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How long does it take to make a web site?
One of the questions people considering a web site have is "How long does it take to make a web site?" Just like "How long does it take to make a dinner?" the answer is "It depends". I'd like to try to tackle the answer for a variety of personal web sites.

Some background:

The first thing it depends upon is what type of web site you want to create. There are many types of web sites for personal use. There is the web journal, like the one I keep. There is the event commemoration site, like one showing pictures from a wedding or birthday party. There is the nonprofit home page for small clubs and organizations, such as a chorus. There is the product information web site that you might use to describe an item you wish to sell by auction or a vacation home you wish to rent. The list goes on and on. I list the time for a variety of web site types.

The second thing it depends upon is the tool you will be using to create the web site. Some tools require you to have some understanding of HTML or create one page at a time and figure out the linking strategy yourself. For the purposes of this analysis, I'm assuming that you use Trellix Web. It lets you concentrate just on the content of your site and takes care of almost all the linking and the "look" of your web site. When using Trellix Web, HTML knowledge is of little use when creating sites like the ones I mentioned. If you need to create your own design or use a tool that doesn't let you edit your whole site as easily as Powerpoint lets you go from slide to slide, add more time to the estimates below.

I'm also assuming that you have a server on which to place your web site. If you don't, Trellix Web has a variety of wizards to set you up with free advertising-supported services like Tripod and FortuneCity.com or with paid hosting companies.

Here are some things I've seen for myself and others using Trellix Web:

Common overhead
Design: Canned: 1-15 minutes. Custom design: 2 hours+++
If you use a canned design, you spend a minute choosing the design. (More if you're fussier or don't know the set from which you are choosing.) If you are not using a canned design as is, you can spend from half an hour to several hours crafting the "look" of your web site. For example, this web site used a custom design that took me a few hours to hone, including getting color suggestions from a professional. Many of my wedding and Bar/Bat-Mitzvah web sites use a standard design that comes with Trellix Web and only took the 30 seconds to scroll through some thumbnails and make a choice. If you need to make/get/buy custom artwork, the time can move to days or weeks and the cost can go up quite high.

Preparing pictures: 5 minutes for every 10 pictures shot plus scanning or loading time
It takes time to choose the pictures, determine the order, and perhaps make minor adjustments with a photo editor (such as brightness, contrast, gamma, redeye, etc.). If you use a digital camera, you have to load the pictures onto your PC from the camera (1 to 10 minutes per 8MB  of pictures -- 120 low resolution, 20 higher resolution). If you work from paper prints, you have to scan the pictures (a minute or so each?). While some pictures go quickly, you can waste a lot of time deciding between two almost identical ones, or getting the lightening just right.

Checking names and facts, linking to relevant information: 1 minute to 1 hour per page
There are different levels of checking the facts and spelling of names, linking to related web sites, etc. Here are some guidelines:

Off the top of your head: Like a conversation at a cocktail party, you just type what comes to your mind, no checking. This takes up no more time than a quick email. Hopefully you proofread through once and spell check but usually don't.

Basic checking and linking: Like a paper for distribution at a meeting, you check spelling, especially of people's names, their titles, give URLs for their web sites, etc. This can easily double the time it takes to write something. I find that even for family sites, like pictures of a wedding, I need help identifying people whose names I've "forgotten", otherwise I'll just say "here are some pictures". You don't want to identify Aunt Jean (Jeane?) and neglect to name her husband (Joe? Joel? Jim?) smiling next to her.

"Reasonable" due diligence: Like a paper for distribution to strangers, you follow the URLs to check that your assertions are correct, do extra research to make sure, look for related links perhaps, maybe get permission for using someone's picture or linking to their site as a courtesy. This can more than double or triple the time. When I did my report December 2nd about Howard Anderson's talk I used a tape recorder to check quotes, etc. A lot different than just quickly typing what I remember.

Full checking: Like a major publication, you not only do all the checking and more research, you have another person review it, call/email others to talk about it, etc. This is a full-time job.

Types of web sites
Here is a list of various types of personal web sites with estimates. This is not an exhaustive list.

A Quick Note Web Site: 10 to 30 minutes
This web site is probably just one page in length with a few pictures and a little bit of text. There is almost no fact checking. Examples: "The tulips bloomed", "No more metal-mouth: I got my braces off", "A few pictures and results from the big race", "Directions to the party (with a picture) and where to park". This doesn't take much longer than an email with attachments.

Single Event Report: 1 to 4 hours
This is a 1 to 10 page web site with several pictures on each page plus captions and/or descriptive paragraphs. It is organized into logical groupings, such as sub-events, different groups of people, etc. Examples are pictures from a birthday or other party, wedding, bar/bat-mitzvah, reunion, etc. If you are using a digital camera, you probably take 50 to 100 pictures or so.

A major determination of the amount of time is the number of photographs you use and the depth to which you produce a narrative. Saying "Here are some dancing pictures" and inserting 5 pictures is a lot different than showing 10 couples, each with their names spelled right and a link to their email address, and a paragraph about what's new in their life since the last reunion. A page of the former takes 10 minutes to create and the latter could take the good part of an afternoon or evening, or more. While the extra time may seem prohibitive, it can actually be quite enjoyable. Calling cousin Jim for an email address can result in a wonderful half hour conversation; thinking about how to describe your feelings at seeing your daughter walk down the aisle is not wasted time. The feeling of tedium when writing in high school about Homer is quite different than as an adult describing a camping trip to your friends. Choosing among 100 different pictures of kids playing at a party you planned is not unpleasant.

Multi-day event: Just pictures and simple captions: 4 hours; With detailed commentary and name/link checking: 1st page in 2-4 hours, finished in 20+ hours
This is a 5 to 30 page web site with several pictures on each page plus descriptive paragraphs and/or a full narrative. It is organized by time and/or by event. Examples are my reports on PC Forum, LCS 35th, Digital Storytelling Festival, Comdex'99, etc. If you are using a digital camera, unloading the pictures at least once a day, you may end up with 1000 pictures. Other examples are vacations, wedding weekends, etc.

With this type of web site it is important to understand the time costs. I have seen people start such a site but not finish it well. Writing the narrative, choosing the pictures, checking names and affiliations, getting links to corporate web sites, etc., all over a dial-up hotel phone line with a modem, can add substantially to the time. I find that I can create the first page or two of an event site during the event in the late evening. As time goes on, though, the nights get longer and you end up needing hours of extra work to finish the site on the plane and when you get home. Budget for this or don't set the expectations too high at the beginning.

Ongoing web log or journal: 2 minutes per entry for simple note or link to 1-3+ hours for entries like in this log
Journals or logs are web sites to which you constantly add new entries. One common type, sometimes called a "blog" (short for weblog) has entries that are just short paragraphs describing links to other interesting things found on the web. To do that, you just fire up your editing tool, type "Interesting article about blue frogs and politics on scienceworld2K.com",  paste in the link, and publish. Finding the original article is the hard part.

Another type of journal, like the one I started October 1999, has much longer entries with more original text, sometimes original pictures, researched names, etc. This could also be a "What's happened in my life" or "Another day in our vacation" journal. This type of journal takes 1 to 3 or more hours per entry. Essays like this (sometimes you have more to say than a normal entry) take even longer. It is very hard to keep up on a daily basis for a long period unless it is part of your job or a major hobby. For personal use, updating it just once a week, once a month, or once every three months may be more appropriate. Family members love this type of journal, so doing one you can keep up for the appropriate duration is important. I think the once a month one will become very popular and be a major supplement to infrequent phone calls to friends and relatives and improve upon the yearly Christmas letter.

Organization information site: 2 to 6 hours
This is a web site for an organization like a chorus, church group, budding nonprofit, amateur sports team, or group of friends. It gives you a place to send potential members/benefactors to learn more about you or to post pictures from an event. It initially runs 3 to 10 pages, with pages such as "About Us", "How to contact us", "Pictures of our members", "Our upcoming fundraiser", etc. The main time factor is deciding what to say and getting the correct words to say it. The design overhead factor can come into play here if you insist on having the look convey special, custom information. If you use a canned design and already have the pictures, this type of site can go up in an evening.

There are many other types of personal web sites, including fan/booster sites, very small business sites, family sites, etc. Hopefully the list here will give you some idea of the time to budget for whatever you create.

Send any comments to me at danb@trellix.com.
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