This is a neat little book on project management, which is ideal reading for web professionals acting as part-time project managers who don’t have time to read weightier tomes on the topic. As the title suggests, it contains 97 two-page essays from practitioners which are generally written in an engaging anecdotal style. It includes a useful index of tips by topic and quick explanations of project and technical terms at the bottom of pages, making it very accessible for newcomers to the subject. The focus is on IT projects in general, but lots of the tips are relevant to web-related projects.
Among the more useful areas covered for web project management are:
- An emphasis in several contributions on agile project development, involving frequent interaction with clients to evaluate features as they’re created.
- Reflections on the inevitability of scope change after requirements have been finalized and ways to deal with this. A good tip is provided on planning possible scope reductions from the beginning of a project in a controlled way by grading requirements according to their business value and the degree that they have dependencies for other requirements. The nice-to-haves with no dependencies are the obvious candidates for culling if necessary later on.
- Encouraging simple solutions over complex ones – including in code development.
- Finding alternatives to long pointless meetings – frequent instant ‘standup’ meetings are recommended by several contributors.
97 Things Every Project Manager Should Know: Collective Wisdom from the Experts is edited by Barbee Davis and published by O’Reilly.
Free ebooks for web project management
I’ve noticed that Internet.com has some interesting ebooks on project management available which just require free registration with their site to download.
One of the most useful of these from a web project perspective is Best Practices for Developing a Web Site by Paul Chin. This is written for business users, but has material which may be useful for designers to help them better present web development concepts to clients.
The book includes sections on developing a web site strategy, defining the concept for your site, the pros & cons of building in-house vs. outsourcing and guidance for finding a web site host. It also has useful checklists for defining web site anatomy and for evaluating web site designers, web site hosts and domain name registrars.
Developing a Content Management System Strategy is another free Internet.com ebook by the same author. It’s got a good emphasis on the cultural factors which impact on CMS deployment and a discussion of reasons you may consider open source or commercial CMS software. There’s also a simple checklist for evaluating CMS tools.
There are also some general project management books on Internet.com which may be of interest, including Becoming a Better Project Manager and In Search of the Holy Grail for Projects.
I wrote a post last year which presented a selection of free resources for web project requirements gathering.
The process of requirements gathering can be difficult at times, but is obviously essential if you want to build a solid foundation for your web project. Below are some free resources which will hopefully improve your ability to define requirements effectively, whether for your own sites or when helping clients to formulate their needs.
Articles and podcasts
A good article to start with is Requirements Gathering Essentials by Martin Bauer. It emphasises the need to think through a project properly before starting, but sensibly advises that there is no “right” method for all projects. “Instead, it prepares you to formulate your own, customised requirements gathering procedure by explaining the key issues you should consider.”
There are a couple of nice discussions about requirements available on Boagworld.com which are also great for newcomers to the topic. Show 23 has a segment on “scoping your web project” and Show 102 includes Marcus Lillington talking about requirements capture.
Identifying Website Requirements by Kathryn Summers & Michael Summers is a useful long article on getting requirements and understanding your clients’ perspective.
Content? Or Dis-content by Garth A. Buchholz looks at the important topic of properly planning content requirements.
Dealing with clients is an art unto itself. See 20 Ways to Keep Clients Coming Back For More by Akash Mehta for some ideas about this. Interviewing abilities and meeting management skills will also help. Amplifying your Effectiveness has an article on “Building a requirements foundation through customer interviews”, which isn’t specifically about website requirements but has a lot of good general advice about questioning clients. From a more focused designer perspective, Rookie Designer has a podcast segment on controlling a meeting which you may also find useful.
Checklists and standards
Hobo’s website design & development project checklist is a useful list of “what things a web designer should make clear to their client and get agreements on when developing any website”, including things which can be overlooked, like planning for training and updates for a CMS if one is being used.
Out-law.com’s web design checklist is written from a UK legal viewpoint for people commissioning a website, but could also be useful for designers.
Michael Cordova has written a comprehensive web design checklist which can be given to clients.
For scoping accessibility requirements, the PAS 78 standard is available for free. Obviously you should also refer to the WCAG accessibility checklist.
Examples of questions and forms for clients
You can download an example client survey for a website redesign from the site for the book “Web ReDesign 2.0: Workflow that works”, along with plenty of other useful stuff. The book itself is great, but obviously it’s aimed at redesigns rather than sites which are being build from scratch.
You can also look at web design agencies’ sites to get some ideas from how other people capture requirements from clients. Below are some companies who publish requirements-gathering material on their websites.
Obviously this isn’t an exhaustive list. Please comment if you want to add any links to resources which you’ve found particularly useful.
Free ebooks for web project management