Estimating a Project Delivery Date

Otherwise known as How my website took much longer than I expected to launch...

website map

My big messy map of website ideas

Like all projects, websites often start out simple, but then evolve as the owners gain more information about what works best. In January, when I sat down to develop my website, I really thought I could build it in a month. I had already begun to map my ideas and content, but I hadn’t mapped out my technology needs, or created a portfolio of other websites that I liked. I didn’t expect those parts to take long–especially knowing I could whip up a decent blog site in a few days.

google site

Take #1: Not professional enough

Because I had used Blogger for years to host my blogs, I thought it would be a natural transition to use Google Sites to power my business site. But quickly, I realized its limitations. The template choices looked a bit dated, and I knew my own design skills would only take me so far. Basically, without a good template, my site just wouldn’t look professional enough.

I had to decide what to do next because I wanted to build my site myself, yet Google wouldn’t be the quick fix that I thought it could be. I used this time to analyze other blogs and website I liked and to ask myself what made them great. I realized that in each of the sites, the personality of the owner shined through, and the sites were also organized in a way that made sense. I began to draw out some design ideas based on those observations and explore templates and hosting sites that would allow me to build on this.

From my research I knew I wanted a responsive website (one that would resize itself depending on the device), and I knew that I wanted  to develop a site that represented who I was and how I approached projects. I wanted a sleek template, but also lots of flexibility to add features later if I needed them. I explored Squarespace but still wanted more flexibility. After all my research, I ended up back where I thought I would be–on WordPress (.org not .com, btw–and if you’re not sure what I’m referring to, here’s the difference). I decided to use an Elegant Theme template called Divi. Once I made that decision, I purchased a few key graphics from Fotolia and then edited and created images in Fireworks (Yes, I realize I’m the only person on earth who still uses Fireworks, but I find it perfect for easy web image fixes. I’ve tried other tools, and I do use Photoshop at times, but Fireworks just makes my life a  lot easier, and I am a bit sad that Adobe is discontinuing it).

Once I made the decision to use WordPress with Divi, the website evolved faster than ever, and it was a fun and creative exercise to develop it myself. So when I was ready to launch, I asked for feedback from people I trusted. Like other websites I liked, I wanted a website that was clear, made sense, and answered the questions that potential clients might have. I also wanted it to be representative of who I am, and how I work.

There were sections of the website that are still buggy–I had to take the contact form down for a bit because it had a glitch, and yesterday I found an imaginary character in one of my links that was causing a big goof up. To add to my known web bugs, early today, my biggest critic, a family member (yet the most honest guy I know), said my business services weren’t written concisely enough on my homepage. So my site evolved again, and hopefully for the better.  Soon I will add Google Analytics, and hopefully get my Twitter feed widget up on my blog.

So what does all this mean? It means that we often don’t know what we don’t know. And even with the most perfect technology implementation plan, we will learn as we go, and adjust to better serve our users. This is when exploration and prototyping allows for a natural evolution of a product. In the end, my new website which took longer than I expected but has gone through iterations and testing has met its expectations– and not only do I have a better website, but I am also a better technology coach as a result of the process.

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