Keep your projects on track with a website checklist approach

Productivity boosters, stress reducers

A website checklist is the most reliable way to prevent mistakes. But checklists only are useful when they are actually used. Wondering what it takes? Read on to learn about my system and tips to make that happen.

In addition to keeping me organized, preventing mistakes, and reserving brainpower for more creative activities, checklists are stress-busters.


Thanks to my checklists, I don’t worry about getting derailed mid-task — especially in this interrupt-driven business where there are no guarantees that I’ll get to the end of the list before the phone rings. Better yet, I don’t lose sleep worrying about whether someone can handle operations in an emergency.

Some of my checklists don’t really look like checklists — they include ordered lists of steps, bulleted lists of items that can be handled out of order, fill-in-the-blank templates, and forms.

I even have processes to manage my use of checklists:

  • I keep printed copies available in a binder at my desk.
  • I use a highlighter to mark completed steps, noting any that are skipped or not applicable.
  • I take notes of special case details on the checklist and that paper is archived with project materials.
  • If I take notes regarding task-specific instructions during a phone call with tech support or another resource, I’ll file those handwritten notes in my binder, and if I eventually refer to them a second time, then I type up the notes and make it an official checklist.

My checklist for checklists

To meet my requirements, each checklist must:

  • have a clearly defined purpose, and I know exactly which problems will be avoided by using it.
  • have a well-defined point of execution, relative to a project or task timeline.
  • fit on one page.
  • include the items I know are mostly likely to be missed (I don’t list items that I know will be done).
  • have a way to acknowledge completed steps – either they are checked off, highlighted, or filled in.
  • have a way to note why any non-applicable step is not done.

There are certainly numerous checklists available for web designers and developers to use in building sites or troubleshooting problems, from optimizing site load-time to protecting an e-commerce site from hackers.

But apart from the actual work I’ve been chartered to deliver, I rely on key checklists to…

1. Keep track of all websites

My Master Site Directory spreadsheet includes one line per website, and columns covering WordPress version, theme name and version, hosting service provider, columns for key plugins, backup status and more.

2. Streamline invoicing

I reliably follow the same invoicing process every month, by batch-processing each step across all clients receiving an invoice. I can’t survive Invoice Day without my Master Invoicing Spreadsheet, which includes each active client, billable hourly rate, negotiated discounts, date of last invoice and hours billed this month.

3. Evaluate potential client engagements

At the beginning of every potential new client engagement, I run through my pre-work checklist to determine if this is the right client for me. For the first phone conversation, I always have my Proposal Recon Worksheet ready to take notes — including questions about current hosting and registration, social media links, and requirements for e-commerce, newsletters, online payment and more.

4. Write comprehensive proposals

We know web designers benefit from comprehensive proposals, agreements, and contracts that document expectations, boundaries, deliverables, scope of work and the process of engagement. I use my Proposal Template as a checklist to cover major aspects of a typical website, and even if an item is not applicable to this project at this time, the heading is included in the proposal, with comments explaining why it’s not relevant.

5. Consolidate key client Information

My single-page Client Info Sheet summarizes key information per client, such as contact details, invoice recipients, logins, service providers and technical details including FTP details, IP address and nameservers. [Click here to download an example of the Client Info Sheet.]

6. Set up new clients

My New Client Setup Checklist gets me started with establishing archive locations (file folder, directory structure), gathering relevant checklists needed for the project, creating a contact for the client in my phone, and adding them to my Master Invoicing Checklist.

7. Start a new website

My New WordPress Site Checklist provides a clear path to configure new installations, including admin settings such as timezone and comment moderation, and installation of my A-list of standard plugins that I consider indispensable.

8. Launch a completed website

My Site Launch Checklist guarantees I don’t forget any of the important pre-launch clean-up tasks and time-of-launch testing activities. Some items are set up as part of the New WordPress Site Checklist, but I still confirm they are correct and functioning at launch time.

9. Manage maintenance across all sites

When a new WordPress version is released, my Master Site Directory provides a checklist to ensure that each site is updated, as some are done automatically and some manually. That same list is used in a variety of tasks; for example, every January I use it to ensure that all copyright dates are updated.

10. Prepare for the worst

I hope never to see it followed, but I’ve long maintained a Dire Emergency Checklist for my husband to follow, should something happen to me. That checklist starts with a list of key people to contact (insurance, accountant, bank, etc.), and then includes instructions for finding the Client Info Sheets and getting them to each client.

There’s my list to get the ball rolling … what has worked for you? Share your tips with the rest of us.

Image by: INPIVIC via Compfight cc