The kickoff to a new web project can be an exciting time for both the client and the agency. So many possibilities lay ahead and everyone is excited to see the outcome. But, how do you make sure your eyes aren’t bigger than your wallet? Ultimately, this is up to the agency to manage, but it also requires the client to be on board so you can both get to the best outcome and achieve the client’s goals.
Below I outline a few ways to streamline your web projects to make sure they stay on budget, on schedule, and in alignment with everyone’s goals. This is by no means an easy or perfect formula, but they are helpful ways to stay on track.
Set clear visions from the start
One of my top questions I like to ask of clients when we start a project is, “What do you see as a success for the new website?” Or, “What are the top few features you really want to see?” Even though it seems obvious, having a clearly defined idea of what the client sees as a success from the get-go is highly valuable for everyone on the project. This sets the expectations from the start, so all parties know which features to spend the most time perfecting and allows the team to start forming their inspirations of the site with a clear direction. Another benefit to nailing that down, is it could prevent the client seeing the site too far along in the process and bringing up a feature that they were hoping to see that may not be there.
Maintain scope and budget transparency
Once you know the budget and top requirements from the client, you can start forming how much time each department needs to accomplish those goals within the financial plan. This should be done as a team so we can work together to allocate hours as appropriately as possible, and no one feels shorted (without having a say). It also puts accountability on all team members—UX Strategists, Content Developers, SEO Strategists, Developers, Designers, Marketing Automation Specialists, and more—to work within those budget goals instead of just the account manager knowing the numbers. This gives each team member visibility into knowing the parameters they need to work within as they prepare to agree/disagree if certain site features make the final recommendations we provide to the client. As we are all aware of the most important feature(s) of the site to spend the most time on, we can prioritize how other elements fall into place after that, giving us a clear scope of what works within the budget constraints. If you get to a point where the client expectations and budget reality are not aligning, you can then work together to trim something down or gain more budget approval to accomplish the goal.
Manage milestones for each party
At Zion & Zion, part of our new website development process is sharing a Gannt Chart with the client that clearly defines all the milestones each party is responsible for achieving. It’s a very comprehensive project plan that outlines the entire process and accompanying milestones (generally numbering in the dozens), so the client can see what we are working on and when they will be receiving various deliverables from us, and the dates and turnaround times for the portions that they are responsible for.
Keeping to a project timeline is a task both the client and agency need to work together to achieve, so having that transparency from the start is key. It allows the clients to let us know if they think they may need more time to review certain portions of the site or foresee any scheduling conflicts, so we can make adjustments early on in the process to achieve a launch date that works for both parties.
Define roles and responsibilities
A web project is a large undertaking, and oftentimes, it’s not 100% on the agency to complete all on their own. Some scope of works dictate that the client needs to provide certain deliverables. For example, if a client requests that we not provide full content, but instead that we will simply edit the content that they provide, then we adjust our project plan timelines accordingly. If for some reason, contrary to plan, the client’s content comes to us with more editing required than expected, we must make timeline or budget adjustments accordingly to accommodate for that change.
Conduct weekly check-ins
There are two components to this, and while this can seem excessive at first, it ultimately helps to avoid inefficiencies elsewhere in the process.
Host internal weekly check-ins with everyone who is on the project. This can be anywhere from a quick five minutes or even longer, depending where you are at in the process. This helps all departments hear the same communications, so nothing gets lost in translation with people working in silos. It’s also a great way to keep everyone abreast of changes, issues, and even successes throughout the process. Sometimes you may even find an issue that seems daunting, get resolved much more quickly when everyone is in one room and able to come up with the best way to move forward.
The client should also be kept in the loop with weekly status updates, whether that be a quick email or a status call. This helps the client know that things are moving. Oftentimes with web projects, there is so much going on behind the scenes that does not necessarily require client involvement, so to them it can seem like nothing is happening. This gives them the chance to have their questions (and ours) answered in a consistent and concise way. It is also a great reminder to clients to let us know when things change on their end that may affect the project.
Web development is a team effort!
The key to streamlining projects so they stay on track ultimately comes down to consistent communication and transparency amongst everyone. Producing a beautifully designed site with a top-notch UX is no easy feat. It takes both the client and the agency working in lock step from start to finish to build a final product that both parties can be proud of.