Kick Off Your Web Project the Right Way

I don’t normally post over here very often but since this is a busy week for Todd I figured I would share a few things.  Normally I blog about making beer and staying productive but lately I’ve been spending a lot of time exploring project management, web development and freelance contracting.

Today I want to share with you some tips for getting a good start on a web project.  For those lucky souls to have hired a web consultant, defined a project and implemented it flawlessly then don’t waste your lunch hour here.  Get on Facebook or Twitter or something else and enjoy your time.

For those of us who have had projects go south here are my top four (yes, only four – if you have a fifth please add it to the comments to share with the rest of us) tips to kick off a web project the right way.

1. Clearly Define the End Result
I’ve worked with a lot of clients that expressed some vague goals like “I want a website” or “I want to rank in the #1 spot on Google for a generic keyword”.  These are not good goals to give to a consultant (unless you have a lot of money to burn, in that case – email me…).

A good goal is SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time Sensitive.  A good goal may be stated as such:

I would like a website that allows me to easily update it with new information.  I would like it to be optimized for the following list of keywords and I would like the following features: the ability for users to comment on the content, to be able to maintain an archive of information, and house an email newsletter.

What if you can’t define your goal to that level of detail?  That’s where a good consultant comes into play – he or she will sit down, analyze your business and help you clarify your vision. 

2. Be Realistic About Scope, Time and Money
All projects are bound by the “Holy Trinity” of Scope, Time and Money.  If you increase the scope, then you must increase the time and money required by the project.  Imagine an equilateral triangle (A triangle with the same length at all sides and the same angle).  This triangle is your project.  The corners are labeled Scope, Time and Money. 

If you increase any factor (make the sides going to that corner longer) then you must increase the other two in order to preserve the project.  If the triangle strays to far from equal then the project risks falling apart.

3. Document All Changes in Writing
All changes need to be documented in writing before being implemented in the project.  This is so important that I am going to say it again.  All changes need to be documented in writing before being implemented.  In most projects once the Statement of Work is signed and agreed to that is it for adding goals and objectives to the projects.

However, there is not a single web project that has ever been conducted where there were no changes.  The key to a smooth project is how do we handle those changes.  Verbal changes run the risk of being misunderstood or forgotten.  Written changes are much more detailed and more likely to get implemented in the project.

4. Expect Setbacks and Delays
Don’t wait until the day before your launch date to arrange for a consultant to build your website.  Most modest sites (4-5 pages) usually have a 3-4 week lead time.  The more complicated the site, the longer it will take to build.  My rule of thumb is to always add 20% to the project schedule. 

If I expect a project to take 10 days, I will put 12 down on the time line.  If you build this kind of buffer (or management contingency as the PMPs call it) then if something does go wrong (it will) you will have ample time to deal with it.

There you go – four tips you can use the next time you have a web project to ensure that all goes well. 

Jesse Seymour is a web developer/blogger that covers a variety of topics from brewing beer to implementing GTD.  If you would like to learn more about Jesse Seymour, or if you want to check out his blog feel free to visit him at

3 thoughts on “Kick Off Your Web Project the Right Way

  1. Thanks for the feedback Todd – I posted up a post I did on my productivity blog this morning about a web service that is designed to make it easier to take meeting minutes.


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