Strangers in Your Project: Managing Third Party Relationships

Have you ever felt like a third wheel on a project? I’m talking about those projects where a client brings in an outside vendor – typically a marketing company – to help with the process. It’s not common, but it does happen, and when it does, you have to be prepared handle a completely new layer of relationship management – or else you may blow a gasket.

I don’t mean to rag on marketing companies, but I’ve encountered far too many that needle their way into web projects and then overcomplicate decisions by attempting to add their “unique” perspective to everything. And then I’ve encountered marketing companies that really know what they’re talking about – and they especially know when to stand back and let the designers and developers do their job.

In both types of encounters, I had to employ new relationship tactics separate from normal client communications.Keep Reading

3 Ways to Better Plan Your Web Projects

Some time ago, I wrote a post about implementing simple planning to achieve better results in web projects. Now I want to expand on that idea and provide more specific, actionable steps you can take to actually put simple planning into motion, and the best way to do that is by splitting the simple plan into three distinct actions.Keep Reading

3 Common Web Project Failures and 3 Ways to Fight Them

Project failure is not a matter of “if” but “when.” It will always occur, and it’s almost never pleasant. This is an unfortunate fact of projects, especially web projects. But knowing beforehand what types of issues might creep up in a project, and devising ways to prevent or alleviate them, can help soften the blow.

What are some of the common project failures? Let’s take a look.Keep Reading

The Good vs. Best Project Managers: What Differentiates the Two

In managing different projects, with different people and different outcomes, I’ve noticed that with practice, it’s not too terribly difficult to become a good project manager.

As long as you’re responsive to client needs, effective at managing your team members (if you’re of a larger organization), great at active listening, and an overall decent communicator, you’ll get the project done. Good project managers work hard to maintain client satisfaction, and they make sure there are no loose ends untied.

So why aren’t the good project managers the best? There’s one characteristic I’ve noticed that distinctively separates the two: breaking outside the boundary.Keep Reading

How Project Estimating Can Lead to More Money and Happier Clients

The most highly sought after goals in a freelancer’s work life likely include more money and increased client satisfaction. But oftentimes, these two goals seem at odds — we equate higher client satisfaction to better project quality that doesn’t burden the customer with increased or hidden costs. Unfortunately, this leads to less money for us, and frankly, that sucks.

So how do we make more money and deliver a better project experience and keep our clients happy?

Simple. It all starts with the very first phase of your project — before any serious work actually begins. I’m talking about the preliminary project estimations you do (well, hopefully you do) before starting client work.

I consider this one of the most essential stages of a project, if not the most important. Why? Because it’s at this stage where not only do you discover the client’s needs, but you also have the opportunity to provide an honest assessment of the project, including its costs, resources, time commitments, and whether or not you actually want to take it on. After this stage, you’re pretty much locked into the project, and changing even the most minor aspects could prove dangerous to your relationship with the client.Keep Reading

Spotting Problem Projects: Read Between the Lines

I recently ran across a Craigslist post requesting web design and development work. Requests posted on Craigslist are often not even worth eyeing, but this caught my attention for the obvious reasons: it was so badly reeking of everything you should avoid in a new project.

In fact, I found the request so horrendous that I wanted to run through and analyze each phrase and word that stuck out as a red flag.Keep Reading

8 Provisions Your Web Design Contracts Must Have

Anyone serious about web design understands the essential role contracts play in the process. A contract is a legal document binding two parties to a trade, and it can carry heavy weight should a dispute arise. Unfortunately, not every project goes well — despite your best efforts — and there may come a time when the enforcement of a contract is necessary. It’s at that point you’ll thank yourself for having gone through the trouble of creating a sound legal document, and in the end, it’ll probably end up saving you time and money.

I’ve come across all sorts of contracts in my experience. Some are the size of books and others are mere one-pagers. I’ve seen ambiguous contracts and I’ve seen rock solid contracts.

Having a poor contract is almost as bad as having no contract, so I’ve compiled a short list of the most essential provisions you must consider adding to your contract template.Keep Reading

Project Management Should Not Be Written in Stone

Finding something that works — whether it is a process, methodology, or system — can be a defining moment. It means we have succeeded in our hard work to develop an approach that is in alignment with our core beliefs. If the quality of outputs increases because of a tried-and-true process, who wouldn’t be happy?

But project management doesn’t stop there. Never settle for what seems to work. Instead, pat yourself on the back, and then get back to work at refining.

Good project management processes, methodologies, and systems maintain an expected level of quality, but the excellent ones — the ones no one can match — continually strive for new levels of quality.

Achieving excellence is obviously no easy feat, but the path is there, and the only way to begin traveling down that path is by adapting what I call the three pillars of learning.Keep Reading

Fixing the Non-Updating FeedBurner Issue Once and For All

A month back, I ran into a continuous issue of FeedBurner refusing to update feeds for a couple of my blogs. No amount of pinging or feed resyncing would solve the problem, and endless Google searches proved futile. After finally stumbling across a fix, I think I have this issue solved.

So, if you’re having issues with FeedBurner not updating, I recommend these actions:

  1. Use the FeedBurner FeedSmith plugin (you have to download it from Google).
  2. Remove any 301 redirects you may have setup in your .htaccess file for the feed.
  3. If you have a caching plugin installed, make sure it’s not caching the feed or the feed path (/feed/).
  4. Once done, go into FeedBurner and ping and then resync it.

This has worked for me in every case — hope it works for you, too!

Oh yeah — just a little reminder — if you haven’t seen the previous updates from this blog, I’ve moved all of my project management related postings to a new blog at The Project Web (www.theprojectweb.com) — please check it out and make sure you update your RSS subscription.

Running More Effective Project Meetings

People always cringe when a meeting request hits their inbox, especially web designers and project managers. To us, meetings are boring and endless, taking far too much of our time. Perhaps that’s an overstatement, but the fact remains: meetings can be tedious. But what if our meetings with clients and project stakeholders weren’t tedious? What if after every meeting you walked away knowing you accomplished something important that will push the project forward?

I’ve been running meetings with a variety of clients on a variety of subjects, and through these experiences, I’ve compiled a list of my own tactics that I employ to ensure meetings are efficient, valuable to everyone, and on point.Keep Reading