In my experience, a design timeline will depend on the scale of the project, the amount of content to migrate, the complexity of the navigation and design, the turnaround time needed to provide feedback, the number of integrations with third party systems, and testing resources and availability.
When pressed, however, here are the guidelines I usually share with clients:
Blogs are usually the fastest to get online. Why? Because blogs usually have a simple structure, they usually follow the style of the main organization website, and they have predictable elements: recent posts, blog archive, about the blogger, RSS feed, tag cloud, and social media feeds. Using a blog platform like Blogger, you can get a blog up in about an hour. But if you’re looking to create a blog with a custom theme, it usually takes 2-4 weeks. If it’s urgent, we can get a blog up in a matter of days, assuming the content is ready, the client provides quick feedback, and there is agreement about the blog strategy.
Website facelifts can be fast or they can take time. At Matrix Group, a website facelift involves updating the site’s design elements, but you’re making minimal changes to the navigation and structure and you’re not changing the content management system (CMS). Facelifts can take week or two, or they can take a couple of months. Facelifts get derailed when the decision is made to drastically change the navigation, change CMS platforms, add significant new functionality, and update a lot of the content. Since clients generally need facelifts done fast, we try to never let the timeline go past two or three months.
A standard redesign for us is one that involves updating the navigation based on user feedback, giving the site a new look and feel, migrating to a new CMS, migrating content from the old site to the new site, and adding new functionality. Since most of our clients also have or want to have member or customer portals, we usually integrate with some type of CRM system. These redesigns tend to take between 6-9 months. The most time-consuming tasks are often: creating an inventory of the entire site, migrating content, updating content, and ironing out all of the details of the integrations. Not having all the content ready is the number one reason these design projects get delayed.
Design projects with lots of integrations and/or custom programming take the most time. Matrix Group recently completed a redesign project that involved a rebranding effort, migration of close to 10,000 pages, a move to a new CMS, and integrations with several vendors. This project took about a year. In general, I recommend to clients that projects never have a timeline of longer than 12 months. After 12 months, project staff get burned out, they start doubting that the project will ever launch, and they get sick of the design. If your project will legitimately take more than 12 months because of the scope of the work, I recommend breaking up the project into phases and launching functionality over time.
Are there things vendors and clients can do to speed up timelines? Absolutely! My top tips:
- Establish a deadline and give the project a sense of urgency.
- Start working on your content from day one.
- Start integration discussions early in the project.
- Schedule design presentations and check-ins with senior staff ahead of time so that you don’t waste time on scheduling meetings and to keep the project moving.
- Have a clear decision-making process.
- Line up testing resources close to the time of launch.
How long did your last redesign project take and what lessons did you learn?