My husband and I started talking about a house remodel and addition in April. We figured we would be under construction by July and complete by October. It is now October. We haven’t started construction. In fact, we are still revising plans and getting bids. The first plan was too expensive, so we had to go back to the drawing board. Now we think we might start construction in January. I will believe it when I see it.

I am not yet frustrated by this change in plans, schedule and budget. Why? Because I work in website development, and developing a website is much like doing construction on your house. It takes patience, flexibility and learning to accept things you don’t understand. Let’s get real about how the process really goes — for building a house and for building a website — and set expectations for this major project on which you are about to embark.*

The Planning

You start out with big dreams. A claw-footed tub or an interactive, customized e-commerce shopping experience. A closet the size of a bedroom or a news/magazine-like content hub similar to The Huffington Post. You make your wishlist, and you start getting really excited about this thing that you are about to build. You don’t know what your budget is because you have never done this before and just don’t know what you should budget. You say, “let’s just price out what I want and go from there.”

The Design & Blueprint

To get an accurate cost, there needs to be a plan to estimate. The contractor needs to know square footage, the developer needs to know how the features are actually going to work. Are you going to have to add plumbing to an area of the house that is not in line with existing pipes? Are you processing payments on the website and what are the limitations from your third party processor?

This is where your designer or architect draws out the wireframe or blueprint for the house and the website. Each room is measured and specifications are outlined. Each website feature has a step-by-step page experience and backend activity framed out.

Your vision is starting to be realized and you are happy and excited to get started!

The Estimate

Then you see the price. And the schedule. You thought for sure it would take three months to build. You have always heard that the “rule” is 12-weeks to a website. Six months, eight months, 10 months? This was not in your plan. And true, you didn’t have a budget to share, but in fact, you did have a number in mind and this estimate is three or four times what you thought you would spend. You are deflated.

You start negotiating — with yourself and with your contractor. You think you don’t have to have the claw-footed tub, but you really want marble countertops. You suggest an off-the-shelf product for your e-commerce solution. You put pressure on the contractor to commit to completing sooner. You agree to do your own landscaping for the house or write your own content for the website in an effort to shave dollars off wherever you can.

You finally get to a price and schedule you can live with and a design that is close enough to what you originally wanted. And, by the way, you spent four weeks on this negotiation.

The Construction

Finally, the ground has been broken and construction has started. So the waiting has begun. The framework is being built, pipes are being laid, systems are being installed. A lot of work is happening, but there is nothing for you to see yet. Months have gone by and you are getting anxious. You insist on seeing something, anything just to prove progress. When you see it, you are disappointed, because truthfully, it wasn’t ready for you to see. But you insisted and now you are scared the project won’t be right, will never be finished and will exceed your budget.

The Delays

Because you are now panicking about the project, you start suggesting changes. You are the client, so your contractor doesn’t take these as mere suggestions, they are requested changes. But you don’t realize that these requests are big changes. That off-the-shelf e-commerce plug-in isn’t perfect: you request some customization. Just a little bit, not enough to build a completely custom solution. Yet. You know you don’t need that expensive claw-footed tub, but that molded insert is not at all what you thought it would be, so you request at least a free-standing tub. These changes requiring un-doing work that has been done and require more work than originally planned to get to what you think is a compromise between your dream request and the budget option. These changes start to snowball adding weeks and months and dollars to your project. You are frustrated, but you want what you want.

The Finishing Touches

“It is almost done.” You will hear this a lot in the final weeks of the construction and development. Your definition of “almost done” appears to be very different than your contractor’s definition of “almost done.” You think if you put the pressure on them, you will get it faster. But it turns out that you can’t make website animation coding happen faster any more than you can make your tile mortar dry faster. So you wait.

The Perfection and Forgetting

Finally, your website launches or you can start moving furniture into your new rooms. And it is perfect. You love it. Your boss loves it. Your spouse loves it. You forget that the project took longer than originally expected and cost more than you wanted to spend, because it is so perfect.

This is not meant to scare you off from developing a new website (or remodeling your house). Websites, like houses, require many hands to make them. There are details involved that you never anticipate. Working on a new website does not have to be a frustrating experience if you know what you are getting into before you start. Know what you want and what you are willing to give up to get it — budget, features, schedule, etc. — and the process can be fun!

*Of course, I have exaggerated for effect to make the point.