computer, calendar, and clock with check marks and due dates to communicate deadlines

Set expectations and keep on top of deadlines when you’re building a website.

How often have you agreed with a client about the schedule for completing a website, and then watched your plan burn to ashes the moment work begins? We’ve all been there. Usually, missed deadlines are the result of a number of factors, some of which you are responsible for, and some of which not. However, there are several steps you can take to mitigate your risk of falling behind schedule and which will help you communicate deadlines with your website team.

Don’t fall prey to the Planning Fallacy.

The Planning Fallacy happens when you over-estimate your ability to accomplish a task, despite evidence to the contrary from your experience or the experiences of your peers. It’s viewing your task with rose-tinted glasses, and believing like the die-hard optimist you are that nothing whatsoever will go wrong this time.

Of course, nothing has to go terribly wrong for you to fall behind schedule. Your client could postpone a key review meeting, your lead developer could come down with the flu, or you could have difficulty obtaining key login credentials for a critical element of the website from a third party.

These are all out of your control, and you can’t predict when they will happen. But the point is that you can predict that something will probably happen, and when you fail to take that into account you fall behind schedule.

Set expectations with your client and create a contingency plan.

Usually, the kick-off meeting is the time in which you and your client commit to a certain schedule to complete your web project. Use this as an opportunity to request any of the critical information you will need to launch the website so that you have plenty of time to obtain all the passcodes before the launch date. Also take the time to talk about what will happen in case of a missed deadline.

This is part good client service, and part protecting your team. You want to be as transparent as possible with your client about your process so that they know what to expect. But your team is one of your greatest assets, and you want to shield them from potential burnout. You commit to keeping your internal deadlines, but you should also establish that these deadlines are subject to shift if a client postpones a critical meeting, delays approval, or fails to deliver a key asset.

Communicate deadlines with your team.

We set deadlines for a reason, and it’s not to know how long we’re allowed to procrastinate before we have to get to work. Deadlines are about communicating priorities. Your team members need to know what’s coming up on the calendar so that they can make decisions about how to prioritize their tasks.

For many of us, a task without a deadline falls to the bottom of our to-do list in favor of those with obvious urgency. Yet many of those tasks could have been more easily put aside given the much more important deadline.

Establish a project management system

If you find yourself constantly falling behind or failing to communicate deadlines with your staff, it’s time to address your project management system. This could be a matter as simple as signing up for a project management app that your team can use, or starting the week with a 10-minute check-in.

Bringing a website all the way through to launch is a big project and requires a lot of coordination. Transparency about deadlines is only one of the elements you need to complete the project. But by realistic goal-setting, setting expectations with the client, and communicating thoroughly with your team, you can finish your website project on track.

Published 11/18/16 by Laura Lynch