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The Dumbest Mistakes I Made as a Rookie Web Project Manager

Close to a decade ago, I made the leap from traditional publishing to digital. There I was, no longer looking at magazine proofs, and certainly no longer picking photos out of printed thumbnails. Suddenly, I was in the fast lane of digital, producing content for businesses. And down that same rabbit hole, I started to dabble (yes, dabble), with web project management.

Oh yes, my 2009 self really thought she was the sh*t and that she knew everything. One day, a client asked me if I could “help” manage a website design revamp. “Sure!”, I said, leaping at the opportunity, thinking that I could just wing it. Yeah, right.

As you might have suspected from reading the title, I screwed up. Big time. These were the dumbest mistakes I made as a rookie web project manager. I did mess up, but as they say, once bitten twice shy…

Speaking on behalf of the client.

No matter how good you think you are at mind reading, you are not Yoda, and certainly not the client. Sure, the client will say, “Oh, you know me so well. I trust you to brief the designer and make all the changes.” Do not ever agree to this. At the end of the day, the client might have a vision that only they can visualise. While some clients can articulate their ideas well, some can remain on the mysterious side causing you to work by trial and error. And that will increase billable hours that the client might not be prepared to pay for. Erk.

Not have a buffer budget.

What was I even thinking? Just because the web developer tells you that it will cost $XY, it doesn’t mean that the spend will really end there. So there I was, as proud as a peacock, thinking that having gone live meant that we had also wrapped up the project. Wrong. As soon as the site had relaunched, emails started to trickle in. “We don’t like the layout”, “Can you add a new page?”, and “Can you make the layout slimmer?” I turned to my web expert and his response was, “Yeah sure, but it’ll cost you $XY+Z.” The moral of the story: Always add 15–20% on top of the initial cost as a buffer. And if you don’t end up spending that post-live, good on you.

Not tracking feedback properly.

Things were so different back then. Imagine tracking client feedback using PowerPoint.*Roll eyes*. It took ages to not only track but also organise multiple client feedback. The worst thing we had to do was to print the site onto a piece of paper, scribble the changes with red pen, and then scan and email the changes to the developer. Luckily, that was a thing of the past. Now, I just draw on the computer screen and capture the feedback digitally using Userback. I can track the feedback to see if they have been attended to, read the comments from my developer, and even prioritise them. On some larger projects, I even invite clients to draw on their screens. Easy!

Not taking a thorough brief.

“Just make the site look better.” Nope. That does not qualify as a brief. No matter how close you are to the client or how well you think you know them, insist on a thorough brief. Ask them to show you examples of sites they like and dislike. What are they hoping to achieve from the revamp? How big of a change are they expecting? Or how small? Some clients think they want a total revamp only to want things to go back to how it was.

Thinking your client is the only client.

“Oh, the whole thing will take three weeks.” If you ever hear that from a web designer or developer, or any supplier for that matter, please put a date to that. Sure, your supplier can tell you that the job will take three or four weeks. You get the contract signed, the 50% deposit paid, and then…crickets. Why? Because you didn’t lock it in — is it four weeks starting next month, four weeks after they complete six other projects in the queue, or four weeks from the day the contract is signed? The job itself might not take that long, but remember, your project is not the only project out there and an unexpected delay will make you look bad.

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