How Long Does it Take to Build a Website?


How long does it take to build a website? After, “how much does it cost to build a website?” this is the second most-asked question we receive, and the answer is complex. Many factors go into a comprehensive website build, from your organization’s goals, to the size of the website; from technical requirements, to the size of your project team and more. But assuming a medium-sized site (say, 50-100 pages), built using a thorough process that includes proper discovery, sitemap development, user experience planning, custom design and content management system customization, it generally takes 6-12 months to build a website from scratch.

How do we arrive at this time frame? Can it be done quicker? Let’s delve in. 

Where are you getting 6-12 months?

We’ve been building custom websites for the nonprofit and educational communities for 10 years; in that time, we’ve built a lot of sites. And while we do employ a custom approach to design and development (i.e, coding), our process mirrors that of other similarly-sized agencies. Historically speaking, the highest-quality, most durable websites that produce the highest return for their owners have taken 6-12 months to build (and in some cases, longer). 

Why does it take 6-12 months? 

6 months alone may seem like a long time to create a website. In fact, this is the minimum timeframe for which you should prepare. The reason lies in the importance your website has in your overall operations. It’s the single most important digital asset you own, one that will showcase your brand, tell your story, and in most cases act as the portal through which customers and donors fund your organization.  

Given how important – and public – your website is, you’ll have to think through some of the most critical elements of your organization as a whole, including your: 

  • Positioning and branding
  • Top-level messaging
  • Areas of strategic/programmatic focus
  • Audience targeting/goals 
  • Accessibility considerations
  • Legal or copyright-related concerns 

In addition, you’ll need to gather and develop the resources and content that your website will house, including:

  •  Writing, gathering and editing of content 
  • Collecting/producing images and video 
  • Planning and selection of functionality and technologies
  • Gathering of important information (processes, donor information/e-commerce, program information, etc.)

 In our experience, it’s this necessary introspection and resource development that typically accounts for a 6-12 month timeframe. We have yet to find a client that has all of this “in place” prior to commencing work on their project. And, we don’t blame you. Who sits around with all of this stuff at the ready?

And yet, the biggest challenge for clients looking to redesign their site comes not from the actual work of gathering content and resources – but from internal approval processes and decision-making around these elements. More on this below.  

Of course, the duration of a site project doesn’t lie solely at the feet of the client.  

How does the agency or website designer influence the time frame? 

An experienced and well-managed web team has a time-tested process in place. They should act as a reassuring guide, shepherding the project along through phases, asking the right questions, and by providing aggressive but realistic timeframes, helping you to manage your workload and assignments for the redesign in the most efficient manner possible. 

Through its process – something you should be vetting in advance of securing them – your web team can help minimize the project timeframe. Conversely, a lackadaisical or sloppy development process will extend the project time frame since you won’t receive the project management necessary to move things along at the appropriate clip.  

What are some ways that we (as the client) can improve project turnaround? 

The number one factor affecting website redesign turnaround is how organized and efficient you’ll be in your decision-making and in the gathering, developing and approving of website content and resources. 

We’ve worked with clients that were highly organized and hyper-managed internally, with a single point of contact, empowered to make decisions and move things along.  We’ve worked with others that simply didn’t have the means, resources or inclination to truly dedicate the effort required to enable steady progress, and those were the projects that extended to, or past the 12-month mark. 

To that end, here are some specific points you can focus on to improve your chances of a quicker project turnaround:  

  • Come to the table with a clear picture of what you want your site to achieve – what are your top-level strategic goals; what do you want out of a site redesign?

  • Ensure that you have executive team and board buy-in on all of the major considerations of your site redesign before you begin the process

  • Have a single point of contact – a project manager – on your end that has a sense of urgency and who is empowered to make decisions 

  • Work with an experienced web development team that has a track record of delivering high-level, custom developed sites within a 6-12 month time frame

Can it be done quicker than 6 months?  

Sure. You can build a website in 4 months, or even 3. Heck, with a do-it-yourself site builder, you can build a website in a few days.  But in seeking a quicker turnaround, ask yourself is it worth it? If we push to turn around the redevelopment of this mission-critical tool in some less-than-realistic time frame, will we sacrifice quality at the expense of simply getting it done?

We get it; sometimes reality dictates a more aggressive schedule. But remember, your website is a strategically important tool with outsized value in relation to your other marketing and operational assets. Recall all of the elements you yourself will be responsible for in the redesign. In our view, it pays to take the necessary time to do it right.

I hope this helps you in the planning of your website redesign and in the selection of your web developer/team. If you have further questions or need to bounce ideas off someone who’s been there, don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re only an email away.


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