Having a website designed and developed can take a week or it can take forever. The truth is, website projects don’t have to take nearly as long on average if both the agency (or person) and the client are working together through project management to achieve the final goal – to launch the site.
Smart project management and preparation on both sides will make the process much faster and less painful.
Besides the length a project takes, never forget that project quality will almost always be better when both parties adhere to a schedule. It’s hard for both sides to produce their best deliverables when mentally and emotionally fatigued. It’s easy to get to a “just get it done.” There also ends up being situations when both sides are extremely rushed to make the launch deadline and producing the best work possible is shortened to make the deadline at all costs.
Initial project questions, start the project on the right footing.
What is the goal of this project, what is the purpose? Most likely to buy a product, to sell a service, to get subscribers, and sometimes all of the above. Which goal is the most important?
This will always change throughout the process, but the initial concept will be a guide and will help with the UX design and give a benchmark for content goals.
This is huge and the reason why most websites get very delayed. Determine who is writing the content (including media). You should also have two scenarios mapped out. content that is needed to fill the entire site and content that could launch the website while the other content is being added at a later time. While you may think you need 40 pages of content (and you could be correct), could your site launch with 10? Should you prioritize those 10 pages? Content needs vary per site, and it is by far the biggest reason for a delay.
If it is e-commerce, how is fulfillment being handled? Credit cards? If people are members, what questions are on the registration form? How are subscriptions and email handled?
Both sides need a point of contact and a person to project manage the deliverables. Both sides will always have deliverables. Even if an agency is writing all the content, doing all the “work” per se, questions still need to be answered, things still need to be approved.
Develop the process
Being an agency, we have a set, go-to process. A process we have developed after years of working with clients to making it efficient. There are modifications though because our clients are wildly different and will always be so. Clients and agencies need to work together to determine what is the best way to send deliverables, when is the best time for scrum meetings. Will there be a project management tool like Asana or Basecamp for both parties to have access to? For instance, we use Asana for most of our clients, but one client doesn’t like to go in and use it or view it, so we email them weekly Excel documents so that they don’t have to go online.
The design process
The quicker the design(s) can be created and approved, the quicker the project will go. There is so much development work that can happen without the UX/UI design.
A good start to this process, is to discuss colors. What colors do the client like, which ones do they dislike or hate. Is there a brand style guide.
It’s really helpful for the client to send a list of websites they like so that an agency has an idea of the client’s aesthetic likes and dislikes. As a designer, this can be helpful even if the design ends up not being that close. It can provide valuable information like if you the client dislikes slideshows; if you love the idea of having testimonials on the home page; if you like a blog layout that is like Medium and so on. The more info an agency has on what the client likes and dislikes, the easier it is to nail the design and get approvals quickly.
I used to provide clients with several mockups at a single time and I have found this is extremely counterproductive. It’s like going to the Cheesecake Factory and having to decide which item to get when there are hundreds. It’s much easier to order from a restaurant that has a small 5 item menu. I will normally limit the mockups to 2 or 3 and hone in on one and modify it after receiving feedback from the client.
Set review timetables
Part of the reason the design process can be long is because feedback can take awhile. It’s important for a client to review items as quickly as possible in order for the designer to make changes if necessary.
On the client-side, the more people you have reviewing designs, the longer the process will take. Your design review team should be limited as too much feedback is counter-productive. It also takes awhile to get feedback from everyone. A good way to help this along is to set up review meetings so that all feedback on the current round of mockups can be achieved at once. That also helps the dialog and helps with new ideas.
Delivery dates matter
Often times a project can get held up if one side fails to make a delivery date for a deliverable. Delivery dates do get missed on occasion, but it’s important to limit the occurrence.
Giving yourself enough time. Not waiting until the last minute. Setting reminders. I will often remind my clients that the date a deliverable is due is coming up.
It’s also a good idea to give yourself buffers because things happen. It’s better to be early than late. As an agency, sometimes it is better for us to make a due date of Wednesday even though we really don’t need it until Friday. That way if it is late, it is not.
Weekly status calls and midweek updates
Weekly calls are crucial between client and their agency during a project. It doesn’t have to be a long call, and it allows both of you to go over upcoming deliverables and if there are any adjustments needed to be made.
For most clients, their website is added on to the things they have to do which usually take precedent as they are what is currently making that company money. It’s really easy for a client to lose track of deliverables if an entire week has passed without talking. So I will often send midweek status emails even if we are all using a project management tool. It’s easy to ignore automated email, but harder when it comes from a person.
A project with a lot of deliverables can be daunting and when things are daunting, procrastination happens. If there are 60 pages of content, perhaps make a deliverable for the about section one week and the services section another. All of the website content doesn’t need to be one due date.
Be honest about timelines
To get to the end of the road, the end of the project on-time, a lot of things need to happen. A lot of items on the todo lists need to be met. There are times where the design process, the content and so-on can become delayed. If this is going to delay the end-date that needs to be addressed and the end-date needs to change. It’s why if I am waiting for something like feedback on a mockup and it is past the delivery, I will let the client know that if I don’t have that by this date, the end-date is in jeopardy.
Project Management Conclusion
It’s the job of both sides to work together to achieve the goal of finishing a project. It’s important that weekly updates, communications are made and that there are due dates for deliverables.
The process to design and development a website can be daunting and can take a long time. It doesn’t have to be with proper project management, organization and respecting due dates in order for the overall project to be completed on time.