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How long does it take to build a website? We add up the time you’ll need to create a great online presence

A website is the best way to make your mark online. Here's how long it'll take to plan and build your site – big, small or ecommerce

Building a website is still the best way to create a strong web presence, and it takes time to do it well. Exactly how much time will vary, of course. You could rustle up a quick landing page in your lunch hour, or spend months coding a large website from scratch. Realistically, the majority will fall somewhere between those extremes, so we’ll run through them and help you decide how long to spend building a website that best suits you.

If time is of the essence, it’s certainly possible to build and publish a simple site in an afternoon using a template-based website builder such as Wix or Squarespace. But if you’re serious about creating a website with multiple pages and ecommerce functions, you’ll want to invest several days across the different stages of the build.

We’ll go into detail about those stages below, and outline how long each one should take, depending on whether you’re using a website builder or CMS (content management system, such as WordPress). By the end, you’ll have a much clearer idea of how many hours or days it will take you to get from the planning stage to publication.

How long should I spend planning my website?

Spend at least a few hours planning your site before you start signing up with website builders. If your ambitions extend beyond a very simple web page, devote a full day to planning. It will pay off in time saved further down the line.

Start by setting out the purpose of your website. Answer questions such as…

  • What is your website for?
  • Who is it for?
  • What do you want your visitors to do when they’re on your site?

That last question is the big one. Do you want visitors to spend money and buy your products? Do you want them to come away sharing your interest in medieval script, or wanting to hire your freelance services? Or do you want to engage them with a brilliant idea (a social network for biscuit lovers, say) and bring in money through adverts and subscriptions?

Think about how those users will engage with your site. Will a few basic landing pages be sufficient, with images and text presenting information for your visitors? What about links, buttons and forms for them to get in touch, read related content, or buy products? Don’t underestimate the power of a pencil and piece of paper for outlining pages and links. Visualising the site will help you feel less overwhelmed by the potential maze of pages, too.

Next, look at the tools and services that you might use to create your website, and decide which best suit you and your plans. Our roundups of the best website builders and website building costs will help you to make a choice. If you’re keen to sell online, also check out our introduction to Shopify, the ecommerce website builder.

Finally, check out the competition. Google particular search terms that you’re hoping will lead people to your site once it’s published and configured for SEO (search engine optimisation – aka the art of directing visitors to your website). Don’t skimp over this part. When you find sites you like, bookmark key pages that spark ideas about design, content and online functions. Also bookmark sites that do things you want to avoid, such as those with broken links and clumsy formatting. Learn from their mistakes!

Should I write all my content first?

Content creation is part of planning, and it will speed up your site build no end if you have a batch of content (text, headings, images, videos and so on) ready to upload. However, don’t get bogged down in the slog of perfecting content before you do anything else. It’s a time-consuming part of the process, and can easily be added and polished later on.

Instead, map out a rough content structure at the planning stage, and decide what content should go on which pages. Then, once you have a basic site online (saved, if not actually published), you’ll be in a much better position to shape your content without overdoing the time you spend on it.

Many web designers, not to mention old-school print designers, use dummy Latin text (“Lorem Ipsum”, which doesn’t mean anything) when putting their pages together. It just gets the process moving. You don’t want to rush content; but, remember, you can come back to improve it once you have the technical and design stuff sorted.

How long does it take to build a website using a website builder?

Website builders are by far the quickest way to create and publish a website. A basic site can take just a few hours using Wix, Squarespace or Weebly, whose drag-and-drop templates don’t require any knowledge of coding or web design.

For example, you could do all this in an afternoon:

  • Sign up for a £7.50/mth Combo plan with Wix (our best all-round website builder);
  • Choose a domain name (domain and hosting are included in the Combo price);
  • Choose a template, then use drag-and-drop to create a quick landing page;
  • Upload photos, add text and add social media links;
  • Check it all looks and works okay, including links;
  • Click publish.

The only time-consuming stages of this quick process are the ones that involve making decisions (choosing a template, customising the template and filling it with content, for example), and you probably won’t want to rush those stages. However, it’s reassuring to know that the technical nitty-gritty doesn’t take very much time at all, and website builders make it as easy as can be. They also have extensive Help sections to guide you through the process.

Note that the very cheapest starter plans, such as Wix Connect Domain and Weebly Connect, don’t include custom domain names with the package, so you’d have to settle for an ad-supported URL (with “wix” or “weebly” in it), or spend a bit of additional time buying your domain. But it’s still pretty quick, because Wix and Weebly both sell domain names. GoDaddy and Shopify also sell domain names; they don’t include them with any of their website building packages. With the WordPress CMS you have to sort out both domains and hosting separately, which will take additional time and legwork. More about that in the WordPress section below.

If you want your website to engage your visitors enough to make regular return visits and/or spend money, then you’ll want to devote more than a couple of hours to building it. But you don’t have to use anything more complicated than a website builder. Depending on the plan you choose, your website builder will let you add multiple pages containing videos, products and special functions such as appointment booking, contact forms and even background music.

You can add these functions as easily as uploading a photo, by installing them via your website builder’s app store. When you’re still at the planning stage, it’s worth checking out different website builders’ app stores (you can do this without creating an account) to get an idea of which service has the add-on tools your website will need, now and in the future. Here are a few app stores to browse:

Wix App Market | Squarespace Extensions | Weebly App Centre | Shopify App Store | WordPress Plugins

How long does it take to build an ecommerce website?

If you’ve made some good sales through marketplaces such as eBay and Etsy, and you now want to give your fans and shoppers a central website where they can create an account and you can sell to them directly, then it’s time to build an online store.

Building an ecommerce website may sound intimidating; it’s certainly more time-consuming than building a website for your CV or hobby. But, again, website builders have fully hosted packages that are designed to make the process as quick and easy as possible. You won’t have to invest more than a week to create a simple online store – but allow a month or two to build an online presence for a growing business, complete with blog, videos and customer reviews.

Note that there’s more at stake when you’re building an ecommerce website. You want to reach leads and convert them into paying customers, 24 hours a day, and there are many more elements to plan, choose, install and test. So we recommend that you spend a couple of weeks planning your website, then at least a couple more weeks building it to the point where you can confidently launch and start selling.

Here are just a few stages you’ll need to cover:

  • Draw up a content strategy
  • Create an inventory
  • Research the competition (and their prices)
  • Plan categories
  • Build product pages
  • Fill product pages with content including prices, text, photos and videos
  • Choose payment and delivery options
  • Create About and Contact pages

You’ll want to consider adding a blog, and apps for functions such as subscription sales, online booking, loyalty schemes, abandoned shopping cart recovery, returns/refunds, and multiple payment options. You also need a grasp on branding, SEO and customer service.

Speed up and simplify the process by using a fully hosted, template-based ecommerce plan. A couple of our favourite website builders offer plans designed to make the online store-building process as quick and easy as possible. Plans including Shopify Basic (currently just £1/mth, normally £19), Wix eCommerce (from £15/mth for Business Basic) and Squarespace Commerce (from £17/mth for Squarespace Business) include custom domains (free for the first year, then around £5-£10/year to renew) and many specialist sales and marketing tools, including SEO apps and advanced analytics.

For more detail about different ecommerce packages and how much they cost, see our in-depth article on how much it costs to build a website.

How long does it take to build a website with WordPress?

WordPress started life in 2003 as a free blogging platform, but grew to become the world’s most popular CMS (content management system), running 42.8% of the top 10 million websites. There are two ways into WordPress: is open-source CMS software that you can download and use for free. This is the preferred approach of developers and professional web designers. You’ll need to be handy with code and web design (or have the time to learn), and be able to invest plenty of time to build your site; it defintely isn’t a job you can get done over a weekend or even a fortnight. It’s full-time for a month or more. But once you get to grips with the CMS then it’s really easy to use, and is a very useful skill to have. What’s more, it will give you complete control over how your website looks and behaves.

With, you’re on your own when it comes to hosting and domains. Choosing and buying a domain and hosting package may add hours to the time it takes to get your website online. One way to save time on this is to create a managed WordPress site in GoDaddy (our pick for best all-round web host). Setting this up should take only half an hour; find brief instructions from GoDaddy here. cuts the time requirement dramatically. It’s a fully hosted website builder with customisable templates (“themes”). In line with other website builders, it has a range of plans starting from free and rising to ecommerce level, with the excellent-value Premium in the middle at just £7/mth for those paying annually. Depending on the size of your website, you can get it up in a day using themes.

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