Have You Been Tasked With The Job Of Leading A Website Development Project? Don’t Panic. Follow These 6 Simple Guidelines To Have Your New Website Launched To Brand Standards, On Time and On Budget.
It’s time for a website refresh and you, as a Marketing and Communications professional for your organization, have been tasked with the job as project lead and web design vendor liaison.
There can be so many moving parts with any type of project, but especially a website project, and it’s crucial that clearly defined processes, deliverables and goals are put in place before the project begins and throughout implementation.
Below are the general stages one goes through and flow of work for most website projects with tasks and questions to ask yourself and/or your team members under each. Knowing these stages and tasks ahead of time will help pave a smooth path for the project moving forward and ensure the project is a successful one.
I have found great success by setting out a strategic project plan for every single project I am tasked with, no matter how large or small. There are many questions you can ask and answer to help naturally craft your project plan. See examples below.
- What is the current situation (this is usually a problem or issue your group is facing)?
- What is the intention of the project or the result that you’re aiming to achieve?
- What are attainable goals that can be set out for the project?
- What are your expected deliverables and their due dates?
- When must the entire project be completed by?
- How will we measure and track success to determine if we’ve achieved the goals we’ve set out?
Consolidate all of this information in a professional document that can be used as a resource for yourself, management, your vendor and all team members throughout the project. By doing your due diligence and ensuring all expectations are clearly laid out and communicated to your web vendor you leave responsibility in their hands to do the job they were contracted for and to complete the project on time.
2. Internal Kick-Off Meeting
The next step is to meet with your internal project team to run through the project plan and set out roles and responsibilities. Some web project teams consist of 1, 2 or 3 people, and some comprise of a larger variety of team members from different departments and backgrounds.
If you’ve been tasked to lead a large internal team throughout the website project, this stage is even more critical. When dealing with different schedules, opinions, personalities and so on it can be more difficult to keep project work reviews, meetings and approvals on track and hit deadlines that your web vendor sets out.
Internal / External Meetings:
- Set a weekly day/time where the entire project team is available to meet with the web vendor.
- Set a weekly day/time where the entire project team (following the meeting with the web vendor) can meet internally to reiterate what was discussed on the call with the vendor and ensure everyone understands, set tasks for each team member, and solidify deadlines for those tasks.
Roles / Responsibilities:
- In most cases, your web vendor should take meeting notes for you, but if they don’t assign one team member as the note-taker so those who may have missed the meeting can get caught up on discussion points and next steps. Ensure the note-taker distributes all materials / notes to shareholders after project meetings with your web vendor.
- If feedback is required for the website from multiple departments, assign appropriate team member as liaisons for the various departments.
- You, as the project lead, will be the best person to consolidate feedback and/or questions from all stakeholders and communicate this information to the vendor on the weekly external calls.
In the kick-off meeting you should also take the time to answer any questions your team may have ensure everyone is on the same page and excited about their part in having the project come together.
3. Project Setup
We’re lucky to live in a technical age where there are so many free or affordable project management tools are available online. Your web vendor will likely recommend their preferred tool for the project, but if they don’t, you can take advantage of these tools internally and/or externally, which offer user-friendly and streamlined communications for you, your vendor and your team.
Some of tbk Creative’s favourites are:
Google Calendar – The holy grail of project management (in my opinion). I use Google Cal to store anything and everything when it comes to client projects or personal tasks. However, your organization may already be utilizing a particular email management system.
Google Cal allows you to easily view and schedule out tasks and meetings for the project in your co-worker’s calendars, set task reminders, colour code team member’s calendar’s for easier visibility and so on.
Basecamp – From my experience, basecamp is best used as your master task list for the project. In Basecamp you’re able to map out all stages throughout the project and sub tasks under each. Furthermore, you’re able to assign a team member to each individual task and a due date. Basecamp will automatically send email reminders to each team member as the due date creeps up, and in turn, you will receive email updates as tasks are checked off. All team members are able to view / reference this information, create new to do lists, view completed items, upload files and start conversations with other team members.
Time Harvest – Need to track time on a project? With Time Harvest you can easily setup projects and subtasks under each project, set budgets from an hourly rate, person hourly rate or project hourly rate standpoint, assign team members and track time through extensive reporting features.
Wunderlist – The personal “to do” list for your team! Encourage team members to set up their own Wunderlist for the project. This is where they can house all of the small tasks that are assigned to them in website meetings or otherwise and check off items as they are completed. All items, even when checked off, are stored forever and can be easily referenced as the project progresses.
Having all tasks recorded in a secure place online will ensure small items are not missed.
Google Drive – The benefit of using Google Drive (text documents or spreadsheets) is that it is a secure hub for live (real-time) data that any one of your team members can access.
I’ve often used Google Drive in the event that there is a particular task or project that requires a lot of back and forth communication between team members or a client.
For example, there may be a design presented to you and your team, and it’s your job to consolidate everyone’s feedback and present to the web vendor in an organized fashion. You can use Google Drive as a means of setting up different tabs for different pieces of creative and have team members log feedback within the tab and note any questions they may have as well. See a simplistic, but effective example below.
Careers Page Design Comp #1
|Feedback||1. Remove “Education” form field from application form. It is not needed.||1. Change subpage banner image to feedback-03.jpeg.||1. No feedback.|
|Questions||1. Who will applications be sent to when the form is filled out?|
|Suggestions||1. What do you think about adding a “benefits” list that highlights the benefits of working with our company?|
You can also use Google Drive as a platform to house login information for your team.
The two big differences between the two are:
- Skype offers voice and video calling whereas Slack does not.
- Using Skype you can segregate conversations by person. Using Slack you are able to segregate conversations by both person OR by project / task. The benefit is that you are able to have a conversation about a particular task or project with associated team members without bugging people with notifications that aren’t involved in this area of the project.
Dropbox – In almost every web project there will be files that must go back and forth between you, your team and the web vendor that are too large to send over email. Use Dropbox (free for 5 TB for 5 users) to share large design files or presentations.
4. Meeting Debriefs
Some may stop at a kick off meeting and expect their team to follow direction through email, a project brief, an online meeting, written-out scope or PM tools alone.
You can stop at that, but you may not achieve the quality of work you desire.
It’s important that team members have the information and support they need to do the best job possible. When team members feel they’ve received the attention and tools required to do their job, everyone feels more capable and confident as a result. Communicating face-to-face will reduce the chance that a direction may be misunderstood or lost in translation, saving you valuable time and potentially costs as a result.
Support your team by scheduling meeting debriefs after the weekly meeting with your vendor (even if it’s only 15 minutes) between yourself and your internal team to summarize what was just discussed, each task that is required of them to move forward, when the deadlines are and answer any questions they may have before they start the work.
Put reminders in your personal calendar to follow-up with team members throughout the next week and ask them if there’s anything else they need to complete the task in time for the next meeting with the web vendor. Additionally, schedule out tasks and deadlines for the team using the project management tool you’ve chosen.
6. Reviews & Approvals of Agency Work
Now that the team has gone off to their departments to review website functionality, copy, designs and so on it’s important that when feedback / changes do come in that its consolidated into one document for the web vendor.
As project lead, you’ve setup a tool or process in which your team members can post their feedback. Now your job is to consolidate and analyze that feedback.
When organizing feedback from multiple sources you’re bound to hit a few road blocks. Here are some of the most common, and how to handle them when they happen.
- Questions – You may receive questions on website design, copy or functionality. Consolidate all questions and follow-up with individual team members to either answer the question if you know the answer or get more information so you can properly relay the questions to the web vendor on the next weekly call.
- Contradictions – You may get copy, design or functionality changes that don’t align with the direction for the brand / website that was agreed upon during the kick-off or one of the project meetings.
In this case, it’s important to follow-up with the team member on a 1-on-1 basis to either ask more about why they feel that change is beneficial for the brand, or reiterate the project direction / goals so they clearly understand and feel comfortable moving forward. It’s important not to shut them down without fully understanding their perspective. Everyone feels more comfortable and confident when they feel as though their opinion is valued and heard.
It’s true – website projects are a huge time and workload commitment for you and your team. But following these simple steps will help to make the experience as smooth and successful as possible for all parties involved.
Here at tbk Creative we are happy to answer any website questions you may have. If you have any questions about this article or need assistance with your next web design project, feel free to reach out to us and we’ll be happy to help.