We all want to make our clients as happy as we possibly can. If they ask for something crazy in their brand or website design, they get it. If they ask for ooone more “little” tweak after they’re out of revision rounds, they get it. And if they demand an insanely quick turnaround for a project that isn’t humanly possible…they sometimes get it.
Wanting to make your clients happy is the reason that your business succeeds. But it can also lead you to do things that are totally crazy…which is easier to see after the fact. And a lot of it leads to disrespecting both our own work and the work of others.
Lately, I’ve seen a couple designers looking for developers who can code a custom website in one week.
My first reaction was both to laugh and say words I shouldn’t be saying out loud. A good developer friend and I have had some good conversation, laughs, and face-palm moments about it. However, I know it’s all coming from a lack of understanding about what is really being asked.
So let’s fix that! Today we’ll talk about why a custom website can’t be developed in one week (or even two) and done well.
Why a custom website can’t be developed in one week (and done well)
So let’s get the big question out of the way. Can it actually be done?
In reality, probably. If it’s a simple website and you have an experienced developer with a whole lot of time on their hands it could happen. But there’s a very high chance that 1) no truly experienced developer will agree to that kind of turnaround and 2) you’ll end up with something that you won’t want to turn over to a client.
While it would be easy to just say all of this as an experienced developer, I can actually say it as someone who has tried to turn out a website with a fast turnaround before. The first custom project I ever took on was developing several themes for a WordPress theme shop.
Since all the themes were similar and extremely minimalistic, she asked for a super quick turnaround and I agreed to a schedule that left me needing to turn out about one theme every 3 days. However, since they were as minimalist as they were and only had a blog, blog post, and page that needed to be included, it lines up well with a more standard website being expected in one week.
Let me tell you…it wasn’t pretty.
I could go into the details, but instead, let’s dive into why a custom website can’t be developed in one week…and you can assume I know all of it from experience 😉
Everything that goes into it
Let’s start with the simple logistics of coding a custom website. When a website is truly custom, here’s a general outline of the steps that need to be completed:
- Study the designer’s mockups and get a good understanding of them – ask follow-up questions and wait for answers
- Setup the development test site
- Setup the initial theme
- Load client content
- Load custom fonts
- Style buttons and links, including hover effects
- Style form fields
- Style headings
- Setup and style the header – usually including the logo and a menu
- Setup and style the footer
- Setup and style the sidebar
- Blog posts
- About page
- Contact page
- Make it all responsive
- Ensure it appears correctly on all of the main web browsers…and make fixes when Internet Explorer unfailingly isn’t quite right
- Transfer the site and make it live
I’ll end this list by saying 1) I very likely missed several things and 2) this is a very simple 3-page website with no custom functionality…yikes.
I’ve tracked time for my own custom projects before and it’s not rare for them to hit or exceed 40 hours of time spent working on the site. That doesn’t include breaks, eating food, managing other pieces of my business, or other important human-like things.
As you can see just from this point, asking someone to do all of this in one week isn’t exactly reasonable. But let’s move on to some more reasons it just doesn’t work well.
Writing code is a craft
This is something that someone unfamiliar with coding could be expected to know, but every experienced developer will agree upon. Writing good code is a craft.
There’s not any one problem that has just a single answer. There are thousands of answers and some are far better than others.
For difficult coding problems, the process looks something like:
- Spend some time simply thinking about it
- Sketch out some notes and possible solution outlines
- Write it once to make it work (making several errors along the way)
- Rewriting it to make it good
When a development project is rushed, there’s no time for this type of process. Instead, you get the first idea that comes to the developer’s mind without extra time for them to really think it out or go back and make it better once it “works”.
Time to find the best solution to a problem, rather than the fastest
Right along with that last point, finding the best solution to a problem, rather than the fastest and easiest, takes time.
Sure, it’s easy to find a random plugin that might get the job done. Or come up with a hacky workaround that’s bound to break within a few months. Or throw something together that’s impossible for the client to update.
But that’s not the type of product you want to present your client with, right?
Instead, you want things built into the theme where they can allow for a better user experience, better security, and less bloat from plugins. You want the best solution to problems that will work as expected for years to come. And you want a website that’s easy for clients to update so they’re empowered to manage their own business without coming back to you for every small tweak they need.
Allowing extra time for these things within the development stage of a project is important and it certainly can’t be squeezed into a 1-2 week timeframe.
The time to come back with a fresh mind
Have you ever sat down to work on something and felt like your mind was totally blank? Like the solution or the words you’re looking for are right there, but you can’t quite reach them?
You could sit and struggle for hours on end. Or you could step away, work on something else, and try again the next day.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve had many experiences where after taking that break and coming back to the problem you instantly have the solution you need.
What happens if your developer needs that time during a project? If you’re asking for a 1-2 week turnaround, it simply can’t happen. There’s no room for it because they’re already working around the clock to get the project done on time.
Next, let’s talk about revisions. The revision phase of a development project is an important one if you want to ensure the website looks like your mockups.
I comb through every tiny detail of a website several times before passing it off to the designer for revisions and there are still at least a couple things that I miss every time.
With a project with a 1-2 week turnaround, there’s no time for a revision phase meaning you need to hope that your developer did a darn good job and you’re happy with absolutely everything you see. And if you’re working with someone who promises a 1-week turnaround that’s not likely to be the case. #truthbomb
Related to revisions, let’s talk testing. Some may think that a developer whips up a little code for a website and they’re done. But testing is hugely important.
The two most basic kinds of testing you want to consider for a web development project include the testing of the functionality as well as cross-browser testing.
With testing the functionality, your developer will ensure each piece of the website works as it should. Can the client easily add new images to their slider? Does the checkout process work? Does that common widget area appear and work like it’s supposed to?
Along with that is cross-browser testing. This is where your developer goes through the website on all of the popular web browsers (Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Internet Explorer, etc.) to make sure everything looks and works as expected. It is not at all uncommon to run into problems. In fact, I’m always surprised when there aren’t at least a couple tweaks that need to be made for either Internet Explorer or Safari.
For the best results, you want your developer to have at least a day for testing alone. It’s never good to have your client be the one to uncover a problem just because the project was rushed.
Your developer has a life
And last, remember that your developer is a human and likely a business owner.
They need time for basic self-care (lunch, anyone?) and the time to make sure their own business continues to run.
The only way a custom website is going to be [poorly] coded in one week is for them to work around the clock totally ignoring their own needs, their family, and the rest of their business. It’s not a healthy choice for anyone to make.
And yes, I’m still speaking from experience aaaallll the way down here.
Want to try it anyway? Here’s what you can expect
So let’s say you’re still not convinced. You have an “experienced” developer who says they can do it and you don’t mind the consequences we already talked about. Here’s what to expect when you reach the end of the project (or what should be the end).
A project that runs behind schedule
First, you can always expect a 1-2 week development project to run behind schedule. Just like with anything in life, something is going to come up or take longer than expected. With a fast timeline there is absolutely no buffer space so instead of your developer using up an extra day or two that they had built into their timeline, they’re forced to push back the deadline.
More revisions than necessary
Next, you can expect a whole lot more revisions being required in a project where your developer was rushed. And remember how we already talked about how there’s basically no time for revisions in a project like this? Yep, we have a problem.
When I’m developing a custom website, I set aside a full day for final tweaks and going through the website pixel-by-pixel to make sure everything matches the mockups.
When your developer doesn’t have time for this step, you’re the one that ends up finding all the little things that were missed and your list of revisions grows.
Sloppy code and overall setup
Once the website is finally finished, even if behind schedule, you can expect it to be sloppy. Sloppy, hard-to-maintain code and a sloppy overall setup that your client is bound to notice over time.
When your developer is rushed, they’re not going to take the time to clean up their code or find the best solutions to problems (like we mentioned earlier) and you can definitely expect some of those things to be noticeable.
Client’s best interests not in mind
And last, you can expect a website that wasn’t created with your client’s best interests in mind.
Instead, you can expect a website that:
- Is difficult for your developer or other developers to maintain, costing your client more money down the road
- Has too many plugins, leading to extra bloat and security vulnerabilities
- Is difficult for your client to update, leaving them frustrated and having to dish out money each time they want to swap out an image or change their copy.
This diagram summarizes everything I’ve been saying far better than I’ll ever be able to. I encourage you to first look at it with the sarcasm that’s easy to see on the surface, but then look at it again more seriously. Every single piece is true.
Image from Matt Berther’s website, author unknown.
What to try instead
I’m going to assume that by now, you’re convinced and willing to wait a few extra weeks to avoid all the problems we’ve talked about. (If not, go ahead and give a 1-2 week project a try and then come back here after the smoke clears.)
Are other reasonable options out there? Goal #1 is to keep our clients happy and we’ve just found out that having a custom site developed quickly isn’t going to work out. There are two great options for you to consider.
1. Offer your clients templates with tweaks
The first option is to have a few templates to offer your clients. From there, you or a developer can quickly make tweaks to match your client’s branding and make it slightly customized.
This way, your client still gets something semi-custom and a 1-2 week turnaround for development is totally doable.
I even offer a service to create your own theme for this very purpose. One that is flexible, easy to tweak, has multiple templates available, and can be used again and again. Check out Build Your Dream Theme here.
2. Don’t set the expectation that it can be done so quickly
The second solution is to avoid setting the expectation that you can offer quick turnaround websites. If it’s something you’re currently advertising to gain an upper-hand on the competition, stop.
If a client wants to work with you, they won’t mind the fact that it will take several months to get the results they want. Heck, when I found the designer I wanted I waited 3 months to start the project and another 2 for it to be finished.
You might lose out on a client here or there, but are those really the clients you’re looking for anyway? Don’t you want the ones that truly value your work and love what you do so much that they’re willing to wait a little bit?
No more expecting development in one week, k?
If fast-turnaround development is something you’ve asked about before, I hope you’re convinced to think about things in a new light now that you know what you’re really asking for. You wouldn’t feel like your work was being valued or that your time was being respected if you were asked to complete a custom and strategic brand and web design project in a week or two. The same goes for developers.
If you need to, head to your website now and make tweaks to the length of your packages. This will allow you to have projects with a whole lot less stress and clients that are much happier with the way their projects turn out.
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