Even the most talented web developers might not be adept at planning and managing a project from start to finish. In fact, many web developers find themselves struggling to complete their work on time and under budget. Implementing project management techniques can help developers create an organized plan that leads to successful projects.
Create a thorough contract
Your first priority on any project should be to establish a fair and detailed contract that protects both you and your client. Be as specific as possible in outlining milestones, deadlines, payments, and cancellations so there is absolutely no confusion or miscommunication once the project is underway.
There are numerous contract templates available on the web which you may use as a reference, but to ensure the security of your business and livelihood, it is highly recommended that you seek the professional services of an attorney.
Create a specific plan that covers all areas of the project
Once your contract is in place, having a road map is imperative to the success of any development project. It should target all of the different phases such as research, design, coding and testing, and establish a cohesive plan of action so your client is aware of the exact process. Each phases’ goals should be clearly defined and completion dates highlighted. Make sure to have your client sign off on this and include a copy with your contract.
Next, be sure to establish a style guide for the project and decide early on how the site will ultimately look and feel. Use mood boards to communicate effectively with your client, and refer to these boards as often as necessary to ensure your work is consistent and aligned with the project’s goals. People have a tendency to change their minds about how the site should look as the project moves along, so once a style has been agreed upon, be sure to have your client sign off on it.
Finally, before beginning the actual work, make sure to take the time you need to research, plan and test. It’s common for developers to be enthusiastic about a project and want to dive right in, but without this initial preparation, you’re asking for trouble down the road.
Set deadlines that are realistic
You’ve landed a big client and are ready to deliver a project that will knock their digital socks off. Just make sure you’re realistic about how long the project will actually take. Set milestones and deadlines that reflect the progress plan you’ve thoroughly outlined. As you create these milestones, be sensible. Setting unrealistic goals can cause you to rush the project, which can result in mistakes or less-than-optimal production.
Your ultimate goal is a satisfied client that will come back for more, so don’t rush to reach unrealistic deadlines.
Use project management software
Managing your development project is a highly challenging endeavor because of the numerous tasks and sub-tasks that must be implemented. It’s easy to become distracted and lose sight of the big picture. This is why it’s a good idea to utilize project management software that will help you keep track of scope, deadlines and budget, and allow for effective communication with your client throughout the entire process. Without the kind of organization this management software provides, a project could easily and quickly derail.
Documentation is the key to delivering a successful project now, as well as those you develop in the future. Take notes whenever you meet with your client, whether in person or electronically, to make sure you hear and record every detail of their wants and needs. Often something will be said in a conversation that, if missed or forgotten, can mean major changes in code or functionality. Save yourself a headache and make sure you document everything.
As a programmer, you’re aware that programming styles and your own skills will evolve over time, and this will make it difficult in the future to go back and tweak old code. By documenting your code as you go, making sure to use descriptive names and explain a feature’s purpose and function, you are reminding your “future self” how and why you did something. While writing notes for yourself, it’s also a good idea to draft end user documentation that will make it easy to train your client on the software.
Project management techniques streamline and organize what can be a very muddied and distracting process. As a web developer, using these techniques in your own work can help ensure you deliver amazing websites to your clients each and every time.
Erin Palmer works for University Alliance and writes about their project management certification programs. To learn more about PMP requirements please visit http://www.villanovau.com.