Increasing Web Project Efficiency with Time Tracking

Everyone wishes they could have more time. With extra time, we could get so much more done—finish those long-delayed projects, get more sleep, learn new career skills, read Lord of the Rings backwards (or forwards). But we don’t have the ability to create time. We’re stuck with those finite number of hours per day and nothing’s every going to change with that.

Given how much we value time, why do we allow it to pass so casually? Shouldn’t we track and understand where it’s going?

The obvious answer: yes. Especially for our web projects.Keep Reading

How Creative Agencies are Putting Remote Teams to Work

I recently had the opportunity to attend a panel discussion regarding the merit of remote teamwork in a creative environment. On the panel were four owners of creative agencies in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. In fact, the panelists were:

  • Carl Smith of nGen Works, which “uses strategy, technology and creativity to help people kick ass.”
  • Marc Garrett of Intridea, which “designs and develops simple, intuitive web and mobile applications to help companies realize the power of social business collaboration, cloud computing, and next-generation tools for the enterprise.”
  • Nathan Curtis of EightShapes, which “designs interactive experiences that balance custom needs with business objectives.”
  • Brian Williams of Viget, which is “a full-service interactive agency that helps plan, design, build, and measure successful websites and digital products.

That’s quite a line-up—and the main reason I wanted to attend this panel. These guys are heavy hitters on the local DC scene, so it was fascinating to hear their take on remote team management, especially as a follow-up to Yahoo’s recent declaration of war against employees working from home.Keep Reading

Four Activities to Turbocharge Downtime Between Web Projects

Let me throw you a hypothetical: Say you have free time between your last project and the next one that has yet to start.

I know, I know—who has free time anymore? But perhaps there’s a slow period in your work, where you aren’t inundated with projects. What’s the most productive way to spend that time?

Sure, you could busy yourself with small, insignificant tasks or old emails that don’t really matter anymore; but ultimately, that’s not productive—it’s just a way to pass the time.

Here are four activities that can help you evolve as a web project manager, recharge your batteries, and put in you in a ready state for the next onslaught of calls, meetings, and web work.Keep Reading

Responding to Bad Situations

A couple of weeks I found a big problem in one of my client’s Wufoo forms. The submit button on a payment form had disappeared.

Despite many vain attempts to fix the problem, I eventually resorted to contacting the Wufoo support team. After all, a missing submit button on a payment form is a pretty big deal.

I don’t usually contact support. I like to try to figure out things on my own. It’s one of the best ways to learn. But the biggest reason why I cringe at contacting support at most companies is because they can be slow and unhelpful.

Unfortunately, I was really stuck in a rut. So I filled out Wufoo’s contact form and shifted to another task. Pretty soon I received a response. Wufoo was aware of the bug in the system, but the developer working on it was unavailable.

I gritted my teeth and responded that it was a fairly significant issue. This wasn’t just affecting my form, but many others as well.

They got the message.

Shortly after, I received an email that the issue was being looked at. Better than nothing, I said to myself. Within an hour, though, the problem was fixed.

I never doubted Wufoo. Their service is excellent and they have some bright people working hard to make it even better. And I think there are some lessons we can learn from the way Wufoo handled this situation.Keep Reading

Survey Says: How a Simple 2-Minute Survey Can Improve a Web Project’s Effectiveness

A couple of years ago I was confronted with a website I had always wanted to re-develop. I knew the organization well – a local fitness center – and I was all too aware that their existing website was complete garbage. Nobody liked the current site. Not the staff, not people in the community, and not their clientele. And so when I was approached with the opportunity of re-doing everything, it was as if I were a moth and somebody switched on a thousand light bulbs. I was attracted to everything – and everything beckoned me – screaming out for my attention. I wanted to change it all.

And then it hit me. I was directionless.Keep Reading

Seven Tools I Couldn’t Get the Project Done Without

We’re in an era of tool overload. Not only does there seem to be a tool to accomplish every imaginable task, but there are also tools to make these tools easier to use. Some of these tools are great – well-built and feature rich – while others just get in the way, and we as web designers don’t have the time to keep up with them all. So what I’ve done is compile my top seven tools that my business and work thrives from.

Really. I would be lost without these tools.

Keep Reading

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

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