As designers, we're accustomed to conceptualizing websites in terms of design structure - wireframes, white space, code, navigation, and so on - as well as in terms of content management. But before a design project can even reach that point, you and your team must create a project plan.
A project plan is a concrete document that lays out precisely what's going to happen, when, and what will be completed by whom. How long is your projected project timeline? When do you plan to be done? Which team member is responsible for which tasks? If you're not prepared to answer these questions, you're not prepared to begin your project.
Follow these step-by-step instructions for creating a specific, actionable project plan.
Project management software is an essential tool, especially if you're working on a large project or planning a lot of complicated moving parts. The right software will lay out each detail in a clear, easy-to-understand way, allowing you to mark off areas that have been completed or add new information if needed.
What kind of software should you invest in? Rather than choosing a project management solution with more features than you need, consider the following questions.
Now that you have a tool to lay everything out, it's time to define the project. Project definition is an extensive step - more than just saying to your team, "Our client wants a website." Right now we're not talking HTML, CSS, or programming; we're looking at the big picture.
Here's what your project definition document should include:
Now it's time to develop a work breakdown structure, or WBS, to put the plan into action. You've developed the aims and objectives of your project, so it's time to break down the deliverables your team will complete. Again, client input is paramount to completing this step.
It's also a good idea to involve your team as you plan the website. Break it down into separate components - layout, content, and plugins - and any sub-categories each component entails.
Make sure all team members know who's responsible for each task. If a task is not assigned, it won't get done. Be as specific as possible when outlining what's expected and when it's due.
It's finally time to put the plan into action. The above-mentioned categories - layout, content, and plugins - should all be fleshed out at this point.
Remember, part of the management process involves managing your team. Ensure everyone is doing what needs to be done within the time frame you've designated for the project.
The site is complete, all elements have been tested, and the client has approved the finished project. Hooray! The site can now go live.
This is the final step of the project, but it's an ongoing one. One of the core principles of web design is site maintenance. Think of your website as a living, breathing organism. Keep working with the client to update as necessary.
Don't let your website become a failure before you begin. As with any major project, if you define your goals and objectives first and then focus on the details, you'll give yourself the best shot at success. You'll also minimize the overall workload and, ultimately, provide a great product for your client.
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