If you or your business are about to endeavor on hiring a company for any type of web project – Site Redesign/Development, SEO Campaign, Re-Branding, etc. – don’t go in blind. Over the past 8 years, we’ve had the gracious pleasure of working with companies and individuals who all come to the table with a very wide range of expectations and beliefs as to what will happen once we kickoff the project. Sometimes, these are expectations that we are happy to rise to the challenge and meet. Other times, there are expectations that fall on the client to meet and have a very large impact on the success of the project. In either case, knowledge is power and we aim to set you free!
What All Projects Have and Need
In a word: COMMUNICATION.
Every project has a deadline. Deadlines aren’t necessarily fixed objects in the time continuum – they can move. But often, establishing a deadline means that everybody involved agrees that all this needs to be wrapped up by a certain date for one of millions of reasons.
Coming into a project with a deadline is nearly one of the first pieces of information you need to be able to communicate. Citing dependencies for your deadline help in determining its rigidity or flexibility for developers and designers.
Why is this important? Well, because, quite frankly, you’re never the only client or project that is being worked on at any single point. Development teams need to be able to determine the capacity of their teams to meet your and other projects’ deadlines as timelines overlap, get moved, or grow.
Don’t miss out on getting your expectations met by incorrectly communicating your project deadline requirements.
Deliverables are exactly what they sound like: an agreed upon list of what we will provide to you for what you are paying us.
During scoping, the more you are able to explain your idea and the caveats of your vision, the closer we will be able to executing your vision. All projects have a Project Deliverables document of what we hear you are asking from us that we write it down and you agree on. This is done, on its most basic level, so that you feel heard. It’s also done, on the most cover our ass level so that we don’t miss anything.
Phases & Timeline
All projects get a rough temporal framing with milestones, or mid project deadlines, and deliverable dates. That’s how we stay on track and make sure that the money givers (you) are satisfied and happy with the quality and pace of the project.
These milestones, however, will often contain a particular recipe of smaller deliverables that are required in order to achieve the larger project goals. But aside from the phases and timelines existing as a common element, the contents and quantity of these phases is completely dependent on your project.
I hate meetings. But, I love communicating.
Meetings have gotten a bad rap in the corporate world because they often go longer than needed and end with very little movement of the needle. Effective communication, on the other hand, is the only real client interaction that moves the needle, whatsoever.
In all projects, it is essential to be proactive and attentive to requests for communication. It is also very essential to protect yourself and your time from needless meetings. To that end, a successful project will be one where all interaction will be viewed as essential, welcome, and have a clear value stated.
Make communicating your goal and you can remove the sting of meetings.
Unique Factors to Each Project
It’s all about YOU.
You and Your Business!
Nobody knows your business and business needs better than you. Your business and your processes with it are, in most instances, wholly unique. Your employees and their skill sets are wholly unique. Your branding is wholly unique. And the history of your website, business, and the actions that have already been taken on it to achieve any goal are wholly unique. To all that end, each project will be influenced by the YOU Factors in different ways and with different strengths.
Then there is what is needed from YOU specifically. You are often going to be required to produce something in order to complete the project and that will come in the form of, for example, approvals, account information, photographs, content, review, clarification, negotiation, and and so on. You are the keystone of your project and you will set the tone with your enthusiasm and responsiveness.
What We Don’t Know
No matter how much time we spend going over deliverables or surveying your business, we will never know what you don’t know to tell us. And this is OK. We build into our estimations the UnKnown Factor™.
Here’s a good example: A project we just finished recently had an unknown service that even the business owner didn’t know had anything to do with their site. Their site had some DNS configurations that were being held by a previous developer and we were not given access to those records nor given a breakdown of them. Needless to say, when we pulled their site onto new hosting and reconfigured their DNS records, we missed one that we didn’t know about. While this was not a customer facing service that was impacted on launch, the business encountered an unplanned outage for a short time until the issue was resolved.
So, the moral of the story is that projects are built around the ‘known’ and contingencies are made for the unknown.
Typical Project Path
Now that we know what we can expect to encounter and in what intensity, let’s look at a quick generic web development project path and put it all together.
This is where the project is researched and solutions decided upon. For new websites where there is no existing architecture to maintain, this step may be very quick. For redesigns or updates to an existing site, this step may take longer.
Next, a detailed list of all the pages on the site will be accounted for and a plan determined for each of them. For existing sites, this process will require time and input from the you/the Client to make final decisions on the content and how it should be organized with recommendations from me. For new sites, a list of all pages that will be created shall be provided to you/the Client as a reference for the Content that you will be creating.
This is where the Project Deliverable will be presented for client approval before moving on. Scope and cost adjustments will happen here, if there are any, and negotiations for timeline, milestones, and process will be finalized.
Wire-framing for small businesses usually takes the form of a sketched out layout. If a site has a complicated feature, such as a reservation system or ecommerce, wire-frames will be used to show the relative placement and organization of content and data on a page. This step is to ensure that despite how your site may end up looking, that it functions correctly. This will also aid the designer in understanding the functional needs of the page before they begin making it look beautiful.
This part is arguably the most fun for the Client. This is where the creative part of the process comes to life. Our designers will create a comp based off of the wire-frames, information architecture, and the sitemap. This process will typically have several rounds of revisions depending on budget. Development WILL NOT start until this process is complete and signed off by you/the Client.
At this point in time, both parties have been working together for a few weeks at least, most likely a couple months. We build in a check-in spot to make sure all parties are happy working together. It’s a sanity check. If the process stops here, you/the Client can take the materials that have been delivered and walk away. The data gathered up to this point is usable by any other development team that you wish to contract and they can pick up where we left off.
This phase begins once the Design phase is complete and the designs have been approved for development. During this time, Developers will be working on the project and once we have made it to about 80% completion, we will deliver a dev site url where the Client may see a fully functional, staged version of the site.
Recalling the Site Map and Information Architecture, this is where all those decisions and content that have been created by the Client or contract copywriters are implemented. Unless content is outsourced to a copywriting service, this is a deliverable for the Client and during the Development stage, the content will be requested from the Client.
Once we are in the QA phase, all major content, development, and design aspects of the site will be complete. We call this a CODE FREEZE. Establishing data parity with an already existing site can be tricky if this phase lingers too long.
Launching a site is usually as specific as the site itself depending if hosting is changing, platforms are changing, domain transfers, e-mail transfers, acceptable down time, etc. During the discovery and exploration phase of the project, the launch plan is determined.
Our standard post launch services last for two weeks. During this time, any adjustment or modification that is needed for the technical functioning of the site according to the deliverables and design will be covered. Any other requests can be handled at this time but will usually be addressed in either ongoing retainer services or a la carte tasks.