Click to Print

Launch Your Site on Schedule

If you want a website that's both on time and on point, you'll have to plan accordingly.
December 3, 2009
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/204228

Every time I give a presentation on developing a website, a popular question always comes up: "How long does a website take to create?"

There are many factors that come into play when developing a website, and each element can have an effect on the time it will take to design and build your website.

Sitemap, Planning and Research
Before you begin designing your website, you need to outline the sections you'll need on your website. We call this your sitemap. This process will help you outline the content and the flow of the website. Next, I recommend creating a wireframe to illustrate where you want your information to be placed and the functions your website will need. Before you start picking out images or writing your text, it's a good idea to research your competition and identify the right keywords for your website. Depending on how much time you can devote to them, these steps can take a few days or a few weeks.

Design and Copy
Have you ever heard the saying "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?" When building a website, you often have to ask a similar question--which comes first, the design or the copy? I don't have a hard and fast rule on this because everyone works differently, and some people need a design to write their content to match. Another approach is to sit down write all your website content first, and through this process you'll find the inspiration for the design in the words. The important point is that you have an alignment between the two areas. Your copy and design need to feel cohesive.

You don't have to have all your copy finished to start the design, but having a sizable percentage will help you have a strong idea of the direction you want for your design. If you're doing all of this yourself, commit to tackling your content for an hour or two every day. Use your wireframe and sitemap as a guide to help you cross-reference the material and create marketing call-outs for the design.

If you've decided to use a pre-designed template instead of a custom designed look for your website, you may want to spend time finding some fresh stock photography to add to your website to help differentiate the look and enhance your content.

Coding and Content
Custom-designed websites will need to be converted to the code that makes them work online. This process may take a few days to a few weeks depending on the complexity of the code for your custom website. The next step is to drop in all the content. This isn't just copy and paste, but also styling the text and creating cross-links within the copy.

When using pre-packaged solutions you'll still want to spend some time looking over your content and finding ways to make it work on the screen.

Don't Forget to Test
No matter how your website is built, you should always make time to test its functionality. Browser testing is one of the most important items to check--is your website looking and acting correctly on Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari and Chrome?

If your website uses security, is it working correctly? Do three or four test orders and make sure the transactions are working properly.

How much time does it take to build a website? As you can see, it depends on many factors. Set dates and milestones, and be sure that they're realistic. Remember to leave time for revisions and testing. Most important, a website is meant to change, so it's OK to launch your website even you feel like it's not completely finished, provided all the function and testing is done. You can always add more content or products as you go. This will keep you motivated and give you some new things to e-mail your customers about.