Web development is an overarching term that can refer simply to website design, or it can refer to the many intricacies involved in developing a fully functioning website. When you consider the many complex functions that developing a website will require, they can include items like creation of timelines for project completion and setting of milestones, creation of front-end navigation, site architecture, site mapping, content development and planning, creation of style sheets, content management platform integration, etc.... you get the picture, there are a lot of individual pieces involved in the web design puzzle.
Creating a website from scratch can be a daunting task for even the best of teams to accomplish on their own. This is where having an experienced project manager comes into play. A project manager will not only help set the timeline and keep the web development and creative teams on track, they will act as the intermediary between teams and the client. This process helps ensure that the team gets their jobs done with little client interference, and the client is happy because they have someone to communicate with. Most web project managers are individuals who have worked either as a traffic manager, writer, web designer or developer. No one understands the project life cycle of web development better than someone who has worked on the inside.
Here is a sample of 5 processes a web development project manager is responsible for to help ensure a successful launch.
- Determination of Expectations. When a project is brought to the table, the project manager's first task is to review the entire proposal and come up with a broad outline of needs. Next, they'll start to reach out to the necessary team members in order to ascertain expectations and concerns, and then create a focused outline of the project plan (this will include everything from initial research to site launch). They may also be tasked with coming up with a proposed cost schedule, which could include a penalty fee for any changes brought about once the project begins. Once all areas of a project have been assessed, a contract will be drafted and commence upon receipt of the necessary signature(s).
- Creation of Style Guide. A style guide sets the tone and feel of the entire website. The project manager may use visual examples from other websites, or it may be used to set the standard for headers, fonts, colors and coding that will be acceptable for the site. This guide is not only a great tool to help guide the team, it can also be an effective way to help communicate a vision of the site to clients who may not be technically savvy.
- Timelines and Milestones. A project manager's primary focus is to keep track of the overall timeline, while making sure that each individual milestone is met. Some may consider this micromanaging, but this is what effective project management is all about. While building the timeline, a project manager will usually insert cushions (additional time) between milestones in the event something were to occur that could hold up production, such as third party issues, loss of Internet connection or computer failure. As time progresses, the website's project manager will review their milestone forecasts and check in with team members to make sure they are not facing delays, and if so formulating a plan to lose as little time as possible. This leads to the next example – communication.
- Communication & Notes. Each time there is a meeting between team members, stakeholders and/or the client, the project manager is taking methodical notes to use in update emails that are sent to all parties involved with the project. These notes may also be added to a time-tracking and content management system the team utilizes. Depending on the project manager's preference, the project manager may request feedback from all parties on the email to indicate if they agree, disagree and have anything to add, or they may simply assert that lack of feedback means a party is onboard and the project will move on to the next stage. Effective note tracking and emails help squash issues that can arise later on in the development cycle. This is what some refer to as "covering all bases."
- Documentation. A process that is highly overlooked, mostly disliked by designers asked to do it, but is quite necessary is the task of documentation. This is yet another reason why project managers are so vital, they do the little things that team members may not want to or have the time to perform. The purpose of documentation is to keep a living history of the “Whats,” “Whys” and “Hows” involved in creating the website. Documentation will include brainstorming to research, to story boarding, to content creation, design and coding. This “history book” is extremely useful as team members can cycle in and out of a project, or if parts of the website need to be worked on at a later date.
These five processes are just a few prime examples of why a website needs its own super hero. It takes a special person to be a project manager and most web development teams and clients are thankful for the one they have. But there’s still a lot more to learn if you want to be an effective and successful project manager. If you’re considering a career change from working as a creative or developer and want to move into a project management role, getting training and a certification needs to be next on your “to do” list.
Ryan Sauer is a writer and editor for Bisk Education in association with University Alliance.
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