What Goes into Building a Website?

Back when I launched my low cost web design business in 2008 I used to charge £199 for a 5 page website. I was new to the market, my knowledge was relatively new and I was by far the cheapest web design company in the UK (if you’ve not read my About page I started because I needed a website and the prices I was quoted were astronomical!). Because I was new to the industry, I didn’t think I could charge more. Smart phones and tablets weren’t really a thing and so there was no need to build a site that looked amazing on 50 different screen sizes so building a site was much quicker back then, plus £199 went much further in 2008!

Fast forward 13 years and it amazes me that I sometimes get asked if I’ll build a full ecommerce site with 1000 products for £400 or a one page website for £100. Someone recently emailed me saying “all I want is a really cheap, professional web designer who will build me a 6 page site for under £200.” While most people understand the value both of a website and the person who designs it for them, there are still those who think we just whip up a website in a couple of hours with no thought or planning. The DIY website market is very popular and it’s perhaps the promise of “easily build your own website” that is perpetuating this idea (anyone who has tried to build their own site will know it’s not as easy as the smiley adverts make you think). Or perhaps it’s the adverts on Facebook for unlimited pages for £695 (this will be the topic of my next blog post, as several people have recently lost money to these people and ended up with the most awful websites you’ve ever seen).

Anyway, I decided to break down my own process in more detail. You may (or may not!) be surprised by the amount of thought, process and time that goes into building a website.

Initial Contact – 15 minutes to 2+ hours

I rank on page one of Google so all my work either comes from people finding me on Google or referrals from current clients. Some clients know what they want or simply trust me to build the best site for them and others need several phone calls and emails back and forth until the project is clarified.

These calls and emails take anything from 15 minutes to 2+ hours. Some people will take 2 hours of my time and then not book a site because they want a cheaper site and others will book after one email. So, on average, I spend around 60 minutes on phone calls and emails, before a deposit is even paid.

Viewing Content and Providing Feedback – 1 to 3 hours

I prefer to see the website content before I give a quote. It means that I can provide a fixed price web design quote so that the client doesn’t get any nasty surprises. There’s nothing worse than being quoted for a website, paying a non-refundable deposit and then being told “sorry that’s not included, it will be an extra £400.” Sadly, that’s not uncommon.

I read and review the content, decide if it will work and make suggestions where applicable. Fortunately, I’ve never received content quite like the above, but sometimes it doesn’t need untangling!

Create and Send Proposal – 15 to 45 mins

Once I’ve received the content, I send a proposal for a fixed price quote. This might be in the form of an email for smaller sites or a formal proposal for larger sites. I don’t churn these out. Every business is different and has different needs, so the proposal is tailored to you and your business.

Choosing Your Website Colours – 30 mins to 1 hour

The colours that are used on a website are really important. Colour psychology is very real and can help hugely with conversions or put people off and have them leave your site. We do not want the latter! A good question to ask your web designer after you’ve told them about your business is what colours they think would suit the site. A web designer who knows their stuff will be able to tell what colour(s) they will use and why. They won’t know the exact shade as yet, as that takes time, but they should know the primary colour. If you want an ecommerce site for baby clothes and your web designer tells you that red would be a good colour, then run for the hills!

As well as colour psychology, I also use my instinct when it comes to narrowing it down to the correct shade. I’m a great believer in using our instincts and I feel blessed that I’m able to “feel” a design and the shades I should use based on the client’s content and their personality. I have lost count of the times a client has said “it’s exactly what I had in my mind but better.” I will never get tired of hearing that! It makes me very happy.

After choosing the main colour, a complementary or contrasting colour is carefully chosen.

Choosing the Fonts 15 to 45 minutes

Like colours, the psychology of fonts and how they make you feel and the impression they give are extremely important. Handwriting fonts are “friendly” and often quite feminine and can be seen as aspirational and are often used by female business coaches, alternative healers and designers for example. You would never use a handwriting font for a plumber or electrician.

Choosing a font isn’t quite as time consuming as choosing a font as there are several reliable fonts that can be used across several industries. It is still important though, as is matching the main font, that will be used for headings across the site to the main body font, which will be used in paragraphs. Fonts should complement each other and not clash.

Make a plan of the site 10 mins to 2+ hours

Before I start building, I make a draft of the site on paper. This includes the main structure, layout, navigation and general design. For £3k+ sites I’ll put together what is called a wire frame for the client to check before I start building, but usually I’m old school and like to plan it out on paper.

For some sites I have inspiration immediately and it can take me 10 minutes to plan it out (I plan around the content that the client sends) and I have a complete vision in my head. Other times it takes longer because I’m not happy with my first plan or I’m just feeling less inspired. Large sites and ecommerce sites need a lot of planning. It’s vital to get the design and navigation for these correct right from the very start as otherwise it can mean undoing lots of work. Yikes!

Start Building! 4 hours to several months

Yay! This is my favourite part. I love having a blank screen in front of me and using my skills to bring the page to life. The build goes like this:

  1. Change the domain name DNS settings so that the IP address points to the server.
  2. Install an SSL cert. This is the security cert that shows the padlock in the top left of the browser. These are really important, and all websites should have one.
  3. Install WordPress
  4. Import an install that includes the blank theme (WordPress sites need a theme, even if blank) and all the plugins that I use on a typical website
  5. Input all the licence keys for the pro plugins (I usually include around 5-8 pro plugins in my price with a value of $300-600)
  6. Put up a basic coming soon page.
  7. Set the theme colours that I chose.
  8. Set the theme fonts I chose.
  9. Add the pages to the site menu.
  10. Resize and upload the logo if the client has one.
  11. Resize, rename and upload the images for the site.
  12. Compress the images (important for site speed).
  13. Build the header (the part at the top of the site where the logo goes)
  14. Build a rough draft of the footer (the part at the very bottom). I refine this later but it helps me to make sure the design is working if the footer is in place at the start.
  15. Start building out the pages, always beginning with the Home page
  16. Make sure the H tags are correct for SEO
  17. Before I build each page, I complete what is called the metadata. This is the meta title and description that are so important for your website. These are used for SEO purposes but also for click through rates when people see the short description in Google’s search results and decide whether or not to click through to your site. You can leave these as the site default but that’s not good practice. I can honestly say that although I have a knack for SEO and many of client’s sites (and mine) rank on page one of Google this is my least favourite part of the build. It’s vital though so I take my time with this.
  18. Create the Privacy Policy page. I offer this free of charge to all clients as it’s required for GDPR.
  19. Compile all the code I have written and paste into the stylesheet.

Check, check and check – 2 to 6+ hours

  1. Once the first draft of the site is finished and I’m happy, I send it to the client. At this stage I have only checked it on desktop as I don’t tweak it for mobile and tablet until the client has approved the draft. Although I build with mobile and tablet in mind and plan for how the site will look on all devices there will always be some tweaks to carry out.
  2. Make any changes the client wants.
  3. This may go back and forth a few times until the client is 100% happy.
  4. Using developer tools check how the website looks on a variety of Android and Apple tablets, phones, laptops and large screens.
  5. Make any necessary changes.
  6. Check how the site looks in all major browsers.
  7. Activate and configure the caching plugin. This helps to keep the site loading quickly. This is also one of my least enjoyable parts of the build because the configuration may need to be different on every site as caching plugins can break a site. This means that there is a lot of ticking settings, clearing the cache and then viewing the site in what is called an incognito browser to make sure that nothing has broken. This is my second least favourite part of the build but oh so worth it at the end to see a zippy site.
  8. Activate and configure security settings. Hundreds of thousands (probably millions) of bots are trying to hack websites every second of every day. The reports that the security plugins send me each week would make your hair curl! This is probably one of the most important parts of the build. Sites can and do get hacked every day but it’s important to do everything you can to minimise the risks.
  9. Submit the site to Google and Bing for indexing. This speeds up the process of getting found by search engines.
  10. Install Google Analytics and any other tracking codes that the client wants.
  11. Test the contact form to make sure that it’s working.
  12. Check that the links on each page are working.
  13. The site goes live. Yay! Exciting!

Post Build – 1 to 2 hours initially then ongoing every month

  1. If the client has bought a package that includes training, I make the training videos and send them to the client.
  2. As part of this I set up an administrator account for the client and email it to them, along with guidance about passwords and security.
  3. I send recommendations to the client about what they can do free of charge to help them get fund on Google.
  4. Look after the site, update software and plugins, make backups and keep an eye on security.

Website Build Summary

And that’s my procedure for building a site! It’s perhaps not quite the simple process that many people assume that it is. If you tot up the hours, you’ll see that the minimum average time spend on a website is 8 hours (I really should charge more!).

So if you were planning on haggling your web designer down from £200 for a one page website to £100, then hopefully reading what actually goes into building your site will make you think again 😉

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