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3 Biggest Mistakes a Website Development Project Manager Can Make
In my time managing web development projects, I have made mistakes. Lots of them. Most mistakes are very minor and get caught in the quality assurance process before a website goes live. A broken link here or a misspelling there. These types of mistakes are unavoidable, but very easy to fix. The bigger mistakes, however, can have project damaging consequences and are entirely preventable.
1) Don’t present a bad idea to the client!
In a recent lecture I attended, the graphic designer speaking said, “Don’t you hate it when your client picks the shitty design? Well, why’d you show them a shitty one!?” This goes not only for designs, but for functionality and concepts as well. No one ever wants to share a bad idea or a bad design, but sometimes it can be forced upon us. A client can keep asking for something that you know is a bad idea, and you need to make sure that you tell them it’s a bad idea before moving forward with it. The thought that might run through you head goes something like, “It’s going to look stupid if we make it three times as big and turn it purple, but I know once they see it they’ll realize how bad it looks and go with my good idea.” Chances are if the client thought the giant purple design was a good idea, they’ll still think its a good idea when they see it, and you will have shot yourself in the foot by humoring them. One of our owners likes to tell clients, “I’ll tell you a bad idea is a bad idea three times. If you still want to do it after that, we’ll do it.” In addition to saying a bad idea is a bad idea, you have to explain why it is a bad idea, provide support for that if possible, and present a better idea (preferably a great idea).
2) Avoid design-by-committee at all costs!
Using a committee or group of people to brainstorm ideas or get feedback on a new website can be helpful in some situations. Groups of people can naturally come up with more ideas and build on each others’ ideas. When there is no one to make the final decision and take charge of the group, things can get out of hand. Five people sending a list of 25 ideas without attaching any weight to each idea can turn into a mess if each idea is considered equally as important. It is much more efficient to narrow a large list of committee-generated ideas down to the few best ideas. When a client is reviewing designs or a beta site, only one or two people should have the final say. If 10 people are all sending their ideas for updates and changes, you could end up with a Frankenstein-like site that has a little bit of everyone’s vision in it. It is much easier to work with a unified vision to create a unique online solution that has one master plan instead of many.
3) Start organizing content well before you are ready for content!
Collecting content can be the most arduous part of building a new website. Even if the content already exists on a current site, it most likely needs to be reorganized and updated. If your client already has an up-to-date, well-organized website, they probably aren’t asking you to build a new one for them. A great tool that I use to help clients and myself keep content generation organized is Jumpchart. Making sure that all parties involved (web dev, client, content writer) can see the current state of the content is very important. Everyone should know the status at all times so that the process keeps moving forward. It is important to closely monitor content generation to make sure that nothing is being overlooked. One thing that can commonly be overlooked is that content is not just text on a page, but also includes images and documents. All images and documents should be collected and organized alongside the textual content so that you aren’t scrambling to organize them at the last minute. The bottom line is that the content will always take longer than anyone thinks it will. Get started on it as soon as you possibly can.
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