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Let’s get real and admit that managing a web design project can be complex and time draining. You’re handling several different tasks, team members, due dates, resources, and client expectations all at the same time.
This is why knowing what tools, methods, and hacks to use from the beginning can help you keep your project–and sanity levels–on the right track. A single project management solution can help put all that in order and save you time to focus more on the real workload.
I’m going to walk you through managing your first web design project in Paymo, a full-featured work management software that helps you seamlessly plan, track, and invoice your projects.
First things first. Let’s have a look at the things you should keep an eye on before you get to the actual work.
The Client Meeting
Start with an initial client meeting to map out all the current requirements and budgets. Get to know everything that’s important for your clients, what their objectives are, and what to avoid by all means.
Everything you discuss with your client should be documented to ensure transparency between both parts. For this, draft a business case in a Word or Google Docs file. You can then attach this file to the project in Paymo so you can refer to it any time and avoid leaving any vital aspects or client requirements out of the project execution.
Besides requirements and other project details, the client is obviously interested in knowing how much the project will cost. Coming up with a quote for your client is not an easy job - especially if it’s your first time doing this.
In Paymo, there’s a hassle-free method that helps you create a realistic cost estimate. First, write down all project activities that need to be completed in the project’s Tasks area under the Simple View. For each activity, add a time budget and a rate as a reference point. This will serve as your temporary project for now.
Next, click on the Convert to Estimate button to transform the temporary project into an estimate. The platform will automatically total all task budgets and estimated costs, so you don’t need to add them up again from scratch.
You can also choose to display all tasks as a separate line item or group them by their corresponding task list. Once saved, you can share it with the client as part of a formal quote in two ways: through the permalink at the bottom of the estimate or as a printable PDF file.
The client will now have a rough idea of how much the project will cost and what exactly they’re paying for. What’s left is for the client to review it and either accept or refuse it. Having an ordered list in sight will make it easier for them to see if they failed to notice something important before.
Once the final quote is accepted, you can move on to the planning part when your temporary project becomes a real one.
Never start a project without having a plan to follow. A well-built one outlines all the aspects you need to understand and develop upon during project execution. Think of your project plan as a map that shows both your decisions and the risks that could cut your project short or postpone its end date.
It’s now time for you to revise the previously added tasks and better organize them based on their similarities into clearly detailed task lists. These help you guide multiple team members, deadlines, resources, and projects simultaneously.
For an accurate project plan, go back to the project’s Tasks area and assign users to each activity, along with due dates, priorities, and possible subtasks in case the task needs to be further broken down. Don’t forget to write concise task descriptions to clarify how tasks should be executed and prevent any misunderstandings.
To keep up with work throughout all project stages, establish a workflow for each project:
This can be done through Kanban boards that show you the status of each task and if there are any potential bottlenecks in the process. Visual boards like the one below will improve the team’s communication and accountability since they showcase where each task is at a given point in time and who’s in charge of it.
To access them, change from the Simple View to the Board view. You’ll notice that all tasks (now cards) reside in the backlog, accompanied by three standard columns: To Do, In Progress, and Complete. This is a workflow that you can change to better reflect your internal process. What you need to know at this point is that you can pass each task through every workflow step (Kanban board column) as work on it progresses.
Tip: Schedule out the team in advance through the Team Scheduling module by specifying who should work on each task, for how long, and when.
Just remember to involve your team in the planning phase and get their feedback too. Projects do change, and you can only deal with unexpected problems with the help of your experienced team.
Actual Work Starts
Let’s move on to the real work. Sure, planning is a must, but project execution is just as important and can take up the majority of the time you spend on a project. You could say that the project begins for the second time. This time though, you need to focus more on closely following requirements and avoiding mistakes if you want a smooth project development process.
Paymo offers different ways of managing your tasks, from the simple to-do lists and detailed tasks lists we’ve seen before, to the more complex Kanban boards or the Team Scheduling module.
The first thing you should do when you start work is check what’s on roll for today. Everyone involved in the project can see their tasks under the My Tasks area from the Home module:
For an increased focus on your daily tasks, group them after specific parameters like priority, or due date.
Each team member receives an email and an in-app notification whenever they’re assigned to a new task or a change occurs to an activity. Look for any remaining in-app notifications in the top-left corner of the screen and mark them off to stay on top of your work.
Just like with your clients, maintaining efficient team collaboration is the key to avoiding misunderstandings and preventing unnecessary mistakes that would just need more time to be fixed.
Paymo lets you comment in real time directly on tasks to keep updates in context or create Discussions at a project-level, in case you need to start a thread or brainstorm a topic that concerns the whole team. You’ll also receive instant in-app and email notifications (depending on your project settings) whenever you get a new comment so you don’t have to stare at the discussion board until someone answers you.
Worried about losing your project’s files with so many tasks going on at the same time?
In Paymo, project-related files can be attached to every task and even to comments. You can also keep them updated and store them securely in the project’s centralized Files area from where your team members can access them with ease.
This equals fewer colleagues asking where a document is or spending valuable time searching for a logo created five months ago.
Thanks to Paymo’s native Google Drive integration, you can upload and download files directly from your drive. As a bonus, you’ll always have the latest versions of these files readily available so you can further edit them if required.
Yes, I know. Your team members might not like tracking their time, who does? This is why you shouldn’t consider it a mandatory task. See it more as a tool that can help with the development of your current and future projects.
Tracking work hours can be used for future reference to make accurate time estimates, better plan your team’s schedule, avoid overbooking or underbooking employees, to name a few of the benefits.
In Paymo, you can add time entries for individual tasks either in bulk or via an in-app time tracker:
If you prefer using apps outside of the web browser, use the desktop time tracking widget that can be docked into your Mac, Windows, and Linux bar to clock time or add it manually in bulk or intervals:
All time logs are automatically stored in the Timesheets module which shows you exactly how many hours your team members spend on an a given day, week, month, or specific period.
You can then turn timesheets into time reports. Static Time Reports can be used to better estimate the time budget for your next projects, keep clients updated on the status of the project, stay within budget limits, save time, increase productivity, and avoid overbooking or underbooking your team.
As the leader of your project, you should encourage time tracking for every task that takes longer than 10-15 minutes to complete or involves several different team members. This increases your team’s accountability and will offer proof in case your clients ever question your work.
Tip: Team members can check their schedule in the Team Scheduling module first to know how many hours they should dedicate to each task.
If you’re one of those people who multitask on a regular basis, work on different projects at the same time, or simply forget to turn their trackers off, try automatic time tracking. Tools like PaymoPlus track every second spent working in a file, website, app, or browser tab. Just click the Record button and you’re all set - the tool does the job for you. At the end of the day, associate each time entry to its corresponding task or set up rules to do it for you.
Always on the go? Just use the mobile time tracking apps available for Android and iOS that work offline too, in case you’re visiting a client and have no Internet access. Designers can also use the Adobe CC Integration to track their time directly from their favorite Adobe tools (InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, InCopy, and Premiere) with a 2017 or newer license while working in parallel on their design sketches.
Progress Monitoring & Sharing
Without a project management tool, you’d probably have to look over each team member’s shoulder to check on their status and see if they encounter any problems.
The software allows you to do all that in the virtual realm. Internally, Paymo provides a couple of visual ways of monitoring the project’s progress and where your team is struggling.
The project’s Overview area presents a project’s overall health in terms of the hours worked from the total budget, the number of completed tasks, upcoming milestones, and recent events:
Then, there’s the project’s Table View that offers a tabular view of all the project’s tasks along with their details. Interesting to notice is the Worked from the total column that shows you a burndown graph of how much time was tracked against the task budget and what’s left.
Perhaps the view to help you the most in your day-to-day operations is Team’s Tasks under the Home module. Through it, you’re able to see all tasks from all projects grouped by due date, priority, or corresponding projects:
Extra filters can be added for more granularity. There’s also the option to export it in three different task views of which the most notable one, the Meta Kanban, reunites all tasks from all projects in a Kanban format:
On an external level, you can periodically deliver detailed status reports to your client. Paymo allows you to send either Static Reports, for insights about a specific timespan, or Live Reports. The latter offer full transparency regarding each task and the work that goes into them as they are constantly updated every time you or your client access them, so you won’t have to send an updated report when asked for.
What are you using right now to invoice your clients? Compared to most project management tools, Paymo also allows you to create invoices straight out of your time records, so you don’t need to export your timesheets or other task-related data into another tool.
To create an invoice, go to the Accounting module and select Invoices > Add invoice. From here, click on the Add outstanding time/costs button to add the registered time. There’s also the possibility to add flat rate tasks, project, and expenses, but that’s enough info for now.
There’s also the option to attach a static report to the actual invoice, in case you don’t want to create one from scratch.
At any time, you can change the current data or choose between 80+ currencies to bill your clients in, even add two additional tax rates.
Once saved, email the invoice as a PDF attachment or share it via the permalink at the bottom. The best part? You can see if an invoice has been viewed and paid with the help of the Viewed and Paid tags in the top right corner of an invoice, to avoid any awkward payment-related conversations:
For repetitive payments, just add recurring invoices that the system will automatically send to your client. This will create an electronic paper trail that lets your clients know they still have to send you money, making it easy to follow which invoices are left outstanding.
Alright, so you’ve finished all tasks, monitored the team’s progress, and sent the final invoice. Congrats! You’re done with your project. The thing though is that many skip the project completion stage.
Your past project offers valuable data and insight for your next work as well. Hold one final meeting with your team to discuss what went well, what didn’t, and what to improve in the future. You can also put together a checklist with all the steps you covered until the project’s successful ending to make sure you haven’t missed anything.
For this, create a Static Report to see the project’s structure and how you’ve achieved the project requirements and estimated budget. Keep these records and use them as a benchmark for similar future projects.
Don’t rush these last final checkups if you want to improve your projects, the way in which you estimate deadlines and work hours, and how you schedule your team’s tasks.
Quickly scan through the project development process and you’ll probably notice that a project is all about:
- efficient collaboration,
- and monitoring.
These are the three pillars you can apply to any web design project to guarantee its success and make its management less of a gruesome chore and more of a walk in the park.
To further ease your work, consider using a complete work management solution like Paymo to manage your work, resources, time and budget, instead of a full range of different apps. Having a digital platform do part of the work in your place will give you more time to focus on the vital tasks with impact. It also offers a complete view of the team’s workflow and tasks and keep a paper trail of all in-app actions, files, and comments for future reference.
Back to you now. Let us know what strategy you’re using to manage your own web design projects, what struggles you’ve faced, and how you’ve dealt with them.
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