Project management for web designers: Tips and tools for getting the job done

Beyond the whiteboard

As a web professional, you might not be an expert in managing projects — and that can be a problem. You’ve dedicated yourself to becoming a full-fledged design pro, but you’ll sometimes need to venture outside your creative wheelhouse and into the realm of project management for web designers. This can be an intimidating proposition.

While much of your project planning will be based on your client’s needs, there’s still plenty you can do before starting work.

Deciding on the best approach is key, as is choosing the right tools for the job.

These steps can help you make better plans and keep the whole project running smoothly.

In this piece, we’ll first look at two different approaches to project management for web designers, then introduce some tools that might make everything easier. Finally, we’ll offer a few tips to make sure your projects run well from the beginning. Ready? Let’s get started.

Agile vs. waterfall: Two approaches to project management for web designers

Project Management For Web Designers Mockup
Photo: Luigi Mengato via Visualhunt / CC BY

Your first step when planning for a new project should be settling on a suitable management approach. We’ll look at two of the most common options (although depending on the project, there’s nothing to stop you from combining them).

Agile

Let’s start with a newer approach that focuses on rapid delivery: agile management. In this system, your time is split into fixed-duration phases called “sprints.” Each one includes a list of deliverables that are prioritized by value to the customer, and if time runs out, work is reprioritized accordingly.

The agile approach to project management fits well with small and organized teams working with customers who wish to be present throughout the entire project. It also suits companies who bill by the hour, although any major changes will undoubtedly have an impact on the project’s cost and schedule down the line. In contrast, if you’ve fixed your price with the client up front, you might experience increased pressure under the agile approach if the project drags on for a while.

Waterfall

Waterfall is the more traditional of the two project management systems. It’s a linear approach in which you run through predetermined steps in order until the project is ready to be delivered. Each stage is distinct, and is capped off with a review and approval process.

This approach will suit fixed-price projects well, especially those that don’t require a lot of adjustment on the fly. Plus, as far as the customer is concerned, waterfall management is simple to grasp: they see everything outlined up front and only need to get involved at project milestones. However, if there’s an issue down the line, there’s a greater chance heavy revisions will be needed.

By now it should be clear that both the agile and waterfall project management approaches have their own pros and cons.

 

The one you choose depends on your specific needs. Either way, you’ll probably need some additional tools to be successful.

Useful tools to help you manage your next web design project

There are a wide variety of tools available to help you manage your projects. Depending on each project’s unique needs, you may find yourself using slightly different resources every time.

Your first consideration will be how to track your time accurately, and a solution like TimeCamp is a smart choice. Next, you should look at how your team will collaborate. Slack is a perennial go-to choice for live chat, while Basecamp is a solid, easy-to-use project management communication tool used by many.

Project Management For Web Designers BasecampServices such as Asana and Wrike can also help with communication, but are mainly for managing your to-do lists and schedules. However, when combined with a milestone and roadmap tool, such as Aha!<http://www.aha.io/>, you’ll have a flexible and powerful project management system at hand.

You may also want to consider bringing in a dedicated tool for bug tracking, such as Jira. Lastly, if you’ll need to conduct video conference calls, finding the right program can help you bring all shareholders together with ease. Aside from the ever-popular Skype, many teams use alternatives like Google Meet, Appear.in and GoToMeeting.

How to manage your next web design project more efficiently

Project Management For Web Designers Asana
Asana is not only good for organizing your projects, but it can also help with communication.

The approach and tools you choose are worthless without a focused plan for how to actually run your project. This preparation portion of the process can determine how smooth and hassle-free your project goes, so getting it right is key.

While there are many things to remember when tackling project management for web designers, the following three tips should help catapult your efforts to success:

  1. Have a contract or scope in place before you begin. Beginning a project without a clear scope or a firm agreement is just asking for trouble. With that in mind, you should strive to get these particulars pinned down up front.
  2. Keep the lines of communication open at all times. Constant contact with everyone involved is an absolute must, as broken communication can spell a potential catastrophe. While clients are obviously important, don’t forget that your team needs easy access to your time as well.
  3. Be obsessed with organizing your project. Having an intense compulsion to perfectly systematize your project is the foundation for success. You want to carefully manage and coordinate every aspect, and a conscientious nature will likely pay off.

By being mindful of these three tips, you’ll easily be able to nail project management for web designers. Not only will you run a smooth project this time around, you’ll have a solid base to build from in the future. This should improve your professionalism and ultimately your overall income.

Running a web design project can scare off all but the most hardened web professionals, but taking the reins isn’t such an intimidating endeavor with a little bit of planning. Start by deciding which approach you will take, what tools you will use, and the ground rules for client requests and communication. By taking these preparations, you will be able to run a tighter ship from the get-go. Then, all that’s left to do is to crack your knuckles and get started on the project!


Also published on Medium.

Image by: VFS Digital Design via Visualhunt / CC BY