Timing is Everything


Timing is Everything

Nov 11, 2009By Michael Stoner

If you’re considering changes to your website, chances are that one of the first questions you’ll hear from your campus community is: “How long will it take?”

Unfortunately, that’s not an easy question to answer.

First, you’ll need to decide whether the project is a simple redesign-adding some new graphic elements, content, or features-or involves totally rebuilding the site. (We’d call this a “redevelopment project.”)

A site redesign can take a few months. But, with or without help from an outside consultant, a website redevelopment process is time-consuming. We estimate that it takes from seven months to one year to perform a complete site redevelopment project that includes a content management system implementation. A more limited project can be accomplished in less time, of course. But remember the old adage: “Fast, good, or cheap: pick two.”

Managing a web redevelopment project takes a lot of time, so if you’re the project manager on campus, you can expect to be very busy during the project. Nancy Prater, who managed the redevelopment of Ball State University’s website (, estimated that she spent 25–50 percent of her time on the website relaunch project while it was underway; during the final six weeks before launch, it was 100 percent. (Nancy shared some of her insights about her experience in this post).

Susan T. Evans led the redesign of William & Mary’s website. Here are some estimates of the time she spent on this project from May 2006 to July 2008 (totals include her time only, not that of the other members of her team):

  • Preplanning/assessment/needs analysis (prior to hiring a consultant): 125 hours
  • Kickoff/RFP: 280 hours
  • Redesign (working with mStoner): 2,700 hours or 30 hrs/week for 104 weeks

Of course, William & Mary is a fairly large, complex university with undergraduate programs and graduate and professional schools. If you work at a smaller professional or independent school, you won’t spend as much time as Susan did on the project-but it will still take a lot of time.

How about the amount of time it will take to accomplish different phases of the project? Here are estimates of how long it takes our team of experienced writers, designers, and developers to complete various phases of a web project:

  • Write 50 pages of web content: from start to finish, including research, writing, and editing: six weeks
  • Develop three creative concepts: from creative brief to presentation: three weeks
  • Develop six templates from a finished home page concept: two weeks
  • Poduce HTML files from completed designs and test them in preparation for CMS templating: three weeks
  • Implement a set of nine templates in Drupal (an open source content management system): four weeks
  • Beta test a new, 500-page website: four weeks

Note: This is an excerpt from our new white paper, “Redeveloping Your Website: Asking the Right Questions, Finding the Right Partner.” You can download your own copy and share your comments about it.

  • Michael Stoner Co-Founder and Co-Owner Was I born a skeptic or did I become one as I watched the hypestorm gather during the dotcom years, recede, and congeal once more as we come to terms with our online, social, mobile world? Whatever. I'm not much interested in cutting edge but what actually works for real people in the real world. Does that make me a bad person?