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How to Run an Effective Website Project Retrospective


The focus of website projects is often the end goal of launch day, before quickly moving onto the next project or next priority. But it’s important to look back at the project that’s just finished, take stock, celebrate what went well, discuss what could have been better and learn from the experience so the next project runs even smoother.

If you’re about to finish a website project now’s the perfect time to run a “retrospective”. Here are some tips on getting the most from a retro.

Before the Retrospective

Don’t rush into the nearest meeting room the day after the launch and rattle through a cobbled together agenda just to tick off: “project retrospective”. This is an opportunity to gain useful insights and learnings so a little planning will make all the difference.

What, When and Who?

Retrospectives happen at the end of a website project, after you’ve delivered the website to the client or your team. They don’t need to happen immediately after, but ideally they should take place within a fortnight of finishing the project, so everyone still has the work fresh in their memory. Pick a time when everyone (or as many as possible) can participate, including the most relevant people in your team, your client’s team and all key decision makers and stakeholders.

Fist bumping is compulsory
Fist bumping is compulsory

Choose Your Communication Method Appropriately

For some groups, it may be best to deliver the retrospective in person around a table or over video call. For others on small projects, email may suffice. Think about what would be the most appropriate way to disseminate your findings and receive feedback. If some people can’t attend the in-person retro, be sure to have a way of gathering their input beforehand and sharing the outcomes afterwards.

Send Out Prep

A few days before the retrospective, put together an agenda for the meeting and circulate it amongst all the people who were involved in the project. This will give them the chance to reflect on the project and gather their thoughts in preparation for the retrospective. If you need anyone to bring anything in particular, now is the time to make that happen. It may be information on the budget, timeline, client feedback, or anything else that will be key to one or more of the agenda items.

During the Retrospective

However you decide to deliver your retrospective, there are some key agenda items that are recommended as a minimum for the discussion:

  • Discuss what went well, giving praise to those responsible if it feels fair to do so.
  • Discuss what didn’t go well. What didn’t go to plan and what was changed? Be careful not to blame any specific individuals, but rather give constructive feedback if appropriate.
  • Identify what you can learn from both the highs and lows so that you can change or improve things on your next project.
  • Think if anyone else could gain value from hearing about your experiences, such as colleagues who weren’t on the project or workers in the industry who may enjoy reading your findings as a blog post.
Caroline vowed never to work with Sarah again
Caroline vowed never to listen to Sarah’s ideas again

Wrap up the Project Appropriately

The retrospective should bring closure to the project. Consolidate everything as neatly and positively as you can, summarising outcomes, learnings, achievements and any future plans to work together again.

As Ellen de Vries says in her book, Collaborate: Bring people together around digital projects

“Every time you collaborate with a group of people, you will have learned something that will be helpful to others.” – Ellen de Vries

Retrospectives are the perfect opportunity to gain insights and share with others.

Retrospectives are also a chance to give your team credit for their hard work and thank your clients for asking you to take on the work, as well as an opportunity to open the door to future opportunities.

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