There are lots of challenges and pains when managing website projects, and you’ve probably faced some or all of them.
We’ve pulled together a list of considerations when working on website projects, to help you make sure your website projects run smoothly and stay on track:
1. Question The Brief
With the prospect of new work, there’s the tendency to get excited and go full steam ahead to get that project confirmed, but before you submit a proposal, inspect that brief from every angle. Here’s a quick checklist:
What’s The Project Objective?
Is it evidence based (on visitor interaction and results) or pie in the sky (internal opinions or feelings)? If it’s leaning towards the latter – what data can you seek to build a measurable goal from the brief. This will show the client your substance before you’re even in the door.
What’s The Budget?
There’s no point sugar-coating when it comes to cash. If a budget is wildly unrealistic you’re better off addressing it at this stage rather than down the line. You can de-scope if required, phase implementation or suggest alternative ways for a stronger financial return for your client.
Is The Deadline Realistic?
Deadlines are, unfortunately, sometimes out of our control. If you do have the luxury of setting your own project deadline, make sure it’s realistic—a lot of the time management problems you’ll run into will stem from this deadline, so make it good. Same story as budget, honesty upfront will prevent stress and anxiety when you’re knee deep in the project. Start as you mean to go on by managing expectations.
Who’s Doing What?
Make sure that the roles and responsibilities are clear – will the client be supplying the content, if not, who? And by when? Is that accounted for in the budget?
Does The Website Need To Integrate With Any Other Systems?
Is there a CRM system or any other software/services the website needs to talk to? Does the website builder integrate with those tools? Make sure a developer has had eyes on the project brief and technical specification to prevent any surprises once the project is underway.
Sense checking the brief gives you a clearer picture of the road ahead and if you have plenty of questions for the project team, then that shows them you’re paying attention.
2. Take The Time To Plan
As a Project Manager, planning is probably your happy place, but sometimes you will need to convince others that planning is required and jumping right into design won’t save time in the long run. You need to know the audience and business as if you were part of it to make informed decisions and build an effective website. So don’t be nervous to book discovery time into the project plan. Gantt charts are an easy way to plan a project so you can be clear about the workflow required, dependencies and responsibility.
3. Always Agree On A Scope
A scope protects you when projects start to grow unexpected arms and legs. You must be clear about exactly what you will deliver – whether you base that on a number of hours, templates or another measure, make sure it is clear what is being delivered and what cost is attached to that. Don’t forget to how many rounds of reviews this includes! For some projects it may also be wise to include an agreed contingency budget to give everybody a bit of breathing room for creativity if another opportunity presents itself as you get into the project. Upfront contingency budgets make it easier for all involved as they won’t need to get budget approval a second time around.
4. Get Content As Early As Possible
It’s important not to jump ahead to the exciting design phase without giving content the attention it deserves. Without relevant, engaging content, the website will not deliver results. It can have the most beautiful aesthetic but it’s content and design together that will drive visitors to engage.
When you have completed your content audit and audience research, you’ll need a content plan that outlines each page or content section of your site, the purpose of the page, target audience, intended actions and content requirements. The earlier you get content planned and into production, the easier you’ll make your designer’s and developer’s lives by giving them real content to design and build for.
5. The Client Isn’t Always Right
This one can be tricky. Just because customer service might traditionally have been founded within a “the customer is always right” ethos, this does not apply to website projects. Don’t forget they’ve employed you as a specialist to perform a role. If your gut tells you what a client is asking for isn’t the right move, speak up.
Website projects seem to invite vanity (“but my department HAS to be featured on the homepage”, “make the logo bigger!” etc.) but it is your role as a project manager to steer the course to deliver on your agreed objectives. The most effective technique for navigating beyond bad client requests is to revisit the content plan again and again. Does the request support it? Yes, great. No, OK – use your content plan that your client has signed off to show them why not. Your job is to advocate for the end customer, not your client – because ultimately if you deliver a website that pleases your client’s customers, you will also have a happy customer yourself.
Managing website projects is a challenging task, it involves carefully balancing many spinning plates but with patience, perseverance and GatherContent it can also be a lot of fun.
You can read more about effective content delivery, as well as tips and tricks in our free book, called Content Delivery!
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