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How to create a realistic client project timeline

Updated: Jan 31

Still figuring out what timelines to offer your clients? In the beginning, it’s easy to ballpark an overly ambitious timeline that doesn’t give your designers, SEO-specialists, writers and developers enough time to meet the deadline/. Especially when your team is still figuring out the most efficient workflow.

Creating a realistic project timeline will help you build your client relationships and wrack up those good reviews. Not to mention standardize your workflow, empower your team and keep the energy positive. So even if your client is eager to get the ball rolling, setting a project timeline that works for your team will make sure your project starts and ends on the right foot.

So how can you anticipate an accurate and consistent timeline? Consider these 7 steps and speak with each team lead to better understand how much time each step takes at your unique agency.

7 steps to consider when creating a realistic client project timeline

1. Planning and market research

2. Design mockup

3. Content and SEO

4. Final design and development

5. Beta testing and QA

6. Ongoing maintenance, edits and updates

Step 1: Planning and market research

When creating your timeline, factor in planning and market research, so you’re well-informed on your client and their competitors. Here are key tasks that you should consider in the early stages of your project:

Do your background research

Make sure you’ve done your market research after meeting with a client, so you’re familiar with their business, content, design, marketing approach and competitors. This will help you create informed opinions and offer solutions that actually make sense.

Get a lot of answers now, so you’ll save time later down the road when your team comes back with questions. Consider developing a web design survey for your client to fill out in advance so you can gather more important details to reference.

Create a great design brief

When done right, a great design brief will get your clients, SEO-specialists, writers and designers all on the same page, so they can start planning out their individual timelines per deliverable.

Creating an effective design brief should include the following:

  • Your client’s business history, goals and KPIs

  • Their target audience and key competitors

  • Their content voice and design look and feel

  • Their inspiration and media

  • List of deliverables/assets

  • Project budget, including maintenance and upgrades

  • Project timeline

Step 2: Design mockup

Give your designer enough time to gather web design inspiration and create a few mockups that match your clients’ expectations and even push the boundaries.

Strive to impress your client by producing precise mockups that include user journey, and content elements. Once you have the mockups, you can share with your client for feedback and approval.

During the client feedback process, it’s particularly important to ensure you have enough time to create truly impressive mockups that are close to the final end result. Using a website builder like Wix, will allow you to share in-progress work for live feedback and get comments right on site, so you can accelerate the approval process.

Be sure to check in with your designer on how much time they need to create mockups for both desktop and mobile. In this Google study, users who have a negative mobile experience are 62% less likely to purchase from that brand in the future. So knowing exactly how the mobile site will behave is equally important as the desktop view.

Step 3: Content and SEO

The design is only as good as its content. SEO-optimized content that speaks to the “Why,” “How” and “What” will help bring in the right visitors and persuade them to click. Users are also more likely to share quality content, which can boost a site’s search ranking—all the more reason to give your writers enough time to write compelling text.

Your writer will need time to cover key messaging, calls to action, SEO essentials and brand voice. However, the content creation timeline will vary greatly depending on how large the project is and what your client needs, for example a blog content strategy will take much longer than a single landing page.