Review: A Practical Guide to Managing Web Projects

A Practical Guide to Managing Web Projects by Breandán Knowlton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An informative and practical guide to successfully managing website and web app projects. It’s clearly based on firsthand experience with many projects. It’s a bit dry; it’s not as engaging or entertaining as it could’ve been.

I found it well worth reading, because I spend a lot of time managing website projects in my web design agency, OptimWise. I read it because I saw the founder of another web agency reading it. Following are my notes.

Selling Web Work

Read Bloodhounding Budgets.

Kick-off

Requirements sorting: Write stakeholder objectives on index cards. Give colored dot stickers to everyone (build-side and client-side). Let each person add up to three dots to each idea, where more dots indicates greater importance. Sort objectives accordingly.

Requirements and Scope

Stakeholder interviews

  1. What are your responsibilities?
  2. From the customer’s perspective, what would success look like?
  3. What financial goals do you personally hope the website will achieve?
  4. How will your internal processes change if this project succeeds?
  5. How do you hope the work and skills of you and your team will change for the better after the site goes live?
  6. Just hypothetically, what would complete failure look like?
  7. Anything else?

User Research

Methods

  • look at the websites of competitors
  • conduct web surveys
  • look at other published research (books, websites and market surveys)

“[T]hink about putting the largest part of your time and money into an old-fashioned technique: asking people what they think, one-on-one.”

Ask interview subjects about how they feel about their daily tasks as they’re accomplished. These emotional states can tell you how a process can be improved, or how an online tool can help.

Ask about competitors. “Ask about the subject’s experience of your client’s brand. Ask about what comes to mind when they think about leaders in the industry. Ask general questions about what websites they consider to be easy or hard to use, useful or useless.”

Wireframing

Rank info based on user preference, not client preference. For example, about us content isn’t important for most users.

Graphic Design

“If you start at the page level to present your designs, clients may feel that they don’t have enough choices to make. Starting with smaller textual or visual modules will make it easier to elicit the feedback that you need. Present the full pages once the overall visual direction has been established. This way you’ll only spend the time building one set of pages, not three.”

Time to Build

“Rather than starting with the big visual elements on the page [masthead, navigation, footer], begin the visual design and the page build with the fundamental unit of content.” This is different for different sites – “a magazine site might be about the article text, and a travel site might be about the booking detail. … make the fundamental content unit easy to use and attractive in the page. Build the sidebars and footers and call-outs in relation to the fundamental content.”

Time to Test

People may try to add ideas during testing. Remind them that the time to “evaluate the success of particular screens, features and calls to action is after the site launches. You’ll use instinct, sure, but also numbers and metrics to show what’s working and what needs to be improved.”

“Write down what people find, and those suggestions will be the first to go into a Phase 2 of the project. Just before launch … isn’t the time to second-guess. This is the time to make everything work as smoothly as possible …”

Social Strategy

You can add social features (such as a Facebook Like button) to the site, “though you might find that people are more strongly motivated to follow your website’s calls to action if you don’t give them such an easy way to engage.”

Measurement

“Move beyond page views and visits to judge the effect of the website on the more lasting relationships between people and organisations. This will probably require more qualitative research, like surveys.”

So, Did We Win?

Elements of case studies:

  • description of problems solved
  • details about the process you used to solve the problems
  • details about the design and functionality that solved the problems
  • positive reviews or awards
  • quotes from client stakeholders and the website team
  • show the evolution of your thinking and design

Now What?

Look for ways to follow up. Look at your Phase 2 log and the things you knocked out of scope. Consider creating a brief while the knowledge is fresh, even if there isn’t immediate budget for the work. The client may hire you for it in the future, or make a referral.

Conclusion

If you manage web projects, what do you think of this advice? Leave a comment. Are you a business that needs help designing, developing, or improving your website? Contact us about managing your web project.

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