How to Estimate a Website Project’s Cost and Timeframe

How to Estimate a Website Project’s Cost and Timeframe

Last Edited April 25, 2018 by Garenne Bigby in Blog

Creating a website takes both time and money, especially if you want it to be effective for your business. A business with an effective website will grow and be more profitable than a business without a website or one that does not draw in new customers. Depending on your own experience with building a website, you might wrestle with the idea of doing most of it yourself or calling on an expert to do the work. It all depends on what goals you might have and what approach you might like to take. It also will depend heavily on your budget and the amount of money you are able and willing to spend on getting a website up and running.

There is a lot that goes into planning the building of a website, not only with its timeframe but also with its cost. When estimating how much time and money it will take to create a website, it is important to remember that it is just a best guess based on your goals and tools available. There is no sure-fire way to tell exactly how long your website will take or what it will cost. This process requires you to be as flexible as possible. Estimating time and cost is an essential part of any type of project.

Below are some tips about what you need to consider when thinking about building or rebuilding your website. These tips can help you to estimate a website’s project cost and timeline whether you are looking to build a brand-new website or to fix up the one you already have.

How to Estimate a Website


How to Estimate a Website


1. Figure Out What You Want

One of the most important aspects of estimating a website project’s cost and timeframe is to figure out what it is you want. Consider how complex you want your website to be, what message you’d like to send to your visitors, and what your business is trying to accomplish. You may even consider looking at the websites of businesses like yours to see what is out there. This can help figure out both what you want and what you don’t want when it comes to building a website.

Before you go and talk to an expert, making a list of requirements and expectations is important to ensuring you get what you want out of this project. Since this project will take a lot of time and cost you some money, make sure you get what it is you are looking for, so that you are not disappointed in the end. It would be terrible to have to start all over or spend more money on rebuilding the website. By doing it the right way the first time, you can make sure it turns out to meet your expectations.


2. Set Goals

Setting goals can be motivating to getting the job done. It can be helpful to set both small goals and larger goals. Having just one large goal—to get the website built—won’t be very motivating. Perhaps your goal is to have the layout completed in 6 months, or you would like to have someone hired and begin working within 6 weeks. Not only should you set goals based on how the project is going to get done, but it can also be beneficial to set some goals as to what you would like to accomplish with the website itself. These goals can be discussed with any professional that you decide to work with, so that you are both on the same page when it comes to what you hope to accomplish.

Setting goals can be not only motivating but can also help to organize your time, set priorities straight and make the most of the process. Setting short-term goals can help you accomplish the larger goals. Also, by setting goals, you will feel good when goals are met. Setting goals will make estimating the time and cost of your website building easier.


3. Which Approach Will You Take?

There are a couple of different approaches you can take while planning and building a website. Here they are:

  • Tools-based approach

  • Task-based approach

  • Benchmark approach

Figuring out which approach will work the best for you can be helpful in getting you started with your planning. A tools-based approach means that you will use certain internet tools to do the estimating for you. This can be an extremely helpful approach for someone with little web designing experience who is looking to do most of the work on their own. There are a ton of internet tools that can help with all aspects of a project, beginning with the estimation of time and cost.

A task-based approach will be helpful to freelance designers and even web design firms. In this approach, a freelancer or firm will need to break up the tasks, guess how long each will take, figure out how they will charge (hourly or by task?), figure out a total cost and give the estimate to the client, who will then accept or reject the estimate.

The benchmark approach can be a way for an experienced web designer to make an estimate for a project. It is usually based on previous work they have done. The experienced web designer would look at the project, go back to similar projects they have completed and come up with an estimate that way. The designer may take into consideration benchmarks they will have to meet before moving onto the next steps.

It is also possible to use a combination of these different approaches, depending on your project.


4. What You Can Do VS. What an Expert Can Do

Consider what kind of experience you might have with building a website. If it is zero and you are not a self-starter, then you might want to consider hiring someone. If you have experience or feel this is something you can accomplish with time and hard work, then go for it. You will have to have or take the time to gain knowledge of how a website works, what kind of content you need, and how to best present it to visitors.

Web content not only takes some knowledge of how you’ll need to present it but also needs to be well-written. If you are a writer, then you might consider doing the content on your own. There are also many tools out there on the internet that can help you with your website from the planning phase to the launching phase. If you are looking to save some money, you might consider doing some of the website building on your own, but it is also important to make sure your website will be effective.


5. Do Your Research

Whether you are looking to hire a professional or build the website on your own, you should take some time to research what you want, what it entails to make a website, and how you can be most successful. If it is out of your expertise, then go ahead and hire someone to help you. In the long run, a business may do better if its website is more effective. Researching can take many weeks.

You also should be aware of the laws and requirements for launching and maintaining a website. There are laws out there about certain requirements websites might need in order to ensure all users have access. In your research phase, you should become familiar with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which spells out some requirements you need to be aware of.

If you are considering hiring someone to build your website for you, then this phase might also include researching companies and individuals that might be considered for creating and launching your website. It is important to talk about cost and expectations up front, so that both parties are well aware of what they are getting into before committing to the project. You may want to interview a few individuals to understand what their process and experience is.


6. Create a Timeline

Whether you will be doing some or all the work of building the website, it can be helpful to make a timeline of when you expect each phase of the job to be finished. While this may be similar to setting goals, it is important to have everything laid out, so that each person involved in the project is on the same page. While a timeline is just an estimate, it can be a visual that will help to keep you on track. Include in a timeline the whole job from start to finish. You can even include the research you are doing by reading this article to help you get started. A timeline can also ensure that you don’t skip any steps throughout the process.


7. Use Time-Tracking Tools

Once you have hired someone to build the website, you might consider using time tracking tools to ensure the money you are paying them is accurate to the time they are spending. It is also important and can be helpful to keep track of milestones and phases of the project.  It can also help you to manage different parts of the project in one area. If you are hiring a web designer for some of the work and then a content writer for another part, you can stay organized when it comes to billing and payments.

It will also help to make sure your clients are working when they are billing you, and you won’t have to second-guess time spent. Not only does this help to stay organized, but it also will keep track of both time and money spent on the project for your records. There are many different time-tracking tools that can be found on the internet such as Freeagent, Harvest, and Eon. These tools hold people accountable for the work and can keep track of contracts and expectations throughout the project.


8. Break it Down

There are different phases to consider when building a website. By breaking it down, it might be easier to estimate both time and money needed to complete a phase. Each of these phases will take different people different amounts of time depending on the end goal. When breaking it down into the different stages of creating a website, consider:

  • Planning Phase

  • Solution Design Phase

  • Web Design Phase

  • Front-end Development

  • Back-end Development

  • Web Content Phase

  • Testing Phase

  • Launch Phase

In the planning phase, it is important to do the research necessary to gather the important information you need to create a website that will have an impact on a business. During the solution design phase, this is where sitemaps, user design and the creation of wireframes can happen to prepare before the website work begins. When it comes to the web design phase, you should use this phase to develop the homepage. This is the page of your website that users will see when they first get to your site. If they don’t like what they see on the homepage, they might not care about what is on the rest of the site. This is why it is important to take your time with this phase. You will spend the most amount of time on its design and content.

The best way to understand the difference between front-end development and back-end development is front-end includes what the users see and interact with on a website. Back-end development is how everything works behind-the-scenes. They are both integral to properly launching a website. When it comes to web content, this is also a vital part of building a website. The content is what the user is going to see and interact with, and it is important to making sure a website works properly for the user.

Once these phases are finished, there is a testing phase before the website goes live. This is imperative to making sure the website works and is friendly to the user, so that they get the necessary information and can reach the goals they have for coming to a website. Finally, the last phase is to launch the website. This might seem easy, but it does take time to ensure the launch goes well. At minimum, launching a website can take about a day, but sometimes it might take longer depending on the complexity of the site.


9. Look into Testing Tools

Prior to beginning the project, consider how you will test the website before it is launched. This is a very important step that cannot be skipped. Until a website is used, a developer may not be aware of any errors or unfriendly usability features. Testing tools can be vital to ensuring once the website is launched that it is doing a good job of inviting people to check it out, make purchases, and have the ability to contact you.

Part of your estimate should include how long the testing process will take and what it will cost you. There are a variety of tools out there, so it is important to look into them and place them in the budget early on. The other important part of using testing tools is the report. Once the report is completed, there may be other changes that need to be made before the website goes live. This could cost a bit more money and take more time than was originally expected.


10. Add a Margin of Error and Aim High

No matter what, it is probably better to give a higher estimate than a lower one. It feels better at the end of a project to have saved money rather than to fork more money over. Since we are humans, we will most likely make errors when it comes to judging how long something will take and how much money it will cost us. If you build this into your budget from the beginning, it won’t creep up on you and frustrate you in the end. It is also important to consider that there can be unforeseen circumstances when building a website. The people you hire may get sick and be unable to work, or perhaps you are unhappy with what they are doing and might consider finding someone else to continue and finish the project.

As mentioned before, it is also important to consider that after testing your website, you may need to make more changes, which could cost you both time and money. Chances are, not everything will go smoothly, and it is important to take this into consideration and plan for it as best you can.

Remember, in the end, an estimate is just that. It is the best guess you can make about how much time and money you will need to spend on your website. You may end up spending more, or you might get lucky and spend less than what you thought, so there is more money left over to be used for other important parts of the business. Taking the time, in the beginning, to think about how long it will take and what it will cost will help reduce frustration throughout the project.

Garenne Bigby
Author: Garenne BigbyWebsite: http://garennebigby.com
Founder @dynomapper
Garenne Bigby is freelance Chicago developer and founder of DYNO Mapper with over 10 years experience in both agency and freelance roles in design, development, user experience, SEO, and information architecture.

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