Recently, I gave a presentation at my workplace on “how to successfully lead a web project.” The objective of the presentation was to share my knowledge and experience of managing web development project with my fellow project managers in the office.
It was a very interesting session. Check out the PPT presentation I created for that session.
So, in this blog post, I decided to take out one of the section from my presentation and write my post around it. The topic I select is how to kick-start a web development project correctly.
As always, before I go straight to the topic, let’s go the basics!
What is a web development project?
“A web project is the process of developing and creating a Web site, activities in a network which are aimed at a pre-defined goal. The network can be both accessible for everyone, as on the Internet, or only for certain people, as an intranet.” – Wikipedia.
Any website is built with a specific objective. If you are building a website just because others have it, I think it is the worst start to the project. Build a website with a goal in mind!
Out of the various objectives of a web development project, 3 major goals of any web development project are:
Attract target customers
Any business has their specific target audience such as youth, above 40, the audience from specific location, women etc. The most common objective of any website is to attract those target audience.
It is important that the functionality, content, and assets (Images/videos) on the websites are aligned with the choice of their customers. In order to achieve that all project teams i.e. designer, content writer, user experience manager, developer have a clear understanding of the target audience.
Make it easy for them to access your offer
Once a target audience reaches the websites, the next goal of a website is to guide them through the offer and make it easier for them to take the action. The various ways it can be done is through creating a descriptive landing page, putting a call to action buttons at the suitable place, making shorter conversion process etc.
In order to zero down to the high converting process, use A/B testing and test and see which process gives the maximum results.
Build subscribers and collect their contact details
Once the target audience is interested in the offer, a website should aim at creating a long-term relationship with the visitors.
They should aim at capturing their contact details in order to offer them future product and services. Some of the ways of doing it are enticing visitors to subscribe to the Email opt-in form through lead magnets, offering them to sign up for membership, download free version of app etc.
Now, let’s move on to the topic of the day..
What are the best ways to kick-start a website project:
It is always an advantage to have a domain knowledge of the project you are managing. But, even if you do not know some of the technical aspects, it does not make you a less of a project manager. You can always learn while working on the project.
Having said that, do you think you can lead every project in a similar way? The answer is NO, for sure!
Not all the project can be managed with the same process, same rules, and same critical path. A project manager should definitely know the keys areas that need to be focused on in order to achieve the project objective.
One of the most important aspects of a website design project is to start it right!
In any web project, one of the most important phases of a project lifecycle is the initiation phase. It is important that you start the project right. A project manager needs to have an in-depth understanding of the project so that he can lead the team from the front.
A web build project that starts with an ambiguity has a very thin chance of achieving its objective on time and in the budget!
Here are the 3 things you need to focus on at the very start of the project:
1. Gather the right information:
Talk to the client to understand his project requirements, objectives, and ideas. Even when it requires setting up several meetings with the client in the preliminary stage, you should not be hesitant to do that.
Any minute spent on getting a deeper understanding of the project never goes waste. Some of the details you should know upfront are:
a. Nature of client’s business- Get an idea about what the business of the client all about. Is it a product based business or a service based business? What are their basic offerings? How long have they been in the business? And any other question that comes to your mind.
b. Purpose of the website – A website can be built for various purposes. The project manager needs to have a clear understanding of why the website is to be built. Is it to make the target audience aware of the offerings? Is it to sell the products/services to the target audience? Is it to build an online community? etc.
c. Target Audience – It is important to know the target audience of the client’ business. It helps you to give design suggestions to the client. For example, if the target audience is old people then you have to choose a bigger font size so that it is legible to them.
d. Pre-Specified launch date – Confirm with the client if they already have a pre-determined launch date. If yes, then you have to create a tight timeline and make all the stakeholders aware of it.
e. Existing brand material – Ask for any available brand material from the client such as a brochure, blog, social media accounts, white papers etc. It will be a great help while drafting website content.
Apart from these, you must clarify any other doubts you may have about the project upfront so that you can create a clear project plan.
2. Define Scope
The basic requirement of any project is to define scope. Website projects are a tricky one. There is nothing called a perfect website. Every time when you look at it, you can have new ideas and temptation to make some changes. So, there is a high chance of project going out of scope.
So, the question is how to control it. Here are some quick tips:
a. Control the excitement and be realistic:
Website projects usually start with a great excitement. That’s quite normal, especially at the client’s end! He is going to create a new online space for himself. He is always full of ideas. It is your job as a project manager to control the excitement and define acceptable and measurable goals that align with the client’s needs.
Recently, in one of the kicks off meeting of a website design project, Client mentioned that the target audience of their business is young people so they want to have a website with a “Modern” look. There is a purpose why I wrote modern under commas.
This is a very subjective term. So, it was very important for me to understand what’s going in her mind when she says modern. The best way to understand that is to ask questions. I asked her if she wants to use a different font style if she wants to use some animated images if she is looking for adding videos on the home to grab the attention of the visitors and many more.
Also, when she is suggesting some design ideas, there are high chances that she might have seen some “modern” website she might have liked. So, I requested her to send some sample website she liked. Based on all the information I gathered, we create few design options and we finalized one of them.
b. Do the feasibility test before committing to anything:
At the time of defining the project scope, involve project teams to do the feasibility test in great detail. Every idea that needed to be implemented should be tested, estimated and scoped.
It is usually very frustrating for the client to know about any cost in the middle of the project. In several organizations, there is a long approval process for the budget so if a client knows about new cost at a later stage, it might be a tedious process for him to get the approval on the new cost. So, take all the time in understanding the project requirement and estimation to be 100% sure about the price you quote to the client.
c. Keep a buffer in the budget:
No matter how defined the project scope is, there is always a possibility that sometimes changes/variations are requested by the client during the course of the project. It does not make sense to raise a change request if it is a small request. So, in the budget, it is always advisable to keep some buffer amount.
Although, this buffer amount should not be explicitly mentioned in the SOW (Statement of work) as a client may not like being charged extra for something they have never requested for. So, this buffer amount should be included in the cost of each project phase.
It will also have a good impact on your client because when they ask for any small request and you confirm them that it can be squeezed it in the present budget, they will be more than happy!!
Attention: Make sure you do not keep the unrealistically higher price for the work in the name of the buffer. It needs to be believable so that you come out as a credible vendor for your clients.
d. Get Sign Off from the client:
This is a basic point and I do not need to elaborate more on it. We need to get the sign off from the client on budget, scope and timelines upfront to avoid any confusion going forward.
3. Set Clear Milestones
A web design project usually runs for 2-3 months. The best way to successfully manage a long-running project is by creating measurable milestones at regular intervals. The easiest and clear way of setting milestones to have one at the end of every project phase.
Some of the milestones you can set for a website design project are:
a. Project plan
b. Sitemap and Wireframe finalization
c. Content Finalization
e. Beta Production
f. Master Production
g. Go live
This is important that every milestone have specific deadlines and is communicated to all the project stakeholders. Here are some of the benefits of having a milestone with specific deadlines:
a. When all the project stakeholders are aware of the milestones and the deadlines, they know when the work is expected to come their way. They can make themselves available for the upcoming work.
b. When a client knows about it, they are available to give their approval.
c. As a project manager, it is also easier for you track the progress and take corrective actions if required.
There are more posts planned to come under this series of managing a website design project. Stay tuned!