Tasked with managing your agency’s next website development project? No doubt that it’s a challenging and complex task. Checklists for this process vary by role. Factors like agency size and whether the site will be developed in-house or outsourced influence project management as well. If you are working with a vendor to outsource your website development project, these tips are for you.
Planning Ahead: Jump Start Your Website Development Project
Planning ahead is the best way to ensure your process runs as smoothly as possible. Set objectives, enlist staff support, and do your homework.
- Clearly define the goals and objectives for your website development project.
- Meet with staff to discuss scope of project, anticipated work assignments and timeline. This is an opportunity to collect additional feedback and gain staff support.
- Research best practices and competitor websites. Spend time to review current website trends. Look at competitor sites for ideas on functionality, features, and overall aesthetics. Share the sites you like with your vendor.
- Request a comprehensive online demo if implementing a content management system. This helps you identify system limitations for design features and functionality.
Working with the Vendor: Survive and Thrive
Vendor selection is critical to a successful website development project.
- Look for a vendor with experience designing sites for your industry and always check references.
- Have a contract that outlines scope of work, estimated project timeline, and costs. The number of design mockups or the design editing process should be stated in scope of work. Be sure to include provisions for under performance and early termination.
- Meet content delivery and review deadlines. This keeps the vendor accountable for the project timeline.
- Document all feedback and requests. This helps both you and the vendor track directives and avoid miscommunication.
- Don’t wait to address problems. Be direct and clear. Poor vendor performance jeopardizes your project, timeline and sanity.
Imparting Wisdom: Details and Dilemmas
While every project varies, most have common challenges to navigate. Often your own expectations get in the way of success. Don’t be sidelined by getting trapped in minor details.
- Content or design? What’s more important? Designer Rafal Tomal presents a great case for both. He suggests that both processes should run concurrently for most website development projects. Always remember design is subjective. Consider using a focus group for feedback and input.
- Project communication – just do it! Keep all stakeholders informed of the progress. Communicate problems and identify solutions.
- Getting it perfect. It’s tempting to push your website launch date in order to get everything just right. Don’t do it. Focus on what matters most to your users like core content, functionality, ease of navigation, and mobile responsiveness.
- It’s never done. Expect to have post launch work. Use site analytics and user surveys to refine the website. The site should evolve over time.
For more on website project planning, read Ten Questions to Ask Before You Start A New Web Project by Christopher Butler.