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How to build a website for your business (step-by-step guide with timeline)

23 October, 2019 · 13 min read·Website design
How to build a website for your business (step-by-step guide with timeline)
Let's explore the basics of the web development process and find the fastest options available.

Taking an idea and turning it into a new website can be daunting, especially for business owners with very little web design know-how. Fortunately, there are a plethora of online solutions, including freelancers or site builders, that make the website building process fast, simple, and affordable. Follow this step-by step guide and explore the basics of web development, web design, and launching a high-quality website fast.

A typical website building timeline

You might not realize how much of the web development process is creative. No two websites have the same needs, so the web design and development process is never identical. This makes it difficult to pin down a detailed timeframe, but understanding the web development process will help you predict your project’s duration and pricing.

Creating a strong online presence requires careful, forward-thinking planning by the people building it. Collaboration and communication are key, so it helps to know what you want your site to do before starting the process. This is especially important for small businesses with limited resources.

Whether you’re hiring a professional web design agency or web developer freelancer, or are building your own website using a website builder, these steps are the fundamentals of launching a business website.

1. Plan out your new website

One of the most important aspects of building a new website happens before any building actually starts, and that’s the planning phase. Just like you wouldn’t build a house without a blueprint, you can’t start designing a new website without a strategy.

The planning phase of web development is a time to ask questions and offer up ideas, either alone or with your web developer. This stage usually takes about two weeks. To get started, ask yourself, what are the features, add-ons, and plugins that my site absolutely needs?

Other questions to consider include why you’re building a site, what you want to offer visitors, which products/services you’ll provide, and the features and functionality you need. This is also an opportunity to list your site’s needs and requirements (e.g., ecommerce, online store, blogging, integrations, content management system, etc.) so there are fewer surprises later on.

2. Design your business website

The website design phase is when you take all of your ideas and goals and begin visualizing them. A website designer will use your requirements and transform them into mockups over approximately three weeks.

Mockups are essentially sketches or drafts of how your new website will look. Whether digital or hand-drawn, mockups are customized but typically aren’t functional. They’re images that give you an idea of how your site’s different web pages will appear to users.

These early images will show how the different web pages will intersect and how your visitors will navigate them. Web developers use mockups as a template to start creating your business website.

If you’re creating your new website using a website builder, such as drag-and-drop, template-heavy platforms like Squarespace, Wix, or WordPress, you will skip this step and go straight to creating your online presence.

During the web design process, we recommend paying special attention to your homepage design and other web pages with important conversion steps. If your homepage doesn’t grab a visitor’s attention, chances are slim that they’ll remain on your site. And if your conversion-oriented pages don’t offer the functionality or communication needed, you won’t convert visitors to clients.

3. Create your online presence

With your ideas now visualized as mockups, web developers have a frame of reference to tackle HTML, Javascript, CSS, and customization. Similar to a painter’s sketch or writer’s outline, web developers will create a functioning, customized version of the mockups.

Your web developer will spend anywhere from a few weeks to a few months on the website building phase. Make sure you schedule check-ins along the way to see their progress and offer your feedback. You’ll begin to see animations, layouts, navigation, and other customization, giving you an overall feel of your website’s design, content, and functionality.

It’s important as a business owner to recognize this point is the last time any major changes should take place. Keep your eye on the deadline you set and don’t slow down. If you’re using a website builder like B12, it’s easy to make website updates after you launch, using our user-friendly Website Editor.

4. Test and launch your new website

Finally, once your website has been created, customized, and adjusted, it’s time to launch it! But before that can happen, you need to go through user testing.

Testing involves going through the website thoroughly, both on your own and with unbiased testers, to make sure your site works and communicates as desired. The more complex a website, the longer the testing will take. Typically, testing takes around two weeks.

Ideally, the only changes made during this phase are minor tweaks and adjustments. Once that’s done, you can start displaying your new website for the world to see. After it’s live, you can set up a strategy and schedule to tackle search engine optimization (SEO), blogging, social media, Google Analytics, email marketing, and other avenues to reach your company’s audience.

How long does building a business website take?

The traditional web development process described in this step-by-step guide takes around four months total. Though it’s a proven way to build a website, for many, it’s too time-consuming, expensive, and underwhelming. If you’re looking for something simpler, here are a few alternatives, including HTML/Javascript/CSS coding and using drag-and-drop website builders.

Coding a new website from scratch

If you’re not interested in hiring a web design agency or web developer freelancers and you want to create your own website, building it from scratching via HTML is an option. If you already know the basics of web design and web development, and you’re a business owner with some time on your hands, this could work for you.

Building a website from scratch means you’ll never have to rely on anyone else to update it in the future or pay for customization and new functionality. Your website will truly be yours and you can always customize it further without relying on a web developer.

The obvious downside to this option is that it requires some website building know-how, including HTML. You can expedite the process with existing frameworks (e.g., Ruby on Rails), but if you’ve never created new websites before, it can be daunting.

The time this takes varies depending on your skill level. If speed is your concern, we recommend something a little more streamlined, like a user-friendly site builder.

Using a DIY website builder

Speaking of something more streamlined, a great option is a DIY website builder. You’ve probably seen these all over the internet, as they’re a common and affordable alternative to working with a design agency.

The most popular DIY site builders include WordPress, Squarespace, Wix, Shopify, and GoDaddy. Each of these varies in how much control they give you. WordPress is the most intensive, requiring a significant amount of learning to get up to speed.

Some of these services even offer a free website option, though it likely means your site functionality will be limited. Explore free plugins and widgets to add customization to your new website.

Wix and Squarespace, on the other hand, are more straightforward. Many of the design features offered by these sites are drag and drop, which makes building a website more accessible and user-friendly. You can build a site from start to finish with one of these services over just a few days.

The downsides to these website builders include relying too much on templates, limited customization, and don’t all have affordable built-in tools to help you perform well with search engines.

Using the site builder B12

Lastly, there are DIFY (do-it-for-you) site builders, like B12, that combine the simplicity and speed of a DIY solution with the expertise of a web designer. Beginners can build their own website using the B12 Website Editor, then get help from experienced designers and SEO experts anytime.

Website builders like B12 offer you greater flexibility when customizing your website and let you launch your business website fast without sacrificing quality or functionality. Anything you want to include in your site but can’t do on your own can be accomplished with the help of our supportive web designers.

DIFY solutions like B12 are the fastest, most affordable, and most reliable way to build a website. Thanks to our advanced features and user-friendly Website Editor, it might be hard to tell the difference between a website that was developed on our website building platform and one composed of HTML and CSS. It's as easy as using free themes or templates but offers business owners a more credible online presence.

B12 takes building your online presence a step further by making it easy to promote it to your prospective clients across the web. Our dedicated customer support team are experts in topics like search engine optimization, custom domain names, web hosting, Google Analytics, SSL, and more. We also offer built-in tooling like SEO, blogging, email marketing, online scheduling, and more, making it simple to run your business online.

Factors that affect the web design timeline

While we’ve outlined general estimates for each step of the web development process, your timeline can vary due to several factors. Here are a few things that can slow down your business website launch.

Content creation

First up is creating website content, which is mostly going to be web page copy. Every bit of text on your site has to be written by someone, and this can be time-consuming if you’re far from a blogger or you’re struggling to find a copywriter.

Besides copy, web content also includes videos and images. If you’re using graphics, photography, or animation, these need to be created during or before you begin designing your website (unless you’re using a DIY or DIFY site builder that offers graphics).

The less content your website has, the less time this part of the process will take. However, we don’t recommend skimping on your content. Search engines place significant value on including relevant, high-quality copy on your site, and we know that strong SEO helps you reach your audience.

Still, you also shouldn’t feel like you have to fill every page immediately. Launch your site with enough content to make it look complete, but plan to add more new copy and images later. If you need help completing your website content, B12’s SEO Pro plan is a great option for busy business owners. This pricing plan ensures you not only have excellent web page copy, we also publish SEO-oriented blog posts for you each month.

Functionality and services

If you’re creating a website that’s solely an online portfolio or a minimal homepage where people can view your work and submit a contact form, then you can go ahead and skip this section. Additional functionality, such as ecommerce or an online store with a user-friendly checkout process, is going to add time to your project.

Building a website without services or features is much faster, but isn’t an option for many small business owners. Sites with online scheduling, integrated SEO, blogging infrastructure, payment processing, online chat, or a content management system, usually take extra time to create because these add-ons require programming.

Programming is a different set of skills than straight-up web design. Don’t avoid features and services if you need them, but make sure you plan and budget for them in your website building process.

Size and scale

The size of your website is a major determining factor in your launch timeline. Generally, the smaller your site, the faster the build. A small site is one with only 3-4 simple pages (e.g., homepage, About page, Services page, and Contact form) and takes around two months to complete with a team of web developers.

Medium to large sites, on the other hand, can take three months or more to complete if you follow traditional methods. These are more fully featured sites with multiple pages and high functionality, like online stores.

Build a better business website faster with B12

If you’re looking for a fast, reliable solution to launch your own website, look no further than B12. B12 is a user-friendly website builder that combines artificial intelligence with a team of web design experts to provide you with a beautiful, personalized website fast. You can even see a free draft of your new site in minutes, from its homepage to its contact form.

We particularly recommend B12 for small business or professional services companies that want to knock out web design and SEO at once. Our small business customers have provided rave reviews of our web design process and pricing, as well as our built-in features like SEO, email marketing, online scheduling, blogging, and more.

B12 centralizes all of your website's most important functionality, eliminating the need for a separate content management system, SEO service, or email marketing provider. We even help you navigate figuring out tedious topics like web hosting and custom domains.

Business owners love that B12 saves them a substantial amount of time, effort, money, and frustration. Our AI automatically generates the basic framework of your site, including copy, in a matter of minutes based on your goals and industry. We understand the best practices associated with each small business niche and make sure your website is built for both users and search engines.

The time you save setting up your online presence allows you to focus on growing your business. Most B12 customers launch their new website within two weeks, then can focus on honing other strategies, like SEO, email marketing, and social media.

B12 offers DIY and DIFY website solutions as well, so you can have as much control over the design of your business website as you want. Our web design experts know how to navigate every website issue imaginable, and are always ready to start a new project for you.

B12 vs. web design agencies/freelancers

As we covered earlier, the traditional website building process with a design agency or freelancer is extremely time-consuming, taking months to complete even a simple small business website. These sites are expensive to customize and difficult to maintain.

The result is an inflexible website, very few add-ons, and an emptied budget. With B12, however, you can get similar or better results for a fraction of the cost in just a couple of weeks. Not to mention that B12 websites are easily changed using our Website Editor, so you can always keep up with the latest design trends, plugins, and functionality, with no need for templates or drag and drop.

Launch your new website in weeks using B12

With so many businesses entirely based online these days, having a high-quality website with SEO is crucial. If you’re looking for a straightforward website solution, you can try out B12 for free.

Our web design process allows you to focus more on operating your business than figuring out the minutiae of custom domains or confusing content management systems. It’s an all-in-one place for business owners to grow online without fixating on HTML, hosting services, or feeling disappointed over generic WordPress themes.

For more free website tips and tricks, find step-by-step guides and tutorials in our Resource Center. You’ll also add new knowledge to your repertoire related to SEO, email marketing, social media, blogging, and much more!

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