First Custom Development Website Project
As the first professional project manager at a small web development company, I was aware that I would immediately be jumping into the deep end — simultaneously fulfilling the duties of the project manager for client requests, helping the team improve internal processes, and creating my own onboarding process.
My first custom website development project was with a custom sign company. I was provided a contract with vague development requirements and a Google doc with a few design notes. The client had participated in conversations with the sales representative and the previous project manager, but the designer didn’t feel he had enough information to get started.
I asked the client if they would be willing and interested in doing another discovery session with me and the designer together so that they could be comfortable in the knowledge that we heard exactly what they were hoping for. They were game and had some really specific ideas that had not previously been documented.
From this meeting, a gorgeous design was created that addressed every one of their custom requests. I followed internal procedures and emailed the design to the client for their feedback. One by one, the client asked to remove every specific design element they had requested. While the client ended up happy with the end result, the project went over budget and past the anticipated timeline.
This project still stands as my favorite failure because it taught me that, no matter how well you believe you’ve fulfilled a client’s requests, it doesn’t matter if the client doesn’t remember what they asked for. And that was the birth of a non-negotiable step of presenting the “first look” with a “design justification” – where I tied each element on the screen to their specific requests. This new step:
- improved communication,
- significantly reduced the quantity of change requests, and
- shortened the time taken between initial design and launch.
Evolving Real Estate Website Project
My team’s sales rep landed a custom website project with a large regional real estate company that was also a top 10 advertiser with my employer’s parent company — so there was a lot more internal pressure for success than usual.
Once we got into the detailed design discovery, it became clear that the approved contract would not address the client’s true needs and that the project was more technical than I was comfortable discussing without a developer in the room.
After collaborating with my manager and development team, we agreed that we needed a full technical discovery with the client to better identify the true scope of the project.
Because of the foundation I established with the client from the beginning — and the honest, transparent communication we had around the initial budget issue — the client ended up trusting me with multiple add-ons that they had initially been hesitant to invest in.
In the end, the project took twice as long to implement as initially discussed, with a final budget four times the original contract, and the client was absolutely delighted that they had the website they had actually wanted all along.