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On Time: A Guide to Project Timelines

At the core of every project is a project timeline. It allows you to take the pulse of a project and determine if you’re on track – or if you need to pivot to be able to meet your goals.
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Congratulations! You’ve decided to build a new website and have buy-in from your stakeholders. You may have even selected a partner to help build and grow your site. Before you even begin, however, you’ll likely face a universally-posed question:

“How long is this going to take and when will my new website be live?”

This is where the Project Timeline comes into play.

At the core of every project is a project timeline. It allows you to take the pulse of a project and determine if you’re on track – or if you need to pivot to be able to meet your goals. While project timelines exist in a variety of formats, they all typically have a few things in common:

  • Start + end dates
  • Tasks (which provide details on what will be accomplished, by when, and by whom)
  • Key milestones

Having a project timeline may seem like a basic concept but it is actually one of the most important tools in preventing a project from going off the rails. With their many different players and moving parts, website design projects in particular benefit from a well-thought-out timeline. To get the most out of your project timeline:

  • Keep it collaborative.

Lean on the experts you’re hiring to provide realistic estimates for your project timeline based on their process and experience. Review to ensure you understand what is needed from your team and everyone on your end is available and able to meet those deadlines such as delivering feedback or copy. (We’ve often had clients give us deadlines for a project without fully understanding all of the steps it will take to get the project done. This will only add stress to the team and you’ll likely end up with a less than stellar result if the team feels like they need to sacrifice quality to meet an unrealistic deadline!)

  • Avoid a one-size-fits-all approach.

Your website should be an exclusive representation of your brand, and the project timeline should reflect that. It needs to factor in everything that’s distinct about the project, which means the time required for those unique tasks will likely be unique as well. 

  • Ask questions early and often.

 Since the timeline is essentially a way to communicate and track progress, speak up if any portions are unclear or confusing. Having a shared view of a gantt chart or similar tool helps keep everyone informed and on the same page.

  •  Be Realistic.

Overly optimistic timelines look great on paper, but in reality, can be demoralizing if they’re unachievable. Set your team up to succeed and ensure each task can be completed within the allotted time frame.

  •  Update Regularly.

Change is inevitable and usually happens for a good reason; be flexible! Make sure your timeline is updated regularly so it’s always accurate. Track your progress against your project milestones and adjust your deadline if necessary. 

  •  Factor in time for contingency plans.

No matter how well you plan, things will change. The best way to prevent a bump in the road from becoming a roadblock is to ensure you’ve included a buffer in your timeline from the get-go and that you communicate early and often with your team so everyone knows what to expect next.

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