Recently I celebrated my 5th Speakiversary, a term you’re probably familiar with if you follow us on any of our social accounts. I have worked at Speak for 5 years, and in those years I have learned plenty about managing a web project.
While I have gained terrific insight on what you should do in a project, I feel like the more valuable knowledge is knowing what not to do. Every new opportunity you have to improve on or serve your clients better is a step in the right direction. My biggest piece of advice when starting a new web project is sharing the knowledge of what not to do, which can help you avoid big, costly mistakes.
To help, here are a few of the things I’ve learned over the years and my biggest tips to avoid when beginning a web project.
Don’t Forget to Plan Ahead
Create a project plan
Create a custom plan for every new project. No two website projects are identical; even if two businesses are within the same industry, each one differs from the other in really important ways. They each have unique services to offer, which means each new project provides an opportunity to tackle similar problems in new ways and offers chance to achieve new goals. We also find that the companies that come back to us for design updates or complete overhauls have different goals than before. The process is never the same!
Define your Team
Identify your key players and what you need from each of them. Outline which tasks are assigned to which team member and help them to see what their role achieves.
Define your timeline
Outline your ideal launch day and work backwards to assign every key date from the start of the project to launch. This lets you build your project plan in such a way that everyone can see which moments are vital.
Don’t Skip the Organization
When you’re planning for resources, the 5 W’s –“who, what, when, where and why" – works perfectly. Define who is providing resources, what they will provide, when they need to provide, where to submit the resources and why they’re needed. This lets individuals on the project team understand and know their roles in resource gathering and what is expected of them to get their task complete.
Often times there’s too much process in web projects (so many options are out there i.e. waterfall, agile, iterative, etc.). Whatever your preferred process, don’t over-process your project. Keep a happy balance of planning, clear steps to take and the order they need to be taken, but don’t exhaust your teams with jargon. Additionally, know where to be flexible. When sticking to an outlined process, understand that opportunities to stray from your plan may help you reach your goals in a better, more efficient way.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions
Think about the user
The temptation to solve all of an organization's issues through web presence is something everyone faces when beginning a new project. Stay focused on your audience. This is the key to building a presence that meets the audience where they are. Ask yourself the questions that the end users will ask. Intuitive web design works when you answer the questions before they’re asked.
Think about the organization
Once you know the needs of your user, you can outline your organization’s needs alongside them, to see how the user’s solutions often solve the organization’s problems. For example, clearly accessible contact information eliminates the site user from struggling to contact the business, and the business sees their customer more quickly.
Don’t Hesitate to Set and Reset Expectations
While it’s not ideal for timelines or goals to change mid-project, it should never be cause for panic. The expectations that are set in the beginning during project planning can shift and breathe with the process, but they should never be completely discarded. When you anticipate it is the right move to reset expectations, always do so by restating the previous expectation, what the new expectation is and clarify any questions and concerns. Keep everyone on the team involved in this, so that each member feels they’re working with the same expectations to complete their tasks.
Post-launch expectations should always be to listen to the users (both the site and organization’s user groups) and continue to develop plans and suggestions to better the site for both perspectives. Web designs, marketing goals and need are always changing and growing, so always be looking for the next opportunity to help your website grow with it!
Avoiding these common web design mistakes can keep your agency (or organization) moving forward in any project. While web projects are the most familiar, the same principles apply to any project where two or more organizations are involved. Ultimately, honest and open communication helps any project process move along, and keeps goals, expectations and timelines in order.
For more information on our project process, or any questions you might have, head over to our Twitter or Facebook page and drop us a note!