty sites like storefronts can take much longer.

5. Header. Constructing the right header image with transparent logo takes another day to a week, since it usually needs to be designed in Illustrator or Photoshop. Again, client approval is needed or it needs redoing.

6. Text. Waiting for text from the client can take anywhere from a day to months. Then it needs to be edited by me, added to the appropriate pages and approved. Often there are yet more changes desired. I want the client to be as happy as possible with the final outcome, so am willing for a lot of back and forth discussion. Usually clients will want multiple meetings throughout the construction process, because they remembered something else to include or didn’t have a very clear concept at the beginning of what they needed.

7. Images. Creating a portfolio of images, each edited individually in Photoshop and optimized for the web, stretches out over several of days, particularly if all the photos don’t come in at the same time. Each photo, at the least, needs light correction, rotation, cropping, size reduction, and sharpness adjusted, often along with file type changes. Creating portfolios in WordPress has multiple steps and possibilities to wade through. So this can take anywhere from a day to a month if the images don’t all come in at the same time.

8. Data transfer from client to web designer. If the client is not technically proficient, it will slow things down. I have had a number of clients who don’t have email or can’t transfer things to me digitally. So we need to meet and find another way to share materials.

9. Social Media. Requests for new social media links, such as a request for a Facebook page, Google business page, can take another week or two. New social media links might be needed and another plugin may be needed if the original template doesn’t allow for social media icons. And content must be built for the new social media pages as well and a plan developed for upkeep.

10. Final domain upload. Upon final approval and final payment, the pages can take up to 48 hours to be transferred from the staging site to the official domain by the hosting company. More phone calls are needed if there is a problem, which seems to happen often. Then the website is finally live and public!

The length of construction time for this particular client was not a week. It took five long months, primarily because the content took a long time to be sent over in bits and pieces. A final meeting of several hours then took place showing him how to access the site and add text, photos, and new pages on his own. But we were both happy with the final result and it’s already begun to bring him orders for work.

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