If you create websites, having project management skills is essential to prevent your brain melting and stop you wasting valuable time. Formal project management is a whole industry in itself, but here are some useful tips, ideas and resources any web professional can pick up and use to quickly improve workflow.

This post forms part of our Power Up series, designed to help you make more of your skills and websites with top tips and handy web nuggets.

1. Sign off brief/specification

After you’ve worked with the client to determine what they want, it’s important that you sign off the spec before you start work. Any extras can easily be added to a second phase of work and billed separately to avoid confusion or added unpaid work. If you’re working with clients who don’t have technical or web industry knowledge, it’s important that all parties feel comfortable so you’re working from the same page with the same expectations from the start.

2. Set out your targets and goals

Create specific, measurable goals using the SMART (or SMARTER) criteria. Depending on your project and setup, you’ll want to give particular aspects more time and importance than others, but once you get a feel for it you can take the elements you need from project to project easily without a second thought. They are also versatile enough to apply to real-world challenges and offline work as well.

3. Make sure your process fits

Even though the core aspects of your design process and workflow will remain the same between projects, it’s essential that you review all aspects before starting something new to ensure that your approach is optimised for each individual set of needs. Consider all elements of the project – including resources, time, tasks and stages, and the number of people involved – to make any tweaks you need and ensure that it works for you in your environment.

4. Establish roles

Heading a team means that you need to assign clear roles to everyone and define boundaries between (or within) tasks. There should always be an obvious hierarchy with someone who is responsible for making the final decision within the project team and can sign off stages. If you’re working alone, it’s still important to create boundaries to avoid feature creep and keep on track.

5. Identify your strengths and weaknesses

If you’re working on a big project, or one that requires multiple skillsets, consider who’s the best person for each job. If you’re a lone wolf, is it worth subcontracting or asking a contact to help out or review areas that are your weaker points? If you’re managing a team, it’s vital to know each person’s strengths and weaknesses to get the best job done in the shortest time.

6. Determine the required tools

There are hundreds of apps, websites and software options out there, ranging from simple to-do lists to fully-fledged management systems. Again, your choices will depend on the complexity of the project and the number of people involved…as well as the budget!

Here are some of our top picks:

  • Project Pier – Free self-hosted project and client management software.
  • Simple Invoices – Easy invoice management (free one-click install on all our web hosting plans straight from your control panel).
  • PHProjekt – Software for project management (ditto).
  • dotProject – Another project option (ditto).
  • Evernote – Mobile and web application for notes, to-dos and teams (free & premium versions available).
  • Microsoft OneNote – an alternative to EverNote (it’s also free).
  • Microsoft Project – available in Office 365 and as paid standalone software in older versions.
  • Basecamp – Client and project management platform (free trial available).
7. Create all the collateral needed

At this point it’s beneficial to draw all the information together in one document, setting out the agreed brief, aims, timescales and anything else related to the project (mood boards, examples of preferred design etc.). As well as helping you keep on track and break down your time and stages, it looks professional from the client’s perspective and shows how seriously you’re taking the project.

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