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Average time to design and develop a custom WordPress site.

  • # February 4, 2013 at 6:05 pm

    Hey Guys,

    I’m a designer and front-end developer that primarily works on WordPress websites. I have now designed and developed over 10 custom themes for WordPress (I’ve been working in the business for over a year) and have a pretty well developed workflow, strategy, and tool set. I design in Photoshop and then take that to development using a starter theme that I’ve created (based off of the underscores starter theme).

    Right now I am trying to justify hours to my new boss (who doesn’t have much previous experience with websites). He claims that I should be completing full small-mid sized projects in about 32 hours. This includes all client interactions, discovery report, wire-framing, design, development, deployment, edits, and setting up all of the content. I just don’t find this possible with a completely custom theme. It usually takes me around 32 hours to do the design and development of the site, without any of the client meetings and content management. He has mentioned decreasing my pay (as I get paid by the hour), and I would like to know about the time other people spend on projects like this. Here is an average break down of my typical design/development times:

    • 3 hours strategy/wireframing
    • 8 hours homepage design
    • 4 hours interior page design
    • 20 hours font/back-end development/UX
    • 1 hour deployment

    If anyone else would like to share their typical time estimates, that would be greatly appreciated.

    # February 4, 2013 at 7:23 pm

    5 days (roughly 32 hours) to build a WordPress theme is doable but will most probably cut corners/be rushed.

    40 is more realistic

    # February 4, 2013 at 7:55 pm

    32 hours is a pretty tight schedule alone, just for the development of the site interface and WordPress back-end coding, let alone the structure, content and your final tweaks to perfection. He shouldn’t really be justifying pressured time schedules like you’ve mentioned and then, this is what it sounds like to me, threatening your income.

    The way I look at it as “Take as long as necessarily needed” – The point is, what if something breaks that 32 hour schedule? Or, more if, what happens if you simply can’t comply with the 32 hour span, because something requires attention like cross-compatibility issues that need resolving? Would you be paid for that extra time, or would that class as deceiving your deadline?

    The worst thing in my gods honest opinion, is justify time over quantity. When you have a routine, like you have mentioned, the wrong thing to do is to change it, unless you are almost certain it will be beneficial. Timing is all good when you think you have it all planned out, but you’ll find doing so will easily get you lost later on in the project. You’ll miss something, forget something and so on. It took me a while to figure this out.

    I never give accurate time frames, I always throw in days of leeway (even when working by the hour) to ensure that I’m covering all corners and not cutting any in desperation of finalizing a project to keep the client happy. I’d rather have a full, functioning, bug free site deployed for that few extra hours rather than giving the client my deadline-state project. Although in many business, deadlines are no exceptions and you are set to commit your hardest when under pressure; but sometimes, like your 32 hours without give or take, can be pretty pushy and demanding. For WordPress Development, 32 hours isn’t simply enough IMHO. That, to me, is pretty extensive in my world, but each to their own. Many people might find this easy.

    This is how I plan time. I write a rough plan of time needed to meet the clients deadline. In your case this might not be possible but, read on. Say if I required roughly 120 hours in 4 weeks (28 days), I would want to span that 120 hours out over a duration of around 24-26 days, giving me enough time to address any possible scenarios in the meantime. This could be anything from a power cut to the client not supplying me with the content he/she had asked for in the initial contract, or even my pet fish dying. I always, regardless of the case, always give flexible hours in place to make sure a project is polished and complete. As you can see, I never, ever fix my hours. This would be restricting your abilities and workflow in someway. I find that that the last minute quality-inclined decision are some of the best decisions I make throughout my entire project. There is nothing worse than presenting your client with your work that you know you didn’t fulfill, or you know you could of done this and that better.

    Many people here, like Chris, will probably be able to shine a stronger light on this than I have and I’m pretty sure some developers here can flawlessly develop CMS websites in strict time frames. I just don’t think 32 hours upon EVERY project is reasonable! Maybe 40-45. But with some flexibility!

    Happy reading, (I know, essay!)
    James.

    # February 4, 2013 at 8:34 pm

    Thanks @jshjohnson and @JamesMD… it’s good to know that I’m right on target with you guys as far as time for WordPress theme design/development. Seeing this, it seems like the issue has less to do with my project time, and more to do with whether or not really cheap projects deserve a full custom design. I think my boss should start thinking about working with premium themes instead, especially for really low budget clients.

    # February 4, 2013 at 10:17 pm

    The answer I think for most people is: depends. But, after a few years of working with a lot of clients, I’ve settled into planning 40 hours is where I start. To build something from scratch and going through the whole design phase and end up with a well thought out, quality product that is responsive and works across the board, I really want to make sure I have enough time.

    Any time I’ve calculated to the hour like that, I’ve always found I’m rushed, the result suffers, I can’t communicate as much, etc. The key for me is over delivering 9 times out of 10.

    I do agree with your last statement. If they don’t have a big budget, falling back on themes and setting proper expectations I think is a really good alternative pathway.

    # February 5, 2013 at 10:47 am

    Yea, I also give myself a lot of leeway on my freelance projects. Just curious though… when you all say that you plan 40-45 hours for a project, are you including all of the time that you spend with the client during the initial stages, loading and styling page content, and also teaching the client to use the CMS (WordPress)? I find that these stages can get drawn out with clients, especially when they are not sure of what they want or have minimal computer skills.

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