The amount of time required to develop a new WordPress website is often times hard to ad-lib, which can make budgeting for it a bit more difficult. The reason behind this is fairly easy to understand, though. Developing a brand new WordPress website can range from being a relatively simple process, (where all parts, required assets, and steps are clear and available) to a more arduous project where just a few or none of the needed assets are ready and defined.

To overcome some of these issues and to better have your website reflecting your brand's communication and preferences, business owners often ask their in-house designers to create what’s called a mockup, an offline visual representation - usually created in Photoshop (maybe you’ve heard of PSD files before) - of a website, or at least some its pages. These files would then be forwarded to a WordPress developer, who will be in charge of creating the brand new website on top of.

Why building a new WordPress website from a mockup is an effective idea

Well, for starters, running your business is an ongoing challenge in which you must make cost-effective and efficient decisions day in day out. These decisions are ultimately what enables your growth. That's why, if you're in need of a new website, it makes sense to have one of your designers put together this "static" version of how you'd like your website to look before investing any time (and money) into hiring a WordPress developer.

But how much time and money is it going to take for a developer to create my brand new WordPress website from the mockup file? The answer relies on several factors that I'd like to uncover with the help of WordPress Developer and Codeable Expert Nathan Reimnitz. He’ll lay out a basic framework of how long the process takes and what factors have the greatest influence on cost.

Treat your mockup as the blueprint for your website

Let's start with something that unfortunately many people looking for a new website forget when asking questions about timing: not all WordPress websites are the same. Other than the same "engine", which in this case is the Content Management System, they don't share much of anything else. Ask yourself, is your business just like everyone else's? Are your specific needs the same as all your competitors? I don't think so, and neither do you.

When it comes to such types of questions, it's always useful to go with examples to give you a clear idea of how WordPress developers think and ultimately come up with their answer. Using a home-building analogy, Nathan explains in simple terms what it's like for him build your website:

Let's spin your question to another service provider like a home builder: if you came to a home builder and said 'Hey, how long will it take you to build a house from my blueprints?' What do you think the first thing they're going to say? They'll probably ask you: 'Can we see the blueprints?' Why would they ask you that? Well, that's because they need to gather more information about that house you want to build before they could provide you with an accurate estimate to build said house. The same holds true for a WordPress website build... When clients approach developers (like me) to build their next website often times the first question we (developers) ask them is, 'Have you created any mockups?'

Mockups are essentially the blueprint for your website.

Since I'd like to give you more insights on the required time from mockup to functional WordPress website, here's the spectrum in which websites range: on one end, you find simple websites that just display some content, with ~5 standard pages, and no real advanced functionality nor membership available. On the complete opposite end, instead, you might find an eCommerce store that requires extensive functionality, custom features, and many different pages of content.

As Nathan highlights:

In my experience, going from mockups-in-hand to a fully-functional WordPress website typically takes somewhere between two weeks and three months. Where two weeks is the 'simple' end of the spectrum, imagine a brochure-style website, with some content, images, a contact form... But with more complex builds, take for example an online store or a website with some more sophisticated social networking attributes, those obviously take a bit longer to create. Depending on how many advanced/custom features need to be developed for your business will determine exactly how long this takes. However, in my experience the majority of advanced WordPress website builds don’t take much longer than 3 months.

Based on which features, or bells and whistles, your new website needs to include, you can expect to have it in a time span ranging anywhere between two weeks and three months.

What factors and elements influence the time to completion in development

Given such a wide time spectrum, it might be good to know in advance what might cause development work to slow down so that you can prepare yourself accordingly. Along with custom features and advanced functionalities, there are two more important aspects that your developer will need to take care of for you.

Continuing with the comparison to home construction, Nathan lists these factors influencing the time it takes him to build a new WordPress website from a mockup file. It might sound like an unnecessary step, yet it's as important as all others: if you just have your PSD file, the developer will ask you more info about your current hosting preferences and domain name availability. In Nathan's words:

After they've taken a thorough look through your mockup, your developer’s next question will likely be whether or not you’ve actually got somewhere to build your website. So if we're going back with the home analogy, next they’d ask you: 'Do you have your lot purchased yet? Or, do you already have a location where we could start building this house?' In the web world, your 'lot' consists of your domain name plus hosting. These are two important pieces that developers will need from you initially before they can get to work for you.

Your answers to these key question will help the developer compound the appropriate time it'll be required to deliver your new website. In this regard, there are two possible paths one which will be faster than the other:

a) you already have a hosting provider and a domain name.
b) you don't a hosting provider, nor a domain name.

If scenario a) describes your current situation, you'll just need to hand over to the developer your login credentials so that they can manage everything by themselves and start working as soon as possible. Or, if you have some IT professionals in-house, you could just ask the developer to work on their servers and then migrate your new website to yours once it's completed. This will require some technical knowledge, as you'll need to change your DNS records.

If scenario b) describes your current situation, don't despair, it's pretty common. Then, you'd need to ask your developer to take care of everything. Specifically, you'll have to provide them with your new domain name, which is the address your users will have to type in their browser to reach your pages. If you delegate this aspect, please think of a couple of variants and list them in order of preferences because it could the case that the domain name you want is already taken.

Out of the two, the b) scenario is the one that will affect the most time to the development work. Don't worry too much about getting behind, though, because they're little tasks that shouldn't consume lots of your developer's time availability.

When time is your main concern, it's always beneficial to have a checklist that you can mark things off and be better prepared before hiring a developer. If you really want to up your game when you want to have your mockup file developed into a fully-functioning WordPress website, here's what Nathan suggest having:

1. The registrar access

It all starts from here. As Nathan points out:

If I'm going to be responsible for everything, number one on my checklist would be your domain registrar access. Having this access allows me to manipulate the DNS records for your domain and point them towards whichever hosting provider we’ve decided to go with.

2. Hosting provider access

Next thing is the access to the hosting provider. In order to deliver their work, a developer has to have complete credentials and access to where the site is going to be hosted. Simple and clear, but there's more:

Just to be clear, if you don't have either of these things (registrar or hosting access), then your developer can help walk you through the required steps so that you're able to get a domain name purchased and a hosting relationship established. From a Codeable expert's perspective, we want our clients to have their own relationships with these companies. We want you to be in control of as much as possible here. This allows our clients to maintain the freedom to work with any developer they choose. It should never be a life-sentence to work with anyone.

An experience WordPress developer will also be able to suggest a good hosting provider based on your needs and also compare it to your current one and see which one is a better fit.

3. Clear decisions on your email addresses

Email addresses usually are included with your hosting provider package, where there's a feature to create your custom ones as you like. Some hosting services, though, don't provide you with this possibility and you'll need to be able to tell the developer what option works better for you. Specifically, as Nathan points out:

Let's say you want as your new company email address. Great choice! But unfortunately, not all hosting providers will allow us developers to create that spiffy new email address for you within their platform. So, we've got to make some decisions about what we're going to do about your email. Perhaps we would use a third-party service like Google Apps? Your developer can certainly help you make this decision and then get everything properly configured on your behalf. The registrar access we mentioned earlier is necessary for your developer to properly point your MX records wherever they need to go.

Wrapping up

Turning your mockup into a live WordPress website is a common practice in the world of development. As you saw, the complexity, features, and functionality that your new website requires add up to the completion time of the whole project. And it might be the case that other elements need to be addressed as well like whether you already have a domain name, a hosting provider, and all sort of content and visual assets handy.

The secret to hiring a developer to make them create your new WordPress website, whether from a mockup file or not, it's ultimately a matter of preparing as much as you can in advance. As this wrongly attributed quote to former US President Abraham Lincoln perfectly highlights:

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.

That's your goal: having as much as you can ready to be shared before engaging with a developer or having clear thoughts, at least, on key topics that will be discussed. This approach allows you to streamline your processes and your preferred WordPress developer to come up with a better (and shorter) timeline for your project. Isn't that the perfect win-win situation?

This blog post features Nathan Reimnitz who is a top performing WordPress expert with an amazing reputation amongst his clients and colleagues on Codeable. Apart from being a rockstar freelancer, Nathan also gives back to the freelance community at large through his writings on his blog, and many other well-regarded online publications.