Why websites can take longer to build than you expect

A recent client was surprised when we said that their new organisational website would take longer than the 4 months they had planned.

Although coming up with a new look and feel is a relatively quick process, coming up with the optimum structure, and then reworking and migrating content is often not.

If you are thinking about developing a ‘new from old’ website, here are some potential content issues to think about that might affect your development and timelines:

  • The current structure doesn’t work – if users can’t find what they need, you might need to think about a new, more logical, structure.
  • The site doesn’t contain all the information your audiences need – this means that new content needs to be developed.
  • The information on the site is outdated – this means that content needs to be updated or replaced.
  • There is a lot of content locked up in PDFs – this is potentially the largest issue (and was the issue that faced our recent client). Although PDFs can get content onto a website quickly, they have limited searchability, and many users avoid downloading PDFs. It is important that material you want users to find appears on webpages, not in PDFs. This might require summarising PDF material or reworking it to be appropriate for website content, which can be time-consuming.

It’s important to realise that moving existing print material onto websites is not as simple as making Word into HTML. When we developed the Australian manual of scientific style (AMOSS), it was originally drafted as chapters in Word. When we came to create the website, we found that significant reworking was required. For example, we needed to reduce the number of levels of information to reduce the number of clicks users needed to find material.

Thinking about your existing content and what needs to happen to ensure that key information reaches your audience will be a valuable first step in planning your website project.

See AMOSS and ‘How to write for the web’.