Ready, Set, Launch! Project Managing the Launch of your New Website

Often, the biggest obstacle to having a new website launched isn’t the design or the programming; it’s getting your team on the same page so that the web designer can get the go ahead to move forward. Particularly when there are a lot of stakeholders involved, it can be difficult to get everyone in agreement. Or, you might be so concerned about keeping everyone happy and making them part of the process that it’s very hard to get traction and to push the project forward.

While it’s important that your team is all on the same page, not everything can be done by committee. It’s not an efficient way to get things done. Someone needs to take the lead to decide what the priorities should be, what content should be included, etc. The project really can’t move forward until you and your organization have sorted out how your team will work internally. That way, all the necessary pieces can be properly prepared. If you don’t get your team sorted out in advance, you can slow the process down and incur additional costs. Save hassle, time, and money by getting your ducks in a row before you kick off.

Project Management

How to Tackle a New Website Project

One person from your team should take the lead on the project. That person will be the project manager. Even though it’s nice to work as a team and it’s important to get everyone’s buy-in, it’s very important that someone is the point person for the website. Otherwise, nothing will ever get done. Projects that have too many people involved can easily be set back by months (or even years) because of team members who cause stalling that holds up the entire project.

The team needs to entrust and empower the project manager to take the lead, and likewise the project manager should represent themselves in a clear, assertive, and communicative way that will give the rest of the team confidence in their ability to push the project forward.

The first thing that the project manager should do is prepare a plan and content that the rest of the team will have the opportunity to review. When you start out by asking an open ended question like “what does everyone want”, the results aren’t particularly helpful. It’s more helpful to give the rest of the team the context so that they can provide constructive feedback.

Internal Communication – Mobilizing and Managing your Team

The project manager should begin by initiating and explaining the process to the team:

  1. Kick Off Questionnaire – issued to the team with a deadline for submitting the feedback.
    • Q1. What pages would you like to be included as part of the website?
    • Q2. What features would you like to see as part of the website?
    • Q3. If new branding or a rebrand is part of the new website process, what words, visuals, colours, or feelings would you like to be included as part of the new branding?
    • Q4. General comments.
  2. Feedback will be compiled and used to create a draft of the content for the website.
  3. A review of the first draft of the content will take place. Team members will be provided with a format and due date for feedback.
  4. Revisions of the content will take place.
  5. A second review of the content will take place with another opportunity for team members to provide feedback.
  6. The content will be submitted to the web designer.
  7. The project manager will coordinate with the web designer and provide updates according to the designers timeline and policies with review and final rounds of edits available at a date TBD.

Let’s assume that you will be the project manager for the project. By defining the steps for your team members, you’ll show your team members that you’ve created a plan to take ownership of the project while also providing opportunities for feedback. This will give them confidence in the project.

For the kick off questionnaire, consider making this an online process to limit your influx of email. You can use Google forms, or even something like Survey Monkey. I like Google forms because it compiles all of the responses into a spreadsheet which is malleable.

Take the comments from your team into consideration, but ultimately you will be the person to put together a first draft.

Key Content to Move Forward

House of CardsThe website drafts should include:

  1. The site map – what pages you want to be included in the website, and how it would make sense to have them organized.
  2. The content for each page, or point form notes for the content so that a professional copywriter (such as myself) can write the content for you.
      • I recommend that you start with key word generation to create a go-to list that includes the right language for your brand. Fill your list with words that evoke the feelings you want to be associated with your business. It will be an important reference when you’re writing your copy.
      • Identify your target customers.
      • Identify their needs.
      • Your content should demonstrate that you understand their wants & needs.
      • Your content should explain how your products or services will fulfill those wants & needs.
  3. Your Mission Statement
  4. Your Business Values
  5. The features that will be important for your website. For example, a key component of your website might be the blog, or the testimonials page, or a calendar, or the ability to create tables or forms.

If your skills are not in the area of writing, it’s worthwhile to employ the skills of a professional website copywriter, or a copyeditor to proof your work and check for the suitability of your writing for websites.

Sharing Content

Once you, as the project manager, have either drafted the content or coordinated with a copywriter, there should be a review process for the rest of the team to go through the proposed drafts. Above I’ve included one round of edits and I’ve mentioned that the process should includes deadlines for the rest of the team to provide feedback, input, and edits. Establishing a process with deadlines will make it possible to move forward efficiently.

Make use of the great technology of the last few years to make the process more efficient. I recommend using Google Drive so that comments and suggestions are live. No need to have multiple drafts and cross reference feedback back and forth by email which is a nightmare. These days, we’re lucky to have Google Docs; write the content and share with team members with the “Can Comment” (not “can edit”) shared privileges. Similarly, you can use Google Images and share the framework for the site layout with team members with the “Can Comment” (again, not “can edit”) shared privileges. That way, you can wait and view everyone’s comments before accepting their suggestions, or explaining your reasons for doing things the way that you have. If you haven’t used Google Docs much yet, they’re a key way to work successfully in a team and I highly recommend that you become acquainted with them.

For more involved discussion, consider Slack. It’s a great online tool that you can use to create conversations in a message board format. It’s great because it will keep the conversation out of email.

For work where you’ll be assigning different components to different team members, like assigning the content for various pages of the website to different individuals, you’ll need project management software. I like Asana. I also recommend Asana for the project manager to use as their own project management tool, even if they aren’t bringing others in.

Moving Forward with the Web Designer

You will need to have most of your content finalized before the web designer can move forward because the content can often dictate the structure of the site. You need to get full confirmation and approval from your team before moving ahead with the web designer to save yourself a lot of headaches.

Just one representative should coordinate with the web designer and should be the lead on the project. That person should have most of the information outlined above fully prepared at the time when the web design kicks off.

Having a new website built doesn’t have to be difficult. The main challenge is managing people’s expectations, and the more people involved the more that the communication skills will become as important as the project manager’s organizational skills. As a project manager, you can take ownership of the project with assertive communication and use the checklists provided here to have your website content ready to send to the web designer in no time at all.