How long does it take to build an eCommerce website?

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Jess McCartney
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eCommerce website development projects will vary in duration based on their requirements and complexities.

We can produce a new working eCommerce website in as little as 90 days provided everything runs smoothly and the requirements are standard, while complex projects can take several months to complete.

If you’re interested in finding out how long it takes to build an eCommerce website, it’s likely because you’re in the market for one yourself. If you are looking for a website urgently, at a low price point, there are self-build platforms that will allow you to launch your website in a matter of days.

At Venditan we build new eCommerce websites for our clients when they migrate to our ERP, Venditan Commerce. Most clients migrate to us when they have outgrown their self-built website and need a platform to power their next level of eCommerce growth.

If you want to know how long it takes to build an eCommerce website, it's important to understand all of the different variables that can impact a project timeline.

Our article covers the following project legs:

  1. Your existing set-up
  2. Your brief
  3. Onboarding
  4. Branding and design
  5. Development
  6. Training

Your existing eCommerce set-up

Before you brief a company to take on your new eCommerce website you will need to consider your existing set-up (if you have one, of course) and how that may impact your requirements.

Here are some considerations to note when you are in the process of planning a migration.

How was your existing website built?

Your existing website may have bespoke functionality that you wish to be replicated on your new build. If you are moving to a new provider this may not be as simple as you think it is, and they may have to rebuild that functionality from scratch.

Consider all aspects and features of your existing website. Note what you want to keep, and what you’re happy to move away from.

How healthy is your product data?

It is also important to consider the current state of your product data. Do you have a tidy and organised centralised system of product titles, descriptions, images and prices across variations?

There are typically two ways of migrating your data to a new provider - either the client can populate inventory spreadsheets and upload their data manually, or the new provider can take a raw export of data and manipulate it so that it is suitably formatted for their platform.

If your data is unorganised this could add weeks to the project.

…and what about your customer data, too?

Following on from the above, the same considerations must be placed on your handling of any existing customer data.

If you have been trading for many years and you have built up a list of customers - each with their order history, payment details and preferences - it is best practice to have this migrated to your new eCommerce website.

how long does it take to build ecommerce website

Protecting those all-important Google rankings

What does your current website rank highly for, and which URLs are the ones that Google has decided are valuable? You must have an understanding of this before you enter into a new eCommerce website project.

Usually, the onus is on the provider company to do their research and present this information back to you. Just make sure that this is built into the specification if you do have an existing website.

Websites with a lot of ranking presence will need to be handled extremely carefully and this will add some time to the project in the form of redirect mapping and diligent content migration.

Commission an audit to understand this first

Our overarching point here is that you need to understand where you are at with your existing set-up so that you can brief a provider accordingly.

We understand that not everyone has the technical expertise to make these judgments, though. You may wish to consider an audit of your data or SEO landscape so that you are fully aware of your circumstances.

The strength of your brief

Once you’re ready to explore options for a new eCommerce website, you’re going to want to begin by briefing companies and agencies. The better you do this, the more chance you have of a smooth project that is delivered on time.

What is a website brief?

A website brief serves as a clear and comprehensive roadmap that guides the development of a website.

They are created in a simple text format and should cover the following:

  • About your business
  • Aims
  • Revenue objectives
  • Technical requirements
  • Pain points
  • Overview of existing set-up
  • Current system deficiencies
  • Current system efficiencies
  • Current overview of your analytics
  • Budget range
  • Key contacts
  • Timescales and deadlines

How does a website brief impact a project timescale?

By outlining your timescale and deadline intentions in your brief you are allowing the company to set expectations and confirm whether they can deliver to that end.

Providers will take your brief and consult with you to fully understand your requirements. From there, they will put together a proposal that explains how they will meet your brief and how long it will take to deliver the project. So the information you provide will have a direct impact on the amount of time the company budgets to work with you on delivering the website.

Without a clear brief, it can be difficult for the company to understand the goals, objectives, and requirements of the website. It is likely to result in a subpar end-product that does not meet your needs, meaning that additional development work will be required to launch the website when we all know that time is money.

Similarly, it is important to establish expectations for the project's timeline and milestones. If the client has unrealistic expectations or the provider company does not provide a realistic estimate of the project's timescales, it can lead to delays and frustration for both parties.

The onboarding process

Once you have selected an eCommerce website provider and you have signed off on their proposal, you should then enter into their onboarding process.

These processes play a critical role in the success of a website project, and they can have a significant impact on the project's timescales by establishing a working relationship and encouraging key team members to get to know you, the client.

The onboarding process can impact a project’s timescales by,

Building out specification documents

Specifications are formal documents produced by the provider to outline the requirements (functionality, features) and delivery (technology used) of any website development project. They are often the result of onboarding workshops, where the provider will take the client through a meticulous process of questions to explore the deeper technical nature of the requirements in the brief.

They typically include detailed information about the website's design, layout, functionality, user experience, and other key aspects that have been established as critical in the project’s brief.

Specification documents provide a roadmap for the development team to follow. With a clear plan of action in place, everyone on the team is working towards the same plan and this reduces the risk of wasted time and resources. They may take some time to complete during the onboarding stage of the project but they all but guarantee a smoother delivery of the end product.

Establishing a process for clear communication

Onboarding allows the client and the development team to establish a clear process for communication during the project. Projects move forward based on milestones and so communication must be clear so that approval can be gained quickly and efficiently.

It is also important to discuss project goals, requirements, timelines, and other important details once again. If there are misunderstandings or miscommunications during this phase, it can result in delays later on in the project.

Similarly, this time should be used to establish expectations for the project's timeline and milestones. If the client has unrealistic expectations or the development team does not provide a realistic estimate of the project's timescales, it can lead to delays and frustration for both parties.

Build trust between both parties

The onboarding process is a critical time for building trust between the client and the provider company. If the team can establish a solid working relationship with the client, it can lead to faster decision-making and a smoother delivery of the project.

Identifying roadblocks in advance

During the onboarding process, the development team can identify potential roadblocks and challenges that may impact the project's timescales. By addressing these issues early on, the team can mitigate their impact and prevent delays later in the project.

Your branding and the new website design

While you may think that the majority of a project would be spent building the website, it can be the design stage that requires more time and attention.

This is because to achieve sign-off on a new website design there can be a variety of customisations, iterations and revisions, not to mention the complexity of the design, and integrations with any existing branding.

Design complexity

Timescales can be impacted by the level of complexity in the branding and design brief for a new eCommerce website.

If the client has a specific vision for the website's branding and design, it may take longer to create custom graphics and design elements.

At Venditan we take a research-led approach to eCommerce design. The Baymard Institute gives clear direction on the best methodology for a successful eCommerce website based on over 110,000 hours of research and testing.

Iterations, revisions and approval

Other providers may work with you on custom design projects, and these often involve several rounds of iterations and revisions to ensure that the final product meets your expectations.

If there are multiple rounds of revisions, it can add to the overall project timeline, but this may be a luxury you can afford if you require custom or intricate design work.

The design approval process can also impact the timescales of a website project. If the client takes longer to approve the designs or requests significant changes after they have been developed, it can cause delays in the project timeline.

Working from Baymard Institute research drastically reduces the timescales for an eCommerce website as there is no drawn-out debate around what may or may not work.

Your existing branding

If the website needs to be integrated with an existing brand, it can add complexity to the design process. The design team will need to check that the website's branding is consistent with the existing brand while also creating a unique look and feel for the website.

Building your new eCommerce website

Once your design has been approved, the company will then move into the ‘development stage’ of the project.

Your technical requirements can have a significant impact on how long it takes to build your new website, particularly in the following ways.

Any complex functionality that you require

If the website requires custom functionality, such as a quiz funnel system, it may take longer to develop and implement.

On the other hand, if your requirements are simple and you are looking for what is essentially a slick online catalogue of your products to browse, this will be much more achievable in a shorter timeframe.

It is also important to remember that all of this requires technical expertise to deliver. If the development team needs to learn new technologies or programming languages to develop your website, you may need to allow for additional time for the project to be delivered, or, ensure that you enter into a relationship with a provider that has a proven track record of delivering similar projects.

Integrations and third parties

Due to the flexible nature of Venditan Commerce we are usually able to integrate with third-party providers. That said, this isn’t always a simple task, and other eCommerce platform providers may not be as flexible as we are.

The point here is that if a website needs to be integrated with third-party systems such as your preferred payment gateway or email marketing platforms, it can significantly impact the overall project timeline, particularly when you consider testing as part of this process.

Future-proofing your investment

When investing in any new technology for your business you must consider scalability. Will this new eCommerce website be able to grow with your business? Does it have all of the back-office management tools that you need now, and will you be able to activate additional tools if you grow in the future?

The answer must be yes, even if it adds to the project timescales in the short term it can save significant time and resources in the future.

ecommerce website development

Training for your new eCommerce website

For complex migrations to different eCommerce platforms there may be time budgeted for a training window before the new website goes live.

The timescales for training will differ depending on how wholesale the changes are, and how many new systems need to be taught.

It may cover:

  • Product information management
  • Order management
  • Customer management
  • Content management system
  • SEO training
  • Analytics and reporting
  • Security and maintenance, if your platform is self-service

Final thoughts

As mentioned in the introduction, there are so many variables that determine the duration of an eCommerce website development project. For us, we must have a clear brief so that we can make time estimates on the requirements, and then work with an engaged client that wants to work together to achieve the project quickly, without jeopardising the quality of the end product.

This is what allows us to turn around award-winning eCommerce websites within a 90-day window.

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