The 1 Hour Website — Busting the Myth in 5 Points [Web Design]

As Seen on TV — YOU can build your website in one hour! Big web companies today are selling you a pipe dream that you can create a website in such little time that professional help is not necessary.

Definitely, think again. 

While studying at Purdue, I once completed a COBOL program from a few pages of notes that resulted in a perfect report and no compile errors in just under three hours. True story! So maybe this one hour site is a reality however I never was able to pull such a feat again and I seriously doubt many have achieved greatness in a website within an hour. 

Websites are living documents and must change, ebb and flow with your brand, your customers, and the times. In today’s commerce, your website is your first handshake to the outside world and for some, the realization that a website is a necessary tool not a toy has come too late. Their numbers suffer from accounting to brand engagement. 

So you and I are going to take the challenge and design a website in an hour — okay then, let’s go!


domain name extensions such as .us, .com, .biz, .host, .info

Let’s say you need to buy your domain name. There are many domain registrars who provide great customer service, such as Godaddy who is trusted and respected for almost 20 years, however there are tricks to choosing the registrar. 

When choosing where to register your domain, you will need to know that you are able to transfer the domain easily and that you can easily modify your domain so it works for you. You also need to understand that you will need to keep your login and password so you are able to renew your domain when the time comes. 

Once you have selected a registrar, you will need to search to see if your domain is available. This generally is a very painstaking process and requires a number of combinations and permutations to get a suitable domain name that is right for your company, fits your target audience, and available. You will quickly discover that your domain is probably already taken and have to go back to the drawing board many times.

Keep in mind, if your domain name is too long, complex or simply off-the-wall, users will not remember it. If it is easily misspelled, you will need to secure other domain names that direct to your main domain. 

Estimated time - 1 - 3+ hours for planning, research, and acquisition.


Now that you have your domain, you need to consider what kind of site you need. Do you need e-commerce or is this just brochureware? Are you saving any user data? 

After determining the kind of site you need, ask yourself these questions.

  • Am I keen on Wordpress or another CMS (content management system) such as Squarespace and what is my skill level with that CMS? 

  • Are there software integrations that require hosting on Linux or will a Microsoft platform suffice? 

  • What limitations are set by the hosting providers?

Once the pros and cons are weighed, you will also need to consider platform support, security, and costs. 

  • What support options are offered? 

  • What are the fees with taking payments online for an e-commerce solution?

  • Is site security included?

These among many other factors will help you determine where your website lives and the service provider

Oh - more research needed. 

Estimated time - 1 - 4+ hours for planning, research and acquisition.


Website and mobile site of Park University Advancement

Now comes the time for planning the number of pages, features and functions, and user interactions for the site. A step not to be skipped, you must plan for the content that lives on each page, how links work, visual placements, and ensure content is logical and digestible.

YOU GOT THIS….right?

Like buildings, websites require a blueprint called a wireframe. The wireframe is a plan describes where pages link, the information architecture (how information is organized) and how features and functions work in conjunction with content placement. Even seasoned professionals create, use, and tweak this tool to ensure a responsive layout for mobile, tablets, and desktops.

Since we are using a CMS we now must locate a template that allows us to deliver our site like the wireframe plan. Unfortunately, there is not a one fits all template however a few very flexible and adaptable templates are available. We’ll have to research this a bit more to find a good match.

Estimated time - 1 - 4+ hours for research, planning and development.


Of course you already have been through the exercise of creating your brand message….right? You have your written content together, audience targeted with the right language and tone, and the optimal keywords in position to keep on brand and guide users. 

You have your logo designed…professionally, and not by your 14 year old niece, Tiffany. The logo is vector ready for whatever the need. Right?

Photography has been selected or shot. Illustrations and complementary graphics, animations, and video have been produced. Your visual library is ready and optimized for Web.

If not, you can expect to start droving through myriads of photos, illustrations, graphic elements and fonts to ensure your brand looks cohesive. Unexpectedly, font and photo research requires a huge amount of time. Fonts especially require some expertise when it comes to pairing the appropriate fonts for headers, copy, and quotes. Additionally, imagery, video, audio and other complementary components take time to capture, edit, and optimize for digital delivery. By no means is this an easy or quick task. 

Setting the tone for your content is essential. Are you force selling or engaging your users and potential customers? Today’s users will not be sold and require the finesse of engagement. They want to trust your brand — not be sold. Be sure to review the content again to ensure we are setting the right tone. 

Estimated time - 2 - 20+ hours for research, planning, reviewing, and development. 


Now that everything is together, let’s build this!

We pull up the template in the CMS and start plugging in the elements and oh…yeah…it doesn’t really work the way we thought. Oh look at that, this feature isn’t really fully functional and we will have to hand code it. OH…and LOOK AT THAT…our optimized images are too small. AND OH — that video isn’t completely edited and posted on Youtube yet. 

In the words of the great Gomer Pyle, “Surprise, surprise, surprise.” 

Now you have to finagle, tweak, and compromise the original plan. This is very common and a far cry from a surprise. The production phase is when most have to tweak the original plan and create alternatives. Rarely will this go as planed. (If it has gone swimmingly…kudos. You got your one shot.)

Estimated time - 3 - 30+ hours. 


The end result is 8 - 61+ hours and really — this is only the start of being a responsible website owner. 

When it comes to a professional website, you need just that, a professional. While I cannot dispute than someone, somewhere was able to do all of this in an hour (and I’m sure it has happened), there is something somewhere on that site today that is awry, incomplete, or just incorrect. You get what you get when you are your own jack of all trades — or at least your 14 year old niece, Tiffany, is.

Do yourself the favor and hire a good web designer or agency. They have the inside scoop on planning and research and will make recommendations to you along the way.  I do not mean hire an intern, regardless of their ambition, for little to nothing to build your site.

Hire a professional. 

Websites are truly intricate creatures and require constant attention. Left alone too long or not fed, your business will probably start seeing ramifications. So if you need help keeping the website updated, establish a long-term plan with a professional.

Be aware. Be conscious. And especially - be a responsible website owner. 

(There are too many websites needing attention.)

— PJ

PJ has 20+ years experience designing for websites of all sizes. He has worked with 37,000+ page sites with year(s)-long timelines and small sites that encompassed about 35 hours.

Need help with your website? Let’s talk.

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Patrick Baxter