From research to launch: Complete website design timeline

Ah, the good old days, right? When building a website was as easy as picking a few pictures, adding some text and colors, and voila โ€“ you were done. 

Image Source: Tenor

But, oh, how times have changed!

Now, it’s not just about creating a website. It’s about crafting an interactive, user-friendly digital destination. You need to ensure it’s not only aesthetically pleasing but also easy to navigate and responsive. 

Before you ask, yes, it does involve a bit more time and effort.

That’s where a website timeline comes into play. It’s your roadmap, guiding you through each crucial milestone and helping you keep everything on track and on schedule.

Feeling overwhelmed? Not sure where to start on your website masterpiece or how to plot out your timeline? 

Don’t sweat it! We’re here to walk you through it, from concept to launch.

Hereโ€™s everything you need to know to bring your website project timeline to life. 

Table of contents

Stage #1: Meet and greet and understanding the brief ๐Ÿค

Every great web design journey kicks off not with the first line of code, but with the first handshake (or virtual handshake these days). This is your inaugural rendezvous with your client, where the magic truly begins.

Think of this stage like a scene from Star Trek. 

You’re part of an exploration team, tasked to investigate a new planet. Your first job? Assess the lay of the land, check for safety, and prepare for the next steps.

At this stage, your mission is to understand your client’s universe – their needs, objectives, goals, and target audience. You’re laying the groundwork, making connections, and setting the stage for what’s to come.

To get the most out of this initial phase, here are some strategies to employ:

  • Grill them with questions to gauge expectations and directions. The more you know, the better you can deliver.
  • Have your client fill out a survey to gather additional insights.
  • Hold discovery sessions where you and your client can convert raw ideas into tangible requirements.

But let’s press pause on meetings and questionnaires for a moment and talk about another crucial component: the project brief

This is where the client lays down all their needs and wants. It’s a compass, guiding you and your team to understand what the client truly seeks. 

The project brief, your trusty guide, should encompass:

  • Project summary: This is your bird’s-eye view of the project, covering all the critical details. 
  • The competition: A look at who else is playing in your client’s field. 
  • The message: What’s the heart of the story your client wants to tell through their website?

Consider this brief your project’s skeleton, providing structure and guidance. 

The first rendezvous with your clients and gathering the creative brief can take a hot minute, typically ranging from 24 hours to a week

This timeframe hinges on everyone’s schedules (and, of course, pesky time zones, if applicable). ๐Ÿ™ƒ

Once you’ve got a handle on the expectations, you’re all set to blast off to the next phase โ€“ drafting a master plan for your website project. 

Stage #2: The art of strategy and planning ๐Ÿค”

As the legendary Steve Jobs once said, “Strategy is figuring out what not to do.” 

This stage is all about setting the rhythm of your web project and essentially, pinpointing the ‘what not to do’s.

The first place to start? Answering the pivotal question: whatโ€™s the website for?

Chiseling out a strategy involves these key ingredients:

  • Research. Time to play detective! Find out what others in your web design clientโ€™s industry are doing. What’s working for them? Where are they dropping the ball? This is an excellent way to spot any gaps that your new website design could fill. It also helps you understand what makes your audience tick.
  • Website flowchart or sitemap. Think of this as your website’s family tree. It visually maps out how each web page is connected to the others, simplifying complex websites for easy navigation.
  • Wireframing. This is the bare-bones blueprint of your website. No, you don’t need a degree in anatomy to create one! It provides a broad overview of the site’s functionality, setting the stage for you to later flesh out the interface. 

๐Ÿ’กRemember, communication is key at this stage. Keep all the key players โ€“ clients, project managers, stakeholders, and team members โ€“ in the loop.

This transparency eliminates any confusion and ensures everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet. This includes briefing them on:

  • What’s on the agenda (and what’s not).
  • Projected timelines.
  • Expected completion dates.

Timeframe: The design stage  can swing between one to ten weeks, depending on the complexity and nature of the website.

Once you’ve nailed down a solid plan and strategy, you can confidently march onward to the next phase of the timeline โ€“ rolling up your sleeves and diving into the design of the website. 

Stage #3: Design ๐Ÿ–Œ๏ธ

This is where web designers don their creative hats and channel their inner da Vinci!

GIF Source: Tenor

This is the stage where you show off. It’s when you unveil a sneak peek of the site’s look and feel to your clients and stakeholders. Thanks to the previous stage, everyone’s expectations are in sync.

But wait a second! Don’t just dive headlong into the web design waters just yet. 

There are deliverables that can help bring your ideas to life. Likeโ€ฆ

  • Wireframe. This is your website’s blueprint. A wireframe  outlines the structure of the site and showcases its essential elements. It’s essentially a more detailed sketch of your site that you can share with others.
  • Mockup. This is the dress rehearsal of your website. It’s a visual demonstration of how the site will appear post-launch. Much like an architect’s 3D rendering of a property in the works, a website mockup gives you a glimpse of the final product. 

The design phase holds a pivotal role in the web design timeline. It’s your sandbox to:

  • Experiment with different ideas.
  • Gather feedback for fine-tuning.
  • Ensure everyone on the team, including stakeholders, are aligned.

More crucially, the designs become the conduit to share your creative vision with clients.

For seamless collaboration, consider tools like MarkUp.io. This allows you to share designs with your clients who can drop a comment anywhere on the file with just a click. 

And just like that โ€“ boom! โ€“ instant feedback. 

Plus, tracking and implementing their reviews becomes a breeze with MarkUp.io.

๐Ÿ’กDon’t forget to design for both desktop and mobile versions of the website. 

A responsive site is one that adapts smoothly to both interfaces. 

As for the sizes, typically for mobile it’s 360×800, and for desktops, the go-to size is 1920×1080. 

Timeframe: The design stage can take a short amount of time, typically ranging from two weeks to a month.

Once your stakeholders and clients give you the thumbs up – cue the confetti ๐Ÿฅณ – it’s time to call in the cavalry, or in our case, the developers! 

Keep reading to learn how they turn those designs into reality. 

Stage #4: Development ๐Ÿ’ป

Welcome to the land of codes and scripts, AKA the development phase. Here, your web designs spring to life, much like Geppetto’s beloved puppet, Pinocchio. 

Or, in the eyes of your web development team, think of it as their pride and joy, their brainchild.

And who are the puppet masters in this act? The developers! 

Their mission? To breathe life into the website, both on the client side (hello, front-end development) and the server side (back-end development).

Front-end development is all about crafting the aesthetic and interactive elements of the site. This is where developers ensure that users can engage with the web pages in a seamless way. 

The magic behind this is conjured up through programming languages like HTML, Javascript, CSS, and various web frameworks.

Back-end development, on the other hand, is akin to the wizard behind the curtain. It’s about monitoring the website’s performance, spotting areas for enhancement, and making necessary tweaks. This encompasses the server, an application, a database, and all those elements that are hidden from the public eye.

Optimization

In the development stage, optimization shares the spotlight too. It’s all about fine-tuning the speed, user experience, and overall performance of the site.

There are a host of ways you can play the optimization game:

  • Speed boost: Tweak the site’s code, images, fonts, and other design elements to ensure it loads at warp speed. 
  • Search engine optimization (SEO): Sprinkle the right keywords into your site’s content to make it more attractive to search engines.
  • Mobile optimization: This is about enhancing both design and functionality to ensure your site is a breeze to navigate for mobile users.
  • Conversion rate optimization: This involves adding compelling call-to-action (CTA) prompts, inspiring visitors to take actions like adding items to their carts. 

Beta testing

Once your site is fully developed and functional, it’s crucial to give it a test drive before the launch. 

This stage calls for a team effort with your clients and the target audience. Together, you’ll ensure the site functions smoothly and aligns with the brief.

Here are some things to do during the testing phase:

  • Share the site with clients and request reviews. 
  • Confirm that the website is functioning across multiple devices, screen sizes, and browsers. Tools like BrowserStack, Screenfly, and LambdaTest can be your allies here.
  • Guarantee that your site is accessible to all users. You can lean on tools like accessiBe, Google Lighthouse, or FireEye for this.

Timeframe: Wondering how long beta testing might take? It hinges on the number of internal pages and the complexity of your site.

For a site with fewer pages, you’re looking at roughly two weeks. For a more extensive site, it could stretch up to two months.

Phew! With the design and development phases checked off, we can now turn our attention to the next stop on our web design journey โ€“ crafting captivating content for the website. Let’s get those creative juices flowing!

Stage #5: Content creation โœ๏ธ

You know how a burger is the perfect blend of lettuce, beef, tomato, ketchup, cheese, and onion nestled between two buns? ๐Ÿ˜‹

In the realm of web development, content is the delectable fillings sandwiched between the buns of design and development.

It’s the secret sauce that adds that special zing to your website and keeps users hooked. 

In essence, apart from the design, it’s the content that keeps visitors coming back for seconds.

When it comes to content creation, here’s your game plan:

  • Draft a content plan to oversee all the content that’s published on the site.
  • Strive for consistency across all content.
  • Make sure the content reflects the brand’s unique voice.
  • Include information that users will find both useful and relevant.

With these pointers in mind, let’s delve into the different facets of content creation, starting with…

Content writing

This refers to creating:

This entails crafting:

  • Blog posts
  • Headings
  • Titles
  • Homepage content
  • Landing pages
  • ‘About Us’ page
  • Captions for products or services

Whew, that’s quite a spread!

Remember, each of these elements requires thorough research to resonate with your target audience. Your content needs to inspire visitors to take action.

Now, who’s behind the word wizardry that is content creation? Content writers and copywriters!

Hereโ€™s what sets them apart: Content writers focus on creating content to inform and educate. Meanwhile, copywriters spin content to persuade users.

If you don’t have these wordsmiths on your team, it might be worth considering hiring seasoned freelancers. 

Graphic assets creation

Creating graphic assets is another pivotal part of the content creation process. These web design resources help convey the client’s brand identity, making it easily recognizable to visitors.

Your graphic assets toolkit might include:

  • Color palettes
  • Logos
  • Typography styles
  • Icons
  • Slogans or taglines
  • Voice tone
  • Mascot

๐Ÿ’ก Don’t forget, the brand’s voice should shine through when crafting new content for the website.

Think of it as your brand’s personality โ€“ what you say and how you say it. Your words and sentences should echo your brand’s values and mission.

It’s like a lighthouse for your users. It’s how they’ll recognize you, and what sets your brand apart.

Timeframe: The duration hinges on the number of web pages. It can span anywhere from three weeks to two months.

Just one final step to go โ€“ hitting that publish button!

Stage #6: Website launch ๐Ÿš€

You’ve made it to D-Day, or as we like to call it, Site Launch Day! ๐ŸŽ‰

The website has been optimized, put through rigorous testing, and received the thumbs up from the clients.

So, what’s next?

Well, it could be as simple as tapping that publish button to launch the website into cyberspace. Or, there might be a little dance to do with the hosting service before the main event. Either way, it’s time for lift-off!

Once the site is live, brace yourself for potential post-launch hiccups. Here’s a heads-up on what they might be:

  • Plagiarized web content: Originality is key! Audiences appreciate genuine content, not a rehash of someone else’s words. Use tools like Duplichecker or Grammarly to ensure your content is plagiarism-free.
  • Missing SSL certificate: A Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate is your site’s bodyguard, keeping it safe from ‘NOT SECURE’ labels that can send users running for the hills. Make sure it’s in place, or get one activated pronto!
  • Slow site speeds: A loading time longer than 3 seconds can push users to click away. Enhance your site speed by using browser caching, minifying resources, and optimizing visuals. Run a speed test to gauge its performance.
  • Broken links: A 404 error page is a definite buzzkill. Keep an eye out for any broken links and ensure everything on the site is in perfect working order.
  • Missing images: Double-check that all your files are uploaded to your server. You wouldn’t want your site filled with placeholders instead of images.

Timeframe: The website launch can be a quick affair, taking anywhere from a day to a week

***

And there you have it! Take a moment, draw a deep breath, and treat yourself to a well-earned cup of coffee. โ˜• After such intense work, youโ€™ve certainly earned a breather.

Or, if you’re still in the zone, consider diving into tools to further streamline your web development process. Whichever path you choose, know that you’ve done a fantastic job!

Meet your web design deadlines with the right tool

Creating a website is a journey filled with numerous steps, with feedback playing a pivotal role. 

The only hitch? Waiting for reviews can feel like watching paint dry! ๐Ÿ˜ 

You’ve sent out a flurry of requests for feedback, but the echo of silence is all you get. 

Days morph into weeks, deadlines loom, and there’s a growing pile-up of delays. You’re still waiting on that golden seal of approval from your client. It can be very time-consuming. 

Luckily, thereโ€™s a way to avoid that. 

Adding MarkUp.io to your web design workflow can streamline your review-and-approval process

It enables pixel-perfect comments on projects, making it easier to get everyone on the same page.

Thousands of web designers are already reaping the benefits of MarkUp.io. Join their ranks by clicking here for a free 30-day trial with MarkUp.io

Happy commenting!