tips for website development project management

Here’s how to make sure your website project moves forward on time.

Anyone who’s ever built a website knows that managing these projects can be a nightmare. Both the client and the developing team have teams and projects moving forward, and helping the right people deliver the right information at the right time can be both complex and frustrating. And as we all know, the natural human response to not knowing what to do next is to do nothing at all. This means that projects can often grind to a halt or suffer significant delays, just from poor project management.

The good news is, it doesn’t have to be this way. There’s nothing about web development that says every project must result in chaos. It just seems that way because, as it’s still a relatively new industry, there are many misunderstandings about what should website deliverables should include and how the work should move forward. So, to help you execute your web project as smoothly as possible, here are our top tips for website development project management.

Understand the scope from the beginning.

Scope creep can be a nightmare for both client and developer. From the developer side of things, unexpected add-ons can prolong the duration of the project, complicate the work, and often result in sub-par results. For the client, these extra bits of functionality or design can balloon the budget.

To avoid scope creep, nail-down the project deliverables at the beginning, and be up front about the cost of late-stage additions. Extra work means extra cost and extra delays. Aligning about project priorities from the start will go a long way toward keeping your work on target.

Come prepared.

We like to tell our clients that the more they have ready for us at the start of a project, the faster we can turn it around. This includes information like image files that need to be transferred to the new site, website copy (if you have it), login credentials, and hosting information.

Projects slow down whenever one party is waiting on the other for any of this information. Fortunately, a good web developer can work with you to help pull these items together. We can work with you to arrange a photography shoot if you don’t have the images you need, and we can provide copywriting if your team is overloaded. After all, our primary business is to build websites, while yours is something very different. We can bring a lot of resources to bear in order to help you get your website quickly.

Assign a project manager.

Keeping track of what ball is in whose court is a time-consuming job. It may seem obvious, but both you and your client need a dedicated point of contact to keep the project moving forward. This is the person who keeps track of what stage of development the project is in, who needs what to move forward, and when the due dates are. Small businesses may not have a full-time project manager, but someone on each team needs to take on the role.

Avoid regular meetings.

Miscommunication is at the heart of most delays. Someone doesn’t get the memo about a design change, a key player loses track of a deadline, you’re waiting on approvals… All of these slow your project down and result in lost time and revenue. However, the solution to this problem is not (necessarily) to hold another meeting.

Yes, you will probably want to hold a kick-off meeting to introduce the key players and get everyone on the same page. You may have review meetings, or meetings set at certain project milestones. What you don’t need is a regular weekly meeting just to update on the project status. This is a waste of everyone’s time, is more about “feeling busy” than “being productive,” and beside the point: keeping your project on track is what your project manager is for.

Our team uses Slack to communicate internally, and we sometimes set up dedicated Slack teams for our clients as well. This allows for us to stay in touch as a team without having to interrupt each other’s work flow. And our clients can stay in the loop without needing to dedicate a time slot.

Cut the committee.

The more people whose job on the project is just to give an opinion, the longer it will take to complete. While it you might want your whole team to be involved on the project, limit the number of stakeholders whose sign-off is required for completion. Also, be aware that committees can contribute to scope creep: someone has an idea for an added piece of functionality, or someone else requests a change, and these add up.

Besides which, design by committee almost inevitably leads to the lowest common denominator when it comes to the final choice. You can’t please everyone.

Keep doing what works.

One of the benefits of working with an experienced web development team is that this won’t be their first rodeo: they’ve identified some of their biggest project hurdles, and they know how to address them proactively. If you’re still choosing your web developer, don’t just look at their price or the items in their portfolio. Also pay attention to how they communicate with you during the proposal process. It should give you an indication of their project management style.

For our part, we look for ways to streamline our web development process as much as possible. We know that our clients need their website to go live to begin drawing in revenue. The longer their website is in the development phase, the more opportunities they miss. Our experience has led us toward an efficient development cycle that can deliver a website almost as fast as you can send us the material. Take a look at our guide to buying a better website to learn more.

Published 08/15/17 by Laura Lynch