eCommerce Development Timeline
When you work with a full-service eCommerce development company to manage the production of your new website project, make sure you understand the overall timeline and phases before breaking ground.
Your chosen eCommerce provider should present a timeline unique to your project. The phases/length may differ, but the concepts should be similar.
Please note that this timeline and phase outline is geared more towards a full-service eCommerce development company. A turn-key, out-of-box system will take considerably less time to put together. To learn more about the different eCommerce solutions, see:
1) CONTENT DELIVERY (eCommerce merchant) – You will need to deliver the full content (for your content pages) and product information prior to starting the project. This allows the development company to scope out the design with the actual materials in-hand.
Starting the design phase without the content is like trying to cook a meal without a recipe. Yea, you might be able to wing it and get by with a decent dish, but if you don't know exactly what ingredients go into the meal, then the flavor could be compromised.
Providing the content at the start of the project will help identify what components your content/products have, and allow the designer to layout these components into a design composition.
Time-frame: depends on how many content pages and products your site has. Could take days or weeks. In some cases, months. Start planning your content collection strategy before you even start the project-you will be way ahead of the game!
2) DESIGN PHASE (Timeframe: 2-3 months) - This entails the aesthetics; colors, fonts, pictures and layout. Before the design process begins, the company should communicate with you to define your business goals and industry expectations. You should collaborate together in defining these expectations.
It is recommended that every design start first with a wireframe or blueprint. This wireframe should not include graphics or colors, but emphasis the layout and hierarchy of the specific page. A focus should be made on navigation, layout, features, and the proximity of all components.
Generally, the following pages will be custom designed; home, category, product, general content, and specialized pages. Each page will have a wireframe made first, then once the wireframe is approved, the design should follow.
Every component on the page should be depicted in the wireframe, and designed. This ensures that no feature is forgotten, and your branding is consistent throughout the site.
Each designer will have different timelines for the wireframe and composition design. However, I would estimate a few days to a week for each page template on the wireframes. This includes the initial design of the wireframe, meeting to review, and revisions.
Once the wireframes are approved, the design compositions could take a week for each page. Again, depends on the designer and the quality of the design.
If you are using a pre-designed template, the timeline would obviously be much shorter. These timelines are based on a custom site design made exclusively for your company.
3) WEB PRODUCTION (Timeframe: 2-3 weeks) - Once the pages have been designed, the designs need to be converted into CSS/HTML. This process is closely related to the design phase, as it requires a designer's expertise. During this phase, the design skeleton is made. Meaning, the the pages go from image based, to code based.
The page templates should be tested in all major browsers and operating system to ensure compatibility.
4) PROGRAMMING (Timeframe: 1-2 months) - The company should work within the proposal specifications to program all of the produced pages and necessary functionality. Estimated completion time for this phase can vary greatly depending upon the complexity of the proposed features.
During this phase, the design is sewn together with the eCommerce engine/software.
One thing to note is that it is difficult to test every possible scenario and feature of the site. For example, software giants such as Google and Microsoft encounter software quirks, glitches, and issues quite frequently. With that being said, your website should be tested through the various phases to ensure 100% usability in all major browsers, operating systems and screen resolutions.
However, be aware that there are likely going to be some quirks here and there, but the company should be there to support their product, and get these quirks resolved quickly!
5) QUALITY ASSURANCE TESTING (Timeframe: 1 month) - The company should conduct detailed Quality Assurance testing throughout all pages and functions of the site to ensure it is bug-free. This also includes testing external factors such as Internet browser compatibility, loading time, etc.
The QA methodology should be clearly articulated and presented to you so you are aware of what is being tested, and how it is being tested.
Be aware that additional, custom functionality usually encounters more quirks, as the features are being developed from scratch.
6) TRAINING (Timeframe: 1-3 days) - Once the above phases are complete, the company should invite your team in for training on working with the new site, and eCommerce system. This could be done in-house, or via webinar, however, I would insist on hands-on training rather than reading a manual or watching some videos.
Hands-on training allows you to interact with the specialists within the company that developed the system. They can help define and articulate your workflows and processes. Ask questions, and become familiar as possible with the system before launch!
Once the training is complete, the website should be ready for launch!
Expect the entire process to take from 6-12 months.
Knowing the general milestones for your eCommerce project will better equip you with the knowledge you need to make critical business decisions, and keep your project on track.