May 07

Project scheduling, the way I do it

Posted by Benedikte Vanderwee├źn on 07/05/2009

Some points in my schedule are essential to me for every new project. Here’s how i plan new projects. It is essential for an independent web designer - like myself - to have it as smooth as possible, your project and client will benefit from a good preparation and open communication. But how do you prepare for a project and how do you set goals?

Client relationship

Start with a good client relationship. How? First thing is to be open and honest about your work. Try not to impress your client with things they don't understand but be as helpful as you can. For some clients, web design and web marketing is an unknown world and they want you to guide them in their presence on the web. You are more experienced, so tell them about your strategy and work processes, they will listen to you and have opinions.

At first, it is not simple to fully understand your client's business. Have a good talk about what their activities are, who they are, what they want and try to understand how their business works. Ask questions about products, about their work methods, etc...

A good starting point is to give your client a questionnaire - here is one - you can run over it on the telephone or you ask them to fill it out and send it back to you (with a given deadline of course). As soon as a client has given the project a "yes", give him/her access to your client collaboration tool, if you use one (Basecamp, ActiveCollab, ...). If your client is responsible for handing over content, they can do it with this tool and they can have a look at the overall project time schedule. I'm using such a collaboration tool for some time now and it has proven to be just right for most of the projects (not for the small ones, too much overhead).

In short:
  • get to know your client: give them a questionnaire
  • have meetings (on key moments in your project)
  • just be honest about what you do, what you don't, have open communication (about the financial aspects)
  • ask for your client's collaboration (do this with a collaboration tool)
  • explain your work methods, give them indications (if they want more, it will cost more)

Schedule and set a deadline

the different stages of project management

In your project management, mark the key moments: these are moments where you stop and communicate. From my experience, these are such important moments because you will get feedback - positive or negative - this feedback is of great importance because you will know how to act, you make time to reconsider some aspects. Here you have to make up your mind and set some further steps in your project.

Key moments in your project:
  • defining the purpose of the website and informing the project team (it can just be you and your client)
  • wireframing and designing the website
  • coding and production
  • testing and bugfixing
  • publication and marketing
  • updating

Giving deadlines to your client

Getting the content for your website has always been a difficult task. The thing is: you have to help your client. Some clients say they will give you all the necessary content but they don't. So I work with deadlines: if a certain date has passed, I inform them about this and ask them if they want me to take care of the content (by hiring a copywriter/translator/illustrator). Mostly after that, your client will understand your point and work on the content or will eventually hire a copywriter.

Take your time to do your job

You will see that after some time, things are coming together: wire framing is done, mock-up is done, client agreed to the design concept, you have the content. Now is the time to sit back (a little while) and ask yourself if you're happy with the result. If not: take some time to do some thinking on what elements in your design need improvement, show your work to someone else, ask their feedback. Some little tweaking can sometimes change your project into a much more appealing site. I know, you don't have this time but in case you have some breathing room, take this opportunity to take your design to the next level, it will certainly impress your client.

Publish and follow up

Next on the list is the publication of the website. After all the technical stuff is behind you, promote the new website and ask your client to do the same. Here's where print comes into play. I ask my clients to promote their websites on as many printed material as they can: cars, buildings, paper, business cards, advertisements, t-shirts, social media (although it takes time to convince clients). Don't see the end of the website project as the end of your relationship with the client. Convince you client of the importance of marketing the new website: try new social media to promote the services they offer, connect with other mind like people

How do you take care of new projects?

I really want to know about you? How do you take care of your projects? Do you use the same schedule or do you disagree with some of mine? Feel free to post your opinion.

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