My Approach To Project Management
When it comes to creating a new website, or even re-designing an existing one, there can be quite a few steps along the way. It can take several weeks to a few months to move through all the stages, and can seem quite challenging. On top of that, if you're new to this process then there can be a lot of new terminology to learn. The following information is a guide to my working process which I hope will provide you with a better idea of what to expect when working with me.
The list of stages below breaks down the process, and you can click on any of the stage titles to jump ahead, or just scroll down the page to read through one section at a time.
- Initial contact and meetings
- Understanding the brief
- Initial research
- The proposal
- Acknowledgement and signing of documentation
- 50% deposit payment
- Key research to inform the design & development process
- Wire-frame key user experience journeys
- Generate key design concepts and pattern libraries
- Review and sign off on design
- 25% interim payment
- Turning the design into the working product
- Insertion of content and/or products
- Initial testing, review and CMS training process
- Environment setup
- Deployment to server
- Pre-launch checks
- 25% final payment
- Asset handover
- Discussion of on-going considerations
Stage 1 - Planning
If you're reading this then there's a good chance this part is already under way. After first contact I usually like to arrange a meeting, either face to face or via Skype in order to get to know more about yourself and your business, and to get a better idea of whether I am the right person to help.
Understanding the brief
Once I have your brief, whether you've formally created one, or we've designed one from our initial meetings I'll pull it apart and analyse the requirements. At this point I'll probably have a lot of questions, and suggestions too. But the aim is to truly understand your requirements, what it is you want to achieve, and how we together can go about realising that for you.
Once I have a clear idea of your goals it's time to do some initial research into the way in which the project can be approached. Depending on the type of project you are hiring me for this may vary. Typically this consists of determining what tools and systems are most appropriate for your website to be built on, and what it's going to require for me to help you reach your target with the project.
With all the initial research and questions out the way I'll deliver my project proposal to you. This proposal is effectively a detailed plan of my approach to under taking your project and how it can be completed successfully.
Inside the proposal you'll see a reaffirmation of the brief and require deliverables, my proposed solution to your requirements, expected project sitemaps, and set up timescales with deadlines (for us both), a project cost and payment plan.
Stage 2 - Confirmation
Acknowledgement and signing of documentation
As with most service orientated work I provide a contract to protect both our interests. Not only is this good for both of us, but it provides a very helpful reference point for what is expected from both of us in relation to deadlines and deliverables.
With the signing of the contract I will also require a deposit. Typically this is 50% but can be negotiable depending on the size of the project.
Stage 3 - Research
Key research to inform the design process
The first real step of any project is research. Good research allows me to find the best ways to tackle your requirements and deliver a project we can both be proud of, and that delivers for your clients and customers.
I'll start by looking at your requirements, your target audience, their needs, and what's currently available to them. This typically means looking at your existing website (if you have one) and your competition to see what is and isn't working, and what can be implemented to aid your users. After all they are really the ones wqe are building the website for, and their needs will guide a lot of the decisions we'll need to make.
Wire-frame key user experience journeys
Once the research is gathered it's time to explore the the information we have by wire-framing some of the key areas and user experience journeys of your website. This is a quick way of determining how your clients and customers with traverse your website, and aids in sorting out any potential problems along the way.
Stage 4 - Design
Generate key design concepts and pattern libraries
Typically I create look and feel designs. So what does this mean I hear you ask? Well in essence it's about focusing on the design language and concepts. Rather than creating a visual for every single page on the website, I create concepts for a couple of key pages. Then focus on the design systems which make up the components used on the website, such as forms, articles, image gallery's.
Working in this way aids the development process when it comes to building your website as most web pages are really a series of smaller components arranged to form more complex constructs, which ultimately creates and contains the content on your page. This allows for mocking up additional pages quickly if required, and saves considerable time and cost compared to creating a visual design of every single page on the website.
Review and sign off design
Once the key design concepts are completed, we all have the opportunity to look over them, assess them, and make some revisions as required. Assuming we're all happy with the design concepts I'll ask you to sign off on them, allowing us to move to to the next stage.
With the design concept signed off I usually require an interim payment of 25% before development work commences. This really helps my cash flow during larger projects and I hope you'll understand.
Stage 5 - Development
Turning the design into the working product
This is the point where I use HTML, CSS and any other relevant coding languages and techniques to convert the design concepts into a working product. We'll have constant contact throughout this process and updates as areas and component sets are completed. Often this is the longest process of the project.
Insertion of content and/or products
Whilst I am designing and developing your new website I am expecting you to be crafting your written content and imagery. Whilst I don't do content writing or photography, I know some good people who do. So if you need any help with this let me know and I'll put you in touch.
I recommend getting to know your new CMS as early as possible so it's familiar by the time your website goes live. So having a go to add your content during the development phase is a great starting point. If your not confident to do this then I can help, or even do this for you at an additional cost. I will provide some advice and training regrading your new CMS as well.
Initial testing, review
Although I'll be testing my work as I go, I'll always have a larger testing phase at the end of the development and involve as many people as possible to help test and gather feedback. If we find something needs an adjustment or isn't quite working then we can review it and work to find a better solution.
Stage 6 - Implementation
Live environment set up
This is the set up of the web hosting / server where your new website will reside when completed. Usually this involves making sure your registered domain is pointing to your web hosting, that there is a database where all the information can be stored, and that all other requirements for the chosen web technology is available.
Deployment to server
The deployment stage involves me taking all the newly created files that make up your new website and uploading them to your web hosting.
Think of this as pre-flight checks. Although the development phase is over and the work has been tested over and over it's important to re-check everything once the files and database have been mover to the live server. This makes sure nothing has been lost or corrupted during the process. Better safe than sorry.
Stage 7 - Finishing Up
Prior to the launch of your shiny new website I'll invoice for the remaining balance of the project.
It's time to make your new website live. This typically means allowing public access to the website by removing the holding or maintenance page, or any re-direct that may be in place to keep your website private while it was being developed.
At the end of the project you'll hve a brand new website, but you'll also have a whole host of accompanying new source files. These files make up your website, and provide it's structure, visuals and functionality. I'll provide you with a copy of these files and all the associated assets such as images and fonts so that you have a copy on hand.
Discussion of on-going considerations
Once your new website is launched you may think that everything is done and dusted. However websites are always evolving. This is a good time to discuss any long term maintenance requirements, or future features etc.
What are your payment terms?
My payment terms are 14 days, except for deposits which are due on receipt, unless agreed otherwise. Unfortunately I can't provide longer credit terms.
Can I just add this extra feature?
Of course you can, but unless it's essential or very small, I recommend completing the project first and adding it later. This way we can help to avoid any delays. Please keep in mind that additional feature requests mean more work, more time, and will likely mean additional costs.
Do you provide web hosting, email and/or domain registration?
I'm afraid not. I find it's best for you to own your own accounts in these matters. However I am happy to help set up these accounts if needed and I can recommend some preferred suppliers of mine.
Do you offer SEO services?
No - I build websites that are well optimised and written in compliant HTML with accessibility in mind for all users. This gives your website the best chance of being ranked well and being fully accessible to search engines and their indexing practices.
To give your website the best chance to succeed it should be aligned with a well constructed marketing plan. I can point you in the direction of some solid resources if you'd like to have a go yourself, or I know some talented individuals who could help you. If you would like their details please ask me.