The Devil is in the Details: Project Management is Key for Website Projects
A website project can be a massive undertaking for any company, especially an AEC firm with limited marketing resources or a small firm that doesn’t update its website very often. Upgrading the site’s infrastructure, re-designing the architecture, and updating the content all require an investment of time and energy. From the selection of the website designer and developer and deciding who will generate the website content to the anticipated day of launching a new website, there’s a lot of organization, collaboration, and decision-making for the project team. An effective website project manager will pay close attention to details and communicate with the website designer, developer, and client to ensure that the process runs smoothly.
Rhino PR has recently served as the project manager for two new websites with the website design/developer team of Barbara Hicks at B-Graphic and Ryan Johnson at Foton Studios. Here are some project management tips we have learned for you to keep in mind when starting a website project:
Plan, confirm, and document.
- A kick-off meeting provides a great start for launching a website project and reviewing the goals, messaging, and priorities for the project. Will a new logo or branding need to be created in conjunction with the website? Are there particular colors, design features, or functionalities that the client would love to see? Develop a list of questions for discussion so all pertinent issues are covered.
- Always take notes during calls or meetings to document what’s discussed, including brainstormed ideas that are proposed and rejected so you have a record of them later. After the meeting, send along everyone’s respective action items to keep the project moving forward.
- Involve the website developer in the initial design meetings. Website features or functionalities may be desired that could be too expensive or time-consuming to implement or have ramifications on the performance of the website. While a project manager and website designer may have some technical background to provide guidance on those topics, it is prudent to have the person building the site available to present the options and help the client make an informed decision.
- Back-end functionalities should be determined at the front-end of the project. Design features that a client doesn’t see are also critical to the website architecture, so elements like tags, relevant ”recommended for you” posts, keyword searches, and interlinked pages should be discussed at the beginning of the process.
- Once the website architecture and design are created and presented to the client, confirm approval of both (in writing, if possible) so everyone agrees to proceed.
Execute on project details.
- Establish a detailed schedule for the designer, developer, and content writer to deliver design versions and content for editing and/or approval. The client should understand the timeframe for designing and building the website, as well as their own deadlines and role in providing approval or necessary content, such as team bios/resumes, project information, and photos. An effective project manager will stay on top of the schedule and alert the team if there are any obstacles.
- Set some style guidelines that will carry throughout the website, like using “healthcare” instead of “health care” or referring to the company by an acronym or shortened name. Doing a “find and replace” for inconsistent language later can be difficult for large websites with hundreds of pages.
- Likewise, in articles, blogs, and captions, avoid using descriptors such as “see image below” or “photo to the left,” as image placement on a designed page may render instructions wrong. Scrubbing the content of these errors later can be tedious.
- Determine how to handle layout deviation for employee bios or projects that have more content than average. For example, a principal with years of speaking experience may have a long resume that doesn’t conform to the designed bio template. The extra text may even affect the page scroll. What text gets cut and who decides?
- When taking photos for a website, be sure to consider the design and specs for photo placement. If the home page has a wide or panoramic shot, for example, the photographer will need to take the photo from a wide angle. Cropping can render a photo useless for a specific purpose, so it’s important to tell the photographer ahead of time if you need an overview or close-up shot or particular orientation. Be sure to review the proofs promptly and establish clear deadlines for final photo delivery. Secure permission from clients for photo usage in plenty of time to meet the project schedule.
- Use spreadsheets to organize content such as project pages with detailed information and multiple photos. A transfer site like DropBox is especially useful for large photo files.
Address back-end details before launch.
- In the excitement of wrapping up development and project management of a website, it can be frustrating to discover that essential back-end details have been overlooked. Remember to loop in the IT department in advance of the site launch to address the technical issues. Be sure that the developer has necessary login credentials for the old web site, new hosting server, disaster recovery service, video hosting service, etc. Assign someone to acquire and install the SSL Certificate.
- Back-up the old website so a reliable record exists, just in case. Choose a date for migrating content to the new website, and discontinue updating the old website until the new one is launched. Blog posts and news items posted to the old website, after everything else has been migrated, may be overlooked and lost.
- The project manager should ensure that the schedule includes time to map all the existing URLs from the old website to the new website. The back-end “301 redirects, ” including any http requests to https, direct all the links from the existing site to the new site so there are no “404 not found” error pages. This is critical, from Google’s perspective, to minimize the impact of the new URL on the domain’s SEO.
- If the website has sign-up boxes for users to receive email blasts, code the website so entered contact information goes directly to a mailing list in MailChimp or Constant Contact.
While a website project can be technically complex and detailed, communication among the website designer, developer, project manager, and client is paramount to the success of the project.
About the author
Michele Spiewak is an account director at Rhino Public Relations, a full-service PR and marketing agency focused on meeting the unique needs of professional services firms. Rhino PR offers customized services based on each individual client’s goals and budget. Follow her @RhinoPRBoston or visit www.rhinopr.com for more information about how Rhino can help you take charge of your PR.