NEWS • 16 June 2015

An insight into life as a Project Manager

As a project manager at a website design agency, I’m often involved in lots of different things over the course of the working day. It’s a feature of the job that I really enjoy as I get to use lots of different skills and it keeps the job really varied and interesting. I get to do little bits of design tweaks with Photoshop, bits of html/css work as clients request changes, and make sure the UX of the sites I work on is spot on.

The trick to being successful is to manage the different tasks, and to balance the workload in an efficient manner, making sure all my clients are happy in the process.

Perhaps one of the most important tasks is maintaining your relationship with the client throughout the life of the project. For the majority of the projects I manage I have pitched for the work, submitted the proposal and won the contract, but at The Web Kitchen we don’t separate Sales from Account Management, so that is just the start of the process.

Accountability is a big part of our ethos at The Web Kitchen, so unlike some larger agencies we don’t just win the project and pass you onto an overloaded account manager. Instead, having met the client and made the promises about the project, it’s up to me to deliver on them. The key is communicating with and updating your client at each stage of the project.

Managing the relationship is important, but it’s also important to remember that your client is not always right! As Mike Monterio aptly puts it:

There are two steps to web-design: one is that you have to design something good and then you have to convince the client that it’s good

Although your client may understand their business and their brand better than you, there’s a good chance that you understand website design and UX better than them! And the expertise you have is exactly what they’ve come to you for.

Time and time again, experience shows that the best way to demonstrate to your clients that you understand who they are, the needs of their company and the requirements of their website, is to simply talk to them. Pick up the phone, start a Google Hangout, go for a face-to-face meeting – don’t just send an email!

A lot of time goes into designing and building our websites, so it’s only fair that when showing them to the client you don’t just send them an email with an Invision link or a PDF attachment. One simple statement  by Dan Mall says it all:

Every deliverable should come with a conversation

If you were to send your client, a person who’s not trained in design, a PDF of the website, completely off the cuff, without warning or much explanation, they’d most likely do the same back to you with feedback. Unstructured, unclear and almost certainly useless feedback. However, give them the time to explain what you’re showing, and they will almost certainly come back to you with concise and relevant feedback, which can be used to move the process forward.

It’s an easy thing to avoid doing, but taking the time to setup a quick 15-minute phone conversation with your client says 100 times more than an email could. It gives you the opportunity to explain what you’re showing, gives them the opportunity to ask questions, and ultimately benefits everyone.

Having them on the phone or in a Skype call, allows you to walk them through the site, explaining each point, making sure they focus on the important aspects, and making sure they don’t get hung-up on the lorem ipsum!

Being present, giving advice and suggesting new ideas are all part of being a good project manager. 

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