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How Does the Website Design Process Work?

"How Quickly Can a Website be Made?"

With every project we get, we're always asked how soon it can be done. This is a tough question to answer usually - not that we don't know... we know. The tough part is explaining how it'll take time and see how a client might look disappointed when we say the project will take 2-3 months or more (I'll explain why that's true below). It's not fun to burst someone's bubble but to do a project right, you can't rush it or skip steps.

First - a Secret or Two...

This is one way we qualify clients.

"Wait, you guys qualify clients? I thought you worked with anyone."

No, we don't work with any client. They have to be the right fit. One way we qualify clients is with price. If they want the world but aren't willing to pay for it, we know working with them is not going to be worth it for us. They won't appreciate our process and value. Working with clients on projects needs to be a "win-win" situation for both them and us. If it's not for us, then we send them on. There are plenty of website design companies out there and we'll wait for a better opportunity.

Another way we qualify clients is with the timeline, which is what this article is really all about. I just threw in the pricing qualification to help lay the foundation.

If a client wants a fairly good sized project done (not just maintenance), then we must set a realistic timeline. If it doesn't meet their expectations, then we might pass on the project because if a project is rushed, then testing might not be done thoroughly enough and issues could arise. When issues arise, we're stuck taking care of them (not to complain or anything) and it's expected that we fix things for no charge... but those problems wouldn't have happened if there was a better timeline. Meanwhile, we're trying to schedule new work and re-work is messing up new timelines. It's not fair to new clients who have set better timelines.

Again, I don't want to complain here but just explain things from our point of view.

The Website Design Process

I purposely explained a few secrets first before the process in order to set the proper view of everything.

Here are the steps to a website design project:

  1. Pre-Project / Sales - Meeting with clients and information gathering in order to plan the project, timeline and budget.
  2. Service Level Agreement (SLA) - Come to an agreement with the client about what will be provided. State any outstanding variables.
  3. Planning - This is a combination of internal company meetings along with working out more details with the client. Designers meet with programmers to plan how everything will work.
  4. Content - If content needs to be written, the copywriter and marketing teams meet with the client.
  5. Design - We'll do wire frames and mockups and reach a final design, which is approved by the client.
  6. Development - This is where the designs are coded into HTML, CSS and JavaScript. Programming and database design are done. A staging website is set up and content is added.
  7. Testing - The Testing Team tries to break the website. They test navigation, forms, carts and all aspects of the website. They make sure everything looks right in the latest web browsers. Fixes are completed and then it's tested again until everything passes.
  8. Client Review and Launch - The client reviews the website and suggests any changes (within the project scope). If the project scope increases, new work is quoted and timelines are adjusted.
  9. Client Training - Training can be done either pre-launch or post-launch.
  10. Post-Launch - Once the website launches, post-launch work is done. Everything is tested again and final project files are delivered.
  11. Maintenance - The project is closed and ongoing maintenance, updates and support are moved to the Maintenance Team.
  12. Continued SEO - The SEO Team works to deliver reports and suggest continued website marketing and promotion as well as content suggestions and linking strategies.

There you go - did you expect 12 steps?

Beyond these steps, there are many sub-steps - this might work out to 50 or more steps when it's all said and done. Within each sub-step, there are processes, policies and procedures that need to be done to ensure everything goes off without a hitch and is done properly with both SEO and security in mind. What that's all added up, you run into several hundred total steps.

Here's a good article that explains more details about the website design process:

Website Design Process (www.web-site-design-experts.net)

And another article with a nice infographic explaining it all:

Behind The Scenes of the Web Design Process [INFOGRAPHIC] (www.newdesigngroup.ca)

The creation of every website follows a clear web design process. A client who understands the basics of this process will appreciate what happens at each stage, will be clear about when the process can easily change direction and can communicate more knowledgeably with the web agency. Also, the more they know, the more the information provided by the web design team in their updates will make sense and prove more useful.

A new website won’t happen overnight. When a web development company estimates the timeline to create a new website, some clients may be incredulous.

Here's a preview of that "Periodic Table of the Website Design Process:"

Here's the article explaining this periodic table:

The periodic table of web design (www.webdesignerdepot.com)

Each and every element that needs to be considered when designing a new website is covered.

You want to explain to your client why you can’t provide them with a new website mock-up within a week? Just go through all the steps of the Project Brief and Planning phases with them — explain the importance of getting the basics right before your graphic designers get to work.

The more everyone understands about what goes into creating a website, the better. Please visit these websites and educate yourself about how a website is created.

Our Worst Enemy

I think our worst enemy are those TV commercials and ads you see showing how you just drag and drop items and your website is done in just a few steps. These commercials falsely set the expectation that a website can be done in just a day or two. Of course, those tools do work but you're not getting what you think you're getting. I think one of the worst jobs out there would be working at the support desk or one of those companies and dealing with calls of upset clients wondering why they're not getting tons of business from that cheap/free website. How do you reason with an angry customer like that when your own company already set the wrong expectations? They then are trained to get you to upgrade and sell you packages that build upon the poor foundation of a website that they've set up.

If you want a good website, it's not done in a few clicks. If you think you can get a great website done in just a few clicks that puts you ahead of your competition and grows your business and it's all done for free or very cheap, then please go ahead and do that - you are not a client for us and we wish you well.

You get what you pay for with website design. Go cheap and you get cheap.

Are you familiar with the "business triangle?" (there might be an official term for it). It shows 3 points: good, cheap and fast. You can have two out of the 3 but never all 3.

Here it is from Wikipedia where it's called "Pick any two" and it reminds me of eating lunch at Panera:

Fast, Good and Cheap Comparison

Here's how it works:

  • You can have something fast and good, but not cheap.
  • You can have something good and cheap, but not fast.
  • You can have something fast and cheap, but not good.

We focus on "good" here. We then try to balance fast and cheap by setting a reasonable timeline and reasonable price. When that happens, it's the best situation for everyone.

Most business owners are not website design experts. Even if they are, is their time best spent working on their website or running their business?


Your website is vital for your business. It's usually the first impression people get of your business and it's where you send people to with your other marketing. It's central to your marketing. To do it right, there must be planning, detail and care taken so that you can provide the best user experience possible.

When you go with Webstix, you get a team of experts. We like to say that it "takes a team" in order to produce a great website that is a tool for your business and provides return. If you don't spend enough on your website, it could easily fail. We're not saying that to drain your wallet - it's just true. Doing it half way is usually not a good idea. Spend just a bit more and you get back a LOT more. Don't spend enough and the situation might actually get worse. Our team is comprised of experts and experts cost money. Newbies and posers are cheap.

If you're still reading this, then congratulations - you might be the client we're looking for! I invite you to contact Webstix and explore how we can help you and your business do the best it can on the Web.


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