Better web projects: part 2

Our project management method uses five main techniques - borrowed, pinched, and adapted from different disciplines. It’s not perfect; there are refinements to make. It does however help us avoid the common web project problems discussed in Better web projects: part 1 and deliver better results for our clients and ourselves.

Our web methodology

Build a website in Versions

Each Version delivers the features and functions currently most important to the client within an agreed time frame. A Version usually lasts a fortnight to a couple of months. Features can be revised or replaced in subsequent Versions if the client so chooses.

Version delivery can vary according to the state of the website and the client’s business culture. Formal Versions have numerical releases, 1.0, 1.1, etc. A more organic approach allows us to deliver each feature and function individually, in priority order.

Prioritise requirements

We define with the client their priorities for each Version before it begins. Each feature, function or item is graded as Must Have, Should Have, Could Have, or Won’t Have (MoSCoW requirements gathering (new tab)). If an extra feature is requested part way through a Version, the answer is, “Yes, it will be a ‘Must Have’ in the next Version - which is coming soon”.

Data gathering for insight

If we can’t accurately define a requirement or answer a vital question about it, extra information usually helps. We use data recorded during previous site iterations and if necessary install extra data gathering as part of the current Version. The requirement is reconsidered for the next Version - if it’s still needed. Data gathering techniques include visitor analytics, user testing, heat maps, recoding help desk enquiries, and A/B split testing.

Agreed number of days work

The client agrees the number of days we will work for them each month. They know in advance the timeframe for delivering the next Version, the minimum they should expect (the Must Have requirements), and the maximum (the Must Have, Should Have, and Could Have requirements). Their investment is spread over time, easing cash flow.

The most essential features begin delivering results quickly, without waiting for completion of lower priority items. The number of days we work each month can be varied, usually while planning the next Version, lowering risk to the client.

Collaborative tools

There are hundreds of online tools to choose from. It’s worth investing time to find one which works for you. Simple systems are much easier for clients to accept and learn. We use Trello (new tab), Bitbucket (new tab), and are evaluating Jira (new tab).

Summary of advantages

Important features are not delayed by less important ones Quicker initial return on investment Fewer overall delays Easier to manage new and changing requirements Not necessary to know all project requirements straight away Easier cash flow management Insight from new data can be incorporated into the site quickly Reduces risk while maintaining flexibility Promotes longer, more productive client relationships

I’ll cover the detail of each process in future articles. If meanwhile you want know more, get in touch through traditional channels or via Twitter (new tab).