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The Foolproof Website Redesign Timeline for Schools
Angelo Otterbein

Right up there with “how much does it cost?” for most popular questions we get when talking about a redesign with a school is “how soon can we launch?”

It’s a fair question. I’m going to avoid ambiguous answers like “it depends” (it does) and “let me learn a little more” (I should) and “I first should understand your team’s current bandwidth” (it matters), and give you a clear guide to what may be one of the largest investments you’ll make in your digital communications (or should be). From there, your team can cheer, push, tug and groan their way through the ups and downs and the inevitable detours from Point A to Point B.

Let me first get one elephant out of the proverbial room. Many schools consider a summer website launch ideal: they have “time” when they can beta test the new navigation, fix content issues, train users, and address general concerns that come with any launch. But, no: I’m throwing the big red flag on that one. 

Yes, for all schools, the end of summer represents a clear built-in deadline, but for most it is impractical. My opinion, having written about hundreds of school launches over many years: it doesn’t matter when you launch. No one will remember.

Just do it right. 

The fact that the launch date “doesn’t matter” also means it can be the easiest project to procrastinate. So let me light a different kind of fire under you: every day past the deadline you’re about to set for yourself, your current, outdated website will be out there, providing ample opportunity for people to misunderstand your school, develop an opinion that you won’t like, and complain about information that’s five years old. 

And one more friendly request: we love it when you sign a contract with us, but not so much when you then tell us you need the website done in a month. It doesn’t work that way. And more importantly, it wouldn’t be fair to your school.

How long does a website redesign take?

On average, a successful custom website design process will take about 9 months. 

And while every company’s website redesign process will differ, if you want to do it right, it is going to take some time from initial concept to launch.

And of course, it does depend. Nine months isn't the only timeline. For example, a theme design at Finalsite, which is a template that has already been designed, will make for a quicker project. It’s also not your Rolls Royce website design, which would take longer. 

Broad stroke, here’s how our recommended 9-month process will go.

Step 1: Research. Sign. Gather. Learn. (~3 months)

Step 2: Kick off. Schedule. Share. (1 month)

Step 3: Design and Build. (3 months)

Step 4: Tweak. Revise. Enhance. Repeat as Necessary. Launch. (2 months)

website redesign timeline

Step 1: Research, Sign, Gather, Learn (~3 Months)


This stage of the process is all about finding the website provider to help you reach your goals — and how long this process lasts is totally up to you. It can last anywhere from a few days up to a few months. 

For timeline’s sake, let’s say it takes schools, on average, three months. Choosing the right provider certainly isn’t something you want to rush into, as you’ll likely be signing a multi-year contract.

Let’s just say, hypothetically, after one month you’ve determined that Finalsite really is the only provider who has the software, the services, and support to handle your school or district needs in the short and long term. We get it! At Finalsite, we’re committed to the idea that a school needs more than a website and not just a “new homepage” and that this process is about building a best-in-class marketing and communications platform.



If you’re wondering why there’s such a big range in time in this phase, this step is why. Why can executing a contract take a month or more? We wish we could answer that but for some reason it often does. We see so many over-enthusiastic administrators who ask us for the paperwork, but then lose all of their steam after getting caught in a perpetual loop trying to make everyone happy, coordinating final, final meetings, and “getting so and so to weigh in”. 

We recommend making sure you’ve got this list of stakeholders clear in your head and encourage you to make the time to sit down with them, and with us, to review what’s ahead. This step is about reassurance and getting commitment. Embrace the bureaucracy, this once.

A few critical questions also worth asking early on to avoid surprises:

Does the contract need board approval? If so, when/how does that happen? Will they need a presentation to understand the scope and project? You’ll want to back out a timeline from that approval date and line up any board-level meetings sooner rather than later. 

Will the school or district’s attorney or business office need to review the contract terms? If so, we will send a “sample” contract over even before the project has been approved. This ensures that any key discussion points are flagged. Make sure you and members of your team understand what they’re signing and have a chance to ask questions early in the process.

Who, ultimately, approves the project? Is there a certain spend threshold that warrants more approvals? If so, try to identify that number and/or how the chain of approvals works. We often spend time with people who may not have any involvement in the project so that they understand the return-on-investment (ROI), purpose, and objectives which can include business officers, board members, donors, and even outside consultants. The earlier we talk to these individuals the better.


Make the most of this part of the process and get some of the work out of the way while you’re still ironing out the details. You know the redesign is coming, so best to hit the ground running.

Now is also a good time to dig through your website and determine what should stay and what can go. Most schools uncover a lot of outdated and not very important content cluttering their site. 

This process will make things a lot easier down the road if you start to consider:

Your team

And then it’s all about the team. This blog about having the right people is a good start to corralling the expertise and right perspectives for a successful project. A marketing/ communications person and a technical person (not necessarily IT, but someone who is comfortable with managing a website) is a great pairing and often hard to find in just one person, even if it’s you, oh wearer of multiple hats. Speaking of which, this project will require your time and your team’s time. Make sure those who assign you work understand that you need to make room for this important project, ideally a day every week.

A draft sitemap

Start unraveling your navigation. Can pages be combined? Do things seem out of place or crowded? Getting your sitemap together early on will save you time later.

Branding elements

Are your graphics, logos, fonts, guidelines in one place and easy to share? Is there anything visual being developed that may hold things up, or worth waiting on? If your logo is being tweaked, there may still be ways to move the website project forward, but keep us in the loop. As long as we both understand what’s happening and track the progress - we can keep the process moving right along. One last note on branding: if you’re thinking about website accessibility, much of that starts with branding. Identify and clear up those color contrast issues in particular sooner rather than later. Red on green? Not great.


Do not underestimate the impact of good photography; those sites that are consistently admired always include high-quality, engaging photos. This includes candids as well as pictures of your teachers, your staff, maybe your board - a great directory goes a long way. Those mug shots are time consuming to gather, but make all the difference.


Great websites often have great video montages, and this one can take time -- if you imagine video, get in front of this sooner rather than later.


Collect some websites you like and align around a few key objectives that are important for the site (e.g. bring in more inquiries, improve parent communications, centralize messaging).


A little light reading never hurts, too. Here are three that are always helpful, including 5 Things You Should Have Ready Before Your Redesign, What Can I Expect from the Finalsite Redesign Process, and What Makes a Good School Website.  A little heavier reading but incredibly helpful and among our top downloads is the Website Redesign Playbook.

Once you get started on your project, you’ll be getting all sorts of information from us—videos, emails, links to great blogs. Open them. Read them. Embrace them. We invest a lot of time in this material to share all the things we have learned, and keep learning, launching websites all the time. And if you see anything missing, let us know. 

Step 2: Kick off. Share. Learn. 


The contract is in hand, the team is corralled, blog posts are bookmarked. Finally! Now gather your group of key stakeholders and schedule a kick-off call with your team and ours. With an experienced project manager by your side and an online project management tool that lays out a clear timeline with key milestones — including deliverables for both you and your school — you’ll find the project can progress at a comfortable and steady pace. Everyone on the team will learn who needs to do what and by when to meet the targeted launch date. Weekly meetings will ensure the project moves along.

Share Who You Are

Shortly after the contract, we’ll share a survey to help our designers understand what makes you unique, your goals, and other requirements. This phase lays the foundation for a successful website launch. Google Analytics is always an important guide in understanding high-traffic pages that should be brought more to the forefront while other pages might need to be removed or recrafted. 

Learn the Product

We emphasize training early to demystify the magic of putting a website together and enable you to ask better questions along the way. Schools that are most successful with their launch engage with us and the training early. Users always think of new and creative ways to use our products by experimenting with different website pages. 

The Finalsite Product Education Team maintains an amazing training platform, providing a whole new approach to learning the platform. With interactive pages, searchable videos, practical exercises, and graded knowledge checks, the training site provides valuable tools for learning. There are other professional development options to help new users including a comprehensive resource library. 

"Our redesign process was nearly seamless from start to finish. The Finalsite team is knowledgeable, adept at anticipating and handling client questions, and great at keeping clients on track."


Step 3. Design and Build


The work you’ve done earlier -- the survey, the branding, the research into sites you like --  makes a huge difference in how smoothly this step will go. Keep the committee small and focused -- and trust our team. Signing off on the design is an important step in keeping the project on track. With the right input, our designers just know how to put pixel to canvas and bring your story to life. 


If you’re not a web developer, then watching our front-end developers take the approved design and build it into Composer is nothing short of magic. This initial coding phase can vary depending on the complexity of the design. At the end of the build-out process the basic design, navigation, and functionality of your website will be in place and the site will be tested by our quality assurance team.

But don’t get too distracted watching it all come alive. You’ve got to pay attention to:


This is by far the one area where most schools underestimate the amount of time required. While some schools take copy and forklift it over to their new site, we encourage schools to take this opportunity to rewrite and heavily edit content to make it more succinct and engaging. With more than 50% of website traffic coming from mobile devices, content needs to cater to short attention spans and offer more visual content. So “rewriting” doesn’t mean more of the same, but rather communicating the same information but with images, infographics, and shorter blocks of text and list items.


In reality, very few pages of content can just be a matter of “cut and paste.” With Finalsite’s content management system, Composer, you’ll have a huge array of layout options. The tabbed element and accordion elements alone can transform a deep and unwieldy set of pages into a single tidy page that’s much more user-friendly. Layouts are their own form of art, and you’ll get the hang of it the more content you add and edit. You will also have detailed instructions on how to use the elements particular to your own design once they are built, so you should have no problem bringing the design vision to life across your site.

Data Imports and Integration

If you are looking to integrate with your student information system or admissions software, this is an important piece that requires attention to detail. Our team will review the technical requirements with your technical team and get the process rolling.

Step 4. Tweak. Revise. Enhance. Tweak. Revise. Enhance. Launch.

Once the design is implemented, your team is trained, content and images are (mostly) gathered, it’s time to get all of the pages ready for launch. This means continuing to use layouts strategically, thinking how best to consolidate pages and content, and even revamping sections to be more thoughtful and succinct.

This can be the most time-consuming part of the process — but it’s all worth it! The most successful teams we work with set this as a priority, work collaboratively and make timely decisions along the way. 

Key Takeaway

Launching a new school website can seem daunting. Some schools breeze through it while others struggle a bit more - but either way, Finalsite will stand by your side the entire way. Schools love to share their success stories to help other schools by providing advice, wisdom, and support.

So if you want to launch an amazing website, start now! This is not a linear process but rather an orchestration of many moving pieces and Finalsite will partner with you along this journey.

Meet With a Website Expert | Finalsite

angelo otterbein headshot

Angelo graduated valedictorian from St. Paul's School in Baltimore, MD and from Princeton University. Despite getting his degree in creative writing and English Literature, it generally takes some doing to keep him from programming and breaking websites. Just after graduating, he started Silverpoint, and grew it to over 300 schools worldwide before merging with Finalsite in 2013.

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