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At a minimum, you and your client are building this website together. You may also have subcontractors or partners involved in the process. Who is doing what? When does it need to be done so that you can hit that launch date? When is the launch date, anyway? How do you keep track of all this stuff? First of all, what is the launch date? It's a very good conversation to have with your client right up front. Is that tied to a specific event? Frequently, website launches will be tied to a product release, or a trade show, a mailing, or some other big event.
It doesn't have to be tied to a big event like that though. But if you do have a major trade show that's coming up for your client, you absolutely want to make sure that the website is out by then. So what you'll do is you will work backwards from that launch date with time estimates of each deliverable to develop those milestones. So for example, let's say that the site launches three months from today. That means that the site needs about a week to have sign off to make sure that your client has approved it. Then we'll need to make sure that we have some time to debug it.
That'll take about two weeks. Custom Template Generation and the CMS configuration work will take about six weeks. Graphic Design is going to take about two weeks and our strategy work will take about a week. That's 12 weeks total. The proposal should spell out what the client provides and what you are delivering. Give your client drop-dead dates for delivering things like content. Make it very clear that if they don't deliver on time, what impact that will have on final delivery of the website.
In the above case, the client must deliver content one month from today. Late content will push the launch date out. You can always look like a hero later if you want. Look, I got your content in place anyway. Hurray! But never promise to deliver on the original date if the client delivers their pieces late. You'll also want to stay on top of your subcontractors and make sure they are delivering on time. In order to communicate milestones, some project managers like Microsoft Project or they'll use Open Source Project Management tools.
Some people like Basecamp, and there are many, many other options that are out there. Personally, I like to keep my project management tools very, very simple. I just like to use Google Docs, which makes sharing a spreadsheet very, very easy and I can communicate delivery dates effectively to my client and my subcontractors. For Hansel and Petal, I'm going to give delivery dates to my graphic designer, my photographer, and my writer. I also need to make it very clear to Kirk Hansel that he needs to make sure he delivers all of his pieces on time.
Otherwise, we might miss our launch date. Clear communication is vital to making these milestones go. So talk to your client, send them an e-mail with the dates in it, and then send them a link to the spreadsheet. This will make it very, very clear what all of the dates are that they need to deliver pieces of the website. Regardless of what tool you use to communicate milestones and deadlines to your client and your subcontractors, make sure that you communicate clearly all of the dates so that all of the materials come to you on time, so that you can get your website out and launched in time for that very important trade show or product release.
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