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?
Websites big and small come with interweaving work streams and skill sets that can overpower your timeline (and budget) if you don’t have a solid process in place for managing progress. What level of process is your internal team or agency partner bringing to the table? How do you plan for the right resources at the right times? Here’s how we make sure quality work gets done the right way, no matter what’s in our way.
Plot the path
Before you do anything, you need a pretty detailed plan, and at a more practical level, a start date and an end date (or a tentative one, at least). We use a Gantt chart to plot out the different phases of the project according to project deadlines. For added efficiency, we also use project management software so that we can directly link buckets of hours for each resource per project phase.
Cascade the phases
Some parts of a website project can happen simultaneously, while others are dependent on something else being completed first, like SEO recommendations that precede content design. For this reason, we use a waterfall approach in some phases — and then move to sprints when work with dependencies has been done and approved. (We sometimes even call the full approach “Waggle.”) That’s where the agile approach comes in. The idea is that you do a certain amount of work (the first sprint), then pause to review it and make changes. Then you move on to the next group of tasks under that umbrella. Work streams that work great in sprints include everything from design production to development to test planning to quality assurance (QA) to user acceptance testing (UAT).
Plan to pivot
In the proverbial words of our founder, Mason Poe, “No plan survives first contact.” Thoughtfully establishing phases and estimating hours is the best we can do, and from there, we know we will have to adjust accordingly as we go. Some things might end up happening in a different order, or we might have to tackle more (or fewer) rounds of revision than initially anticipated.
Flexibility is key, as is a granular understanding of how the overall effort is taking shape. Here, our tracking software plays a big role. It keeps all of our work streams, and the effort attached to them, traceable and transparent for our clients.
Pick the right people
Who’s going to work on this project? Here, it’s helpful to go back to the “what” and “why” of the project at hand. What are we making? A commercial site? A sales site? An informative site? Or something else entirely? Is this project more about brand, design, or complex animations? Maybe we need a really senior brand person, a more junior UX person, and a really sophisticated developer to tackle all the impending complexity. Figure out where you need your firepower and staff accordingly.
As a brand-to-build Webflow agency, we’re lucky to have a lot of different skillsets on staff, from strategists to writers and content designers to user experience and user interface experts to design direction and design production leads to developers specializing in different varieties of front-end development and code. Smaller organizations may supplement their team with freelancers, and all teams should be striving to grow their knowledge and skills outside of their direct speciality. Everyone, for example, should be able to communicate with clients effectively or understand the principles of a good user experience.
And then, perhaps the most important person of all when it comes to planning: the project manager, who keeps track of timing, budget, staffing, and client communications. We also have a designated engagement lead on most projects, especially larger ones, who is responsible for the creative health of the project. This person is usually a more senior team member, but does not necessarily have to be a designer. They’re taking a holistic look at the deliverable as it develops and providing feedback as needed.