When embarking on a new website or digital project, it may seem like there are a thousand things to worry about.
From the branding, visual design, and the content and copy to how well the brand is communicated and whether the site will truly serve users, it can be hard to see the forest for the trees (or how on earth all of this will get done before the deadline).
Thankfully, project managers are here to help you through the entire process. With countless projects under our belts, we’ve learned a thing or two about running a smooth, collaborative, pleasant, and ultimately successful digital project.
Based on our project managers’ experiences, we put together these tried-and-true insider tips to help you streamline and simplify your next digital project—whether it’s a few quick website updates or a sweeping redesign of your entire digital presence.
Align Your Goals
Most projects can be boiled down to three factors: time, scope, and budget. We’ve found that in the most successful projects, one of these factors tends to be flexible.
For example, if your timeline and the budget simply cannot budge, then the scope of the project may need to be scaled down in order to prioritize those two unmovable factors.
Alternatively, if the timeline and scope of the project can’t be compromised, you’ll probably need to be flexible on the project budget and be willing to spend more money in the interest of time and quality.
The goal should be to keep two of these factors as fixed as possible and allow one of them to change as project needs change. Identify which factors are non-negotiable with your internal team ahead of time and be open to discussing this with your agency team.
Knowing your non-negotiables ahead of time, and sticking to them, can set up you and the project for success.
Know Your Team Members—and Their Roles
One thing that can majorly disrupt a project’s workflow is bringing in new stakeholders or decision-makers at the eleventh hours.
Maybe the CEO originally said she didn’t need to see the website designs before launch and changed her mind, or perhaps no one thought to ask the product team to review the content until a few days before the go-live date.
Before beginning a new digital project for your business, it’s always a good idea to consider who in your company needs to be a part of the process, at which stage they should brought in, and what they are responsible for in terms of reviewing, offering feedback, and approving designs, content, and assets.
An unexpected bottleneck or a last-minute approval at any stage can make or break a project.
Get Your Ducks (and Accounts) in a Row
When we start nearly any digital project, we have a list of account access, business assets, and other things we need from a client. Having these documented and ready to go from the start will make everything go smoother.
This might include (but is not exclusive to):
Google Analytics: Do you have it implemented on your website, and is it correctly gathering data? Do you have access to GA and the login credentials? If not, do you know who does and how to get in contact with them?
Assets: Do you have brand guidelines (colors, fonts, logos, and styling requirements)? Do you have your logo and all its variations properly formatted and ready to transfer? Do you have access to a company image database/DAM or a stock-photo account?
User Accounts: Are you able to create user accounts on your current site? Do you even have access to your current site? Can we log in using your account or can you make us a special Lightburn account?
Audience: Compile a quick list of who your audience is, why they interact with your brand, and what they aim to do on your site. This may change with the new project but it's always great to have a starting point. (The answer is not “everyone.” Give this some thought and be realistic.)
Inspiration: Start thinking about brands, websites, organizations, campaigns (digital or otherwise), and design aesthetics you’ve seen in the wild and why you like them. Try to come up with specific, sensory, and strategic reasons why something speaks to you. Go beyond “it just feels right” or “I know what I like when I see it.” Our team loves getting to know you and your company’s tastes and learning what draws you to a specific look, feel, or interaction.
Status Calls: Our project managers will likely set up a weekly or biweekly call to touch base with your team. Depending on the amount of stakeholders included on this call, finding a time of day and day of week may be challenging. Start sending out feelers to your teammates who should be on status calls ahead of the project kickoff so we can hop right into things.
Be Prepared & Know Your Digital Needs
Come prepared with company requirements: Do you have international GDPR requirements?
Do you have a specific level of ADA compliance you’re trying to reach? Any language translations or multi-lingual requirements? HIPPA or other privacy concerns?
Look into organizational requirements ahead of even writing your RFP so that these are clearly defined from the start.
Language translations, for example, could significantly affect the project scope and budget as well as potentially require third-party apps or companies, different CMS licenses, software integrations, APIs, platform subscriptions, or other information-architecture needs.
Of course, if these are items you don't have insight into for your company, we can help you identify these high-level needs and make an action plan for meeting all of them.
Ask Questions—All the Questions!
Our kickoff meetings aren't just intended for our team to get to know yours—we're an open book, so ask away!
Be ready with questions and don’t be afraid to ask about anything, big or small. While we are digital experts, we don’t claim to know everything either. We don’t believe in silly questions, but we do believe in no-nonsense answers.
In addition, we love, and consider it imperative, to hear your questions, concerns, apprehensions, hopes, and dreams for this project as well as your fears, anxieties, and past-project baggage. True partnership can't be reached unless both teams are honest and authentic with one another.
We hope these suggestions will help as you begin your next digital project, but don't stress too much if you can't get them all done.
A huge part our job as your agency partner is to be the keepers or stewards of the project. We’ll guide your team along the way as we tackle each step, define what success means, and figure out how to achieve it together.