How Long Does It Take to Make a Website?


A Compendium on the Similarities Between Websites and Pizza

Let’s say, for a moment, that you run a pizza shop. And you happen to be an experienced pizza chef; proficient in all pizza creation techniques and styles. You make all your pizzas from scratch, starting with the dough. You offer several types of sauces, will create a sauce from scratch and have toppings galore (yes, including pineapple). You’ll even allow customers to provide their own toppings – bring it on.

A new customer walks into your shop. They look around for a few moments, ask a few questions and then say, “I’m not sure how many people I need to feed, and I’m not sure what pizzas I want, but how long does it take you to make pizzas?”

Such a simple question, with such a seemingly simple answer. Make a pizza? Start to finish, maybe 30 minutes, right? Heck, we can even make it and deliver it within that time frame … possibly.

Ah, but I haven’t given you all the variables yet.

First of all, you don’t know exactly what pizza to make. There’s thin crust, thick crust, pan pizza, Chicago style, stuffed crust, etc. You might have some dough already prepared, but if they’ve asked for something else (gluten-free?), it adds considerable time.

And what about the sauce? Well, yeah, you can totally turn out your homemade recipe in record time, but the customer might want that bacon ranch sauce they had back in Topeka. Cheese? Sure – you have 10 different kinds. Some are grated and ready to go, some need prep work. Same deal with toppings. Pepperoni is stacked and ready to be flung, but fresh sausage needs cooked and veggies need chopped. All take time, but some take much longer than others.

But wait, there’s more. Remember – customers can bring their own toppings. And you’re not sure if they’ll bring rhubarb or a live trout (it might be a thing! You don’t know!). Or when they’ll bring it in. And they still haven’t told you how many people they need to feed or how many pizzas they want.

And let’s not forget resources. You have a big oven, but it can only hold so many pizzas. You might be able to prep the pizzas, but then have to wait for others to cook before being able to get more in. And if the customer comes in when several other folks have already stopped by with ingredients to prep, your people might be tied up for a bit.

Now … given all the above, how long will it take you to make pizzas?

Now I’m Hungry, And I Still Don’t Know How This Relates to Websites

Walk into a pizza shop, put total control in the hands of the pizza maker, and they will be able to tell you almost exactly how long it will take for your order to be ready. They make pizzas every day, they have everything they need on hand, they can look and see how many orders are in front of yours – they control all the variables. From that point, time to completion is just a matter of execution.

It’s no different for a website. If we have all the images, all the content, a completed design and the freedom to do what we do best, we can nail the timing. Add a variable, and you might as well print out the original estimate, fold it into a paper airplane and send it sailing out the window, for all it’s worth. Variables are frequent, and can include:

  • Multi-step content approval process
  • Design indecision
  • No images/need to hire a photographer/wait, you need images?
  • Change requests
  • Custom development
  • Unclear directives

There are approximately 3.5 million more, but you get the idea. And then the problem compounds, because most folks think, “OK, I was a week behind getting you that approval. So we just push the project back one week, right?”

Nope. There’s no guarantee that the person who is responsible for the next step of the project is available a week later. If one client has a slowdown, we have to reallocate our resources. And if another project is ready, there’s a domino effect. It’s possible that a one-week delay could cause a 3-4 week deadline extension. It’s all a matter of resources – sometimes we can make up for lost time, but not always.

The “I Can Do This” Conundrum

Making pizzas is easy, right? I mean, anyone can make a decent pizza, especially with all the ingredients that are readily available. Well, let me tell you a story…

While in college, I had a job making pizzas. As employees, we were allowed one personal-sized pizza each shift we worked, with whatever toppings we wanted. I’m a cheese and sauce lover, so one day I made the ultimate pizza for me – or so I thought. What I actually made was a big, sloppy, gooey mess. Turns out that too much sauce covered by too much cheese inhibits the baking process. You simply can’t do it; you’ll wind up with a mess like I did, or a crust burnt beyond the bounds of edibility.

GoDaddy, Squarespace, et al. have done a fantastic job of making website development look monkey simple, as simple as making pizzas. But jumping in with round after round of design tweaks, content edits and “I saw this on another website and I want you to add it to mine” can often result in a website that is a big, sloppy, gooey mess.

So What Are You Trying To Tell Me? Buy Pizzas For My Web Developer?

Well, that’s never a bad idea, but not exactly the point I was trying to make. Basically, the bottom line is this. Find a digital marketing firm that you trust, and let them do their thing. If they are good, they’ll produce something beyond your expectations. Here at ForeFront, we welcome suggestions, we make our clients part of the design process and we want our clients to be involved. But we also want our clients to trust us to make category-killer websites, which we do.

Heck, we might even try our hand at pizzas one of these days. After all, they are so easy to make…

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