Web development projects can flourish or flounder depending on how effectively they are managed. Proper project management can keep things running smoothly, while an absence of due processes can be a recipe for 404s, buggy designs, unhappy clients and just about every other type of gremlin imaginable. 

This ultimate guide will help you get started with website project management for your own development projects. We’ll take you through how to plan and manage a website project, step-by-step, through planning, building, optimization, finalization and launch.

What is website project management? 

Website project management is the use of project management to deliver website projects, from new site builds to redesigns and migrations. 

Project management is a management practice whereby a project is broken down into tasks, which are worked on collaboratively within a project management platform and process to meet a specific goal. For much more detail on how project management works, read our complete guide to project management.

First things first, set yourself up for website project management 

Before you get started on the website project management process, you’ll need to set yourself up to implement it. 

There are three key factors you’ll need to have in place: 

  • Project manager. This is the person who leads the team through a project, using a project management process. If your business operates on a sufficient scale, you could hire a full-time project manager, or engage a freelance project manager on a project-by-project basis. Alternatively, an existing team member can be given responsibility for leading a project.
  • Project management platform. In website project management, the project is usually managed within a project management platform. These platforms all provide ways to manage the tasks that go into delivering the end product, but besides this common purpose they can vary significantly. We suggest you evaluate a platform’s features carefully to assess its suitability for your team. Here’s an introduction to the features you get with Teamwork. 
  • Project management methodology. A methodology is a system of methods that organizes how a process works. Of the many methodologies used in project management, agile project management is perhaps the best known. Other project management methodologies which are commonly used to deliver website development projects include XP and PRINCE2. Whichever methodology you use, your team will need to be fully trained in it before you start working on projects. The methodology should also be explained in the project documentation within your project management platform. 

Once you’ve put in place your project manager, your PM platform and your methodology, you’ll be ready to begin the website project management process.

Phase #1: Planning 

Planning with the client

The first priority in the planning phase of website project management is to define, in the clearest terms possible, what the client wants. (This could be a third-party client, or it could be a department or stakeholder within your own organization, depending on the nature of your business.)

You can start by getting the client to fill out a questionnaire which asks about important variables of the project. Here are a few examples of questions to include: 

  • Who is the target audience? 
  • What sections would you like your website to have? 
  • What pages do you need?
  • How often will you change the content on your site? Will you need to be able to do this yourself using a content management system (CMS)?
  • Can you name three website designs that you like? What do you like about them? 
  • What are your website pet hates? 
  • What’s your budget? 

Getting the client to put points like these in writing should help you to formulate deliverable goals for the project and define its scope. The more questions you ask at this stage, the more you can reduce the risk of problematic clients complaining about subjective factors further down the line. We recommend listing at least 10-20 key questions that you can ask at the start of each project. 

Using your questionnaire, along with information gathered through meetings with the client, create a quote and specification for the website, covering the full project scope as discussed with the client. Once the client has agreed to the quote and entered into a contract with you, then you can move on to the next part of planning. 

Planning with the project team 

The next step in the planning phase is to go through the website specification with your team, so you can translate it into a website project plan. You and your teammates should address the following questions: 

  • What are the project deliverables (what needs to be done?) 
  • How does the project break down into tasks, and who on our team can do each task? 
  • How much of the client’s budget (or the organization’s time) will the project require? 
  • Where are the dependencies in the project, where completion of one task is only possible after a specific other task has been completed? 

With these key questions answered, you should be able to sketch out a basic project plan, detailing how the website project will be delivered. You now need to take this plan to the client for their approval. 

Once the client and other key project stakeholders have agreed to the plan, you can create a new project in your project management platform and start creating the project tasks.

Phase #2: Building 

In the build phase of a website project, your team will likely be focused on creating the site’s layout, content, design and functionalities. 

Meanwhile, the focus of project management tends to be divided between monitoring the team’s progress, ensuring full adoption of the project management process, and removing any ‘blockers’ which team members have flagged up. 

Monitoring team progress can be done on a granular, task-by-task level, and also on a bigger-picture level, using visual aids such as burn down charts, which represent the percentage of project work completed, relative to the available time. 

Ensuring full adoption of the project management process is a job for the project manager. This may involve training team members in how to use the project management platform.

A blocker can be anything that’s preventing a task from getting completed, from a gap in someone’s web design knowledge, to a missing piece of content that’s needed to complete a page design. When a team member flags up a blocker, the project manager works with them to find a solution. 

Regular team meetings throughout the build phase can help a team stay on top of all these considerations. 

Phase #3: Optimization 

From optimizing cross-browser performance to compressing image files, this is the phase where your team brings the website up to the highest standards it can. 

We suggest you incorporate optimization into your project management process by using a website optimization checklist as your basis. 

Once you have your checklist, you can create a new task for each requirement and assign it to a relevant team member. From this point onward, project management of the optimization phase works much the same as it does during building. 

Phase #4: Finalization 

This phase of website project management is relatively complex. It covers the work involved in the following processes: 

  • Initial testing. From a project management perspective, this begins with a testing checklist, similar to the one used to identify the tasks for the previous phase. A task should be created for each testing activity, from checking whether on-site transactions work to assessing the website’s conformity to accessibility standards. Further complexity is added by the need for new tasks to be created when an issue is identified during testing. When a team member finds an issue during testing, they should create a task for the issue and assign it to the project manager. The project manager then reviews the issue and reassigns the task to a team member with capacity to fix the issue. 
  • Go live. During this process, the website and its support systems become operational. Key tasks include uploading the site to its domain, and integrating it with applications such as analytics tools and email marketing clients. 
  • Client/staff training. The people who will manage the website after launch need to be taught how to use it. This can be facilitated through training sessions, which can be planned into the PM platform as events (provided a calendar functionality is included in the platform). 
  • Foundational marketing/SEO activities. These are the nuts and bolts tasks that need to be done in order to ensure the site is ready to attract visitors, from submitting the sitemap to Google, to setting up links between the site and any relevant social media profiles of the client. Once again, a checklist-based approach to identifying tasks is advised. 

It’s quite possible that your team will be working on several of these bullet points at once (or perhaps even all of them). This creates the potential for the project to become difficult to manage, and we therefore suggest paying close attention to how your project management platform is used at this stage. If you can, use features such as task lists, which support the complexity of the project while preserving the usability of the project management platform.

Phase #5: Launch 

The website launch and the work leading up to it can be an exciting time for a website development team. Nevertheless, this is the worst phase of all in which to take your eye off the ball. 

The first part of this phase is a second round of testing, covering aspects of the site ranging from SEO to security. In some cases, these tests may involve external stakeholders such as search marketing consultants and pentesters. Any issues raised during testing need to be made into tasks, which can be assigned to team members who have capacity to resolve them.  

With all those final issues ironed out, you’ll be ready to transfer control of the website to the client. This, in itself, involves a degree of complexity, so be sure to create dedicated tasks for fine details such as writing the completion report for the project and securely transferring login credentials to the client. 

Ever-improving project management for web development 

Website project management shouldn’t stop once the website goes live. The crucial next step is to evaluate the outcomes of the project, and learn any potentially valuable lessons you can, ahead of the next website project. This could mean anything from analyzing website performance, to interviewing team members about what they loved or loathed about the project management process. 

If you’re always learning about your websites and your website project management, both should keep getting better and better. 

Sign up to Teamwork today for even better website project management