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Mastering the ‘how’ in website projects: A comprehensive guide, part four

Mastering the ‘How’ in Website Projects | Edgar Allan | Blog

This article is part of our series on four essential questions to ask when building a successful website, specifically part of question four: How do you go about building the site?

The art of communication on a digital project starts with specific Slack channels and ends with artful feedback both given and received. What’s the best way to manage the exchange of ideas throughout a multi-phase website project? We’ve got thoughts.

Slack beats email 

Email might seem like the go-to, but we’ve found that Slack team channels actually support timelier, more efficient communication between client and agency. In fact, we barely communicate via email anymore. By creating a shared Slack channel with our clients, we’ve got a designated log of all project-related items. Everything is all in one place, it’s searchable, and it keeps things from getting lost in the inbox shuffle. Some of our clients even start separate threads for different project items, like photography. The bottom line: Keep it simple with Slack.

Everyone’s a guide

Clear, concise, proactive communication is key. A great project manager can see trouble coming down the line and get ahead of it. They’re the ultimate godsend. But they’re not the only important client liaison on the team.

Regardless of a person’s specific role on a project, a guide mindset ensures effective client exchanges at every turn. I always tell my teams: you want to think of yourself as a helper. You aren’t on the team to just do a job. You aren’t there to just make a thing. You’re there to help the client accomplish something. And they’re there to help their audience get something. Which means, you’re helping their audience get something. So, be a beacon of helpfulness.

Don’t spread yourself too thin 

Managing client expectations, getting ahead of potential issues, and generally preparing work for review adds up to a very tall order. To mitigate the potential burnout of managing web projects, we usually staff our projects with a project manager who owns the client relationship and an engagement lead who owns the creative acumen. Even if you’re a small team and one person ends up having to perform both roles, it helps to keep in mind which hat you’re wearing at which moment when interfacing with clients. Keep the conversation focused on the objective at hand.

How to ask for — and give — feedback 

It’s just a fact: giving feedback doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Plus, some people just don’t know what they want until they see it. They may not know how to tell you what they need, either. To make it easier to get our job done, create great work, and make sure the client can get their ideas across as clearly as possible, we first ask for consolidation. That means one person on the client side takes all the feedback from the team, filters through it, prioritizes, and lets us know what’s important. 

The client contact is going to know much better than us which comments to pay attention to, and who we should be listening to the most. Reviewer A’s input may not matter as much as Reviewer B’s, since B really holds the vision for the company. Furthermore, if half the room says “Change this headline,” and the other says “Never change this headline,” how do we know what to do? This approach also helps to reduce duplication. If people say the same thing 15 times, or 15 reviews note the same change, we only need that information once to execute successfully. One voice, one swift execution.

Good feedback is also firm and declarative. It does not, however, always need to be prescriptive. In other words, we need to know the problem, but we have the expertise to iterate on the best solution to that problem. As long as we know why the client doesn't like a thing, or why it isn’t working, or what they might like better, we can act on that information and make the appropriate improvements.

Keep flexibility in the framework 

Brand, product, project, and staffing plan are all useful guardrails for maintaining strong progress, and communication of said progress, throughout a project. You’ve got your Gantt chart, Slack channel, engagement lead, and so forth. But keep in mind, they’re just that: guardrails, meaning you have the freedom to move around inside them. You don’t want to be so rigid in your plans that you miss opportunities, like adding the right person to the team or considering a new approach.

Maybe you started out with someone, but now the job is calling for a specific skill set they don’t have. Maybe there’s a different creative direction that pushes the boundaries of the path you’re already on. Maybe you need more time for writing or design and less time on another thing down the road. Don’t miss the chance to pivot. Consider your framework, apply some freedom, and reverse the tide. What would make things easier when everything starts to feel like a slog? What could you create to make this website the very best it could be? Then assess how far you can — and should — go within that free framework to make it happen.

Interested in partnering with Edgar Allan on a web design, brand, or content design project? Get in contact with us today.

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