Project Management Posts



15 Simple Warning Signs of a Bad Project (and how to think positively)

yield-signHere’s the deal. Designers should not accept every project that crosses their eyes. For five years, I was stuck in the mentality that every potential project was a chariot of gold ready to bring me unimaginable riches.

Wrong. I discovered through a series of poor projects that accepting everything is not a profitable strategy. I began to understand and value the concept of opportunity cost. Let’s say I’m working on a low paying project that, while bringing in some money, eats up all my time and leaves me exhausted at the end of the day. What else could I have done with my time? Could I have worked on a more rewarding project? Or perhaps hunted for more profitable business? I will never know.

This is not a foreign concept to most veteran designers. As you grow, you must become more selective about how you spend your time. But how can you screen potential projects to eliminate the problem ones as quickly as possible?

I’ve developed a set of internal heuristics that I run each new project through as a test. Keep in mind that sometimes a project with a small budget or a client with a demeaning attitude is not necessarily a deal breaker. You have to use your judgment and analyze your own opportunity cost. What else could you be working on?

When writing this post, I realized that most clients are actually good and that you should maintain a positive outlook in your project screening process. With that thought, I decided to amend my post to include a way to think positively about each warning sign.

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10-Step Plan to Handle Client Crisis Situations

Web sites are intricate platforms with many moving parts. Every time I develop and launch a new one, my biggest fear is getting the dreaded client phone call that something isn’t working. We all have that fear. It’s our baby and it’s also a vital tool for the client. Any failure could have potentially devastating consequences.

Unfortunately, that dreaded call is inevitable. Something will go wrong and when it does, you will be the first person to know.

Of course, the best defense to a client crisis situation is to double or even triple check your work to ensure everything is working. A thorough pre- and post-launch checklist can help you remember all the nooks and crannies for last minute fixes.

When the inevitable does occur, be prepared. Regardless of how the client is reacting to the situation, you need to have a cool head so that you can understand what’s going on and how to resolve it.

Below is my 10-step action plan that I try to follow every time a client crisis situation arises.

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Ten Ways to Stop Scope Creep in Your Web Design Project

scope-creepLet’s face it, web design is not a very predictable service. Sure, the extent of the service is to furnish a working web site (one would hope) along with any hosting and maintenance needed to keep it going. The issue is that the specifics of the project change with almost every client interaction.

Keep in mind this isn’t a problem. Web design must be a flexible and fluid service that changes to the varying needs of the client as well as the quick pace of the internet. What is a problem is scope creep.

Scope creep occurs when a client keeps piling on requests for additions or changes to their project that are outside the scope of the project. Some clients are mindful of this and will explicitly ask if it will cost more. Others, unfortunately, are not this considerate or knowledgeable enough to know when they’re pushing it.

How can you combat scope creep? I don’t think you’ll ever get rid of it completely, but there are some ways to prevent and reduce it.

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Why You Should Use Facebook to Connect with Clients

The best part about being a web designer is that I get to keep up with all of the new online tools. It also means I can check Facebook during the day without feeling guilty (right?).

Facebook is a powerful tool. No other tool in the history of human social behavior has been able to give people the mass level of connectedness that Facebook has. You can locate pretty much anyone on the network these days. Hell, both my mom and dad are on Facebook.

You can also find clients on Facebook.

Many people, especially those who lead a nightlife of questionable character, might find this concerning. Facebook is a tool for connecting with friends, not clients, right?

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How Far Will You Go for a Client?

The web design client is an interesting being. They are cut from many different clothes, and they come from all walks of life. Some are tech savvy and others seem like they’re stuck in the Stone Age. There are clients who need their hands held during every step of the web design process while there are others who are on top of everything.

No client is ever the same. And each client presents different situations and exercises that can really test your will.

How far will you go for a certain client? What level of service will you provide even if it falls outside the scope of your agreement?

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Speeding Up Web Design Projects Before They Begin

Sometimes it seems like a web design project can drag on forever. How often are these delays caused by clients? It could be content, authorization, input or a slew of other things that you’re waiting on from the client. The unfortunate fact is that delays are inevitable.

That’s why you need to prepare.

Preparing before even taking on a project can shave off loads of time. Remember, most web design clients don’t know the ins and outs of the web design process as well as we do. They need guidance and they need to be pushed along.

I’ve compiled my own set of guidelines that I’d like to share for sending web projects down the right path.

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Control Your Client Communication

Control Client CommunicationOne of the biggest shortcomings to web design is communication, or lack of it. Most web designers just plain suck at it most of the time (I know I’ve been there).

We’ve all seen it before. Nothing gets done. Milestones are missed, projects aren’t finished and clients aren’t happy. These are the telltale signs of poor communication. Communication is perhaps the most significant part of the web design process, too. You can be the best CSS coder or the most talented graphic illustrator, but if you can’t hone in on your communication skills, you’re at a loss.

How can we be better communicators? These are some of the things I’ve done to improve my own communication abilities.

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Forget the Details

I just spent nearly an hour trying to get some little piece of code to work. The strange thing is that the code wasn’t that essential and could definitely wait. Nevertheless, I kept chugging along trying to get the damn thing to work. Needless to say, I didn’t get it to work and before I knew it I had lost a good chunk of important time.

I’m the type of person to get sucked into the nitty gritty details of everything. Whether it’s trying to get the right color or tighten a screw just the right amount, I’m all over it. It might be cool that it comes out perfectly except for the fact that it’s a total waste of time. No one cares that there’s a tiny detail out of place. Nobody even notices. Why should I?

The problem with people like me is that we get in our own way. We know that the finer details can wait but our mind isn’t right until it’s correctly implemented. I don’t know, maybe it’s a bit OCD or something.

I just need to keep reminding myself to forget the details. Is that something you can practice?

Don’t Let Web Clients Walk All Over You

Web design and design work in general is an interesting industry when it comes to client interaction. We need the client to help us lay the foundation for our design work, but at the same time, we need to be careful not let the client have too much say.

Many designers in all fields, myself included, have let clients walk all over them. We’ve let clients dictate exact design direction, tell us what to do, and advise us on what resources to use. This needs to change.

First of all, web designers need to rethink their title. We’re more than designers, we must become information architects. We’re not just making things look good, we’re also making critical decisions on how to organize information, create conversion paths, and ultimately design a presence that will support an entire organization in a huge communication channel.

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My Meeting Length Philosophy

Meetings are a great method for sharing information, developing task items, getting feedback, and so forth. However, I think meetings outlive their effectiveness once they reach a certain length threshold.

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