The Value of Project Communication

November 26, 2008

There's no single thing more important in my day-to-day activities than communication. In fact, I've come to realize the majority of my day is often spent communicating in a variety of ways—with clients, with my team members, or with myself—to ensure the goals of a project are being met.

When much of our work at Digett consists of palpable assets—a logo or site design, javascript or css code, re-branded copy—it can be tempting to dismiss the value of each meeting, phone call, or email as something secondary in importance. Rather, those bits of interaction are critical to keep a project moving along productively and within budget. Over time, I've realized a few gems about the various communication activities I participate in ...

Client Communication

Open and honest communication across the aisle between our team and clients is vital to achieve success. We rely heavily on clients to convey their goals for their websites during the initial discovery process. Sometimes, clients come to us seeking specific design elements or a certain functionality. Sometimes, clients are looking for increased site traffic or a higher rate of purchases in their online store. It's important that we understand what it will take for a client to consider a site successful so that we can use our expertise and web experience to work towards it.

If you don't think a feature we've proposed will adequately accomplish what you need, let us know and we'll head back to the drawing board. Don't like a design? We want to hear about it. Clients, your feedback is hugely valuable. Our goal is to provide you with a site that you love, and the best results happen when we work together.

Once we're all comfortable with a site's requirements and have design approval, we begin building. During this phase, the burden is on the project manager to keep the clients updated on the build's progress and budget. We do our best to set proper expectations early on.

Oftentimes, the level of open communication between our team and clients correlates with the completion speed and overall perceived success of a site.

Internal Communication

It's important to take the requirements and measurements of success we've gathered from clients and share them with the team.

Sometimes it can be tempting to prompt a team member to work on a task without first ensuring they are aware of the goal of the finished product. I've been guilty of this too many times. The truth is that some of our best innovations come about when every member of the production team has a say in planning and troubleshooting a site's proposed features.

Digett is able to build websites with the scope, diversity, and creativity that we do because we work on sites and contribute ideas as a team. Each of us has certain areas of expertise and when everyone is aware of the Big Picture, thanks to strong inter-team communication, often impromptu brainstorming sessions contribute brilliant solutions to projects.

The morale-boosting side effect of team contributions is that, when everyone has touched some part of a site, it increases everyone's overall pride and satisfaction with the finished product.

Self-Communication

Unfortunately, it is far too easy to forget important details. At any given time, I'm tracking a dozen or more active projects in various stages of development. It would be impossible to remember the minutiae and the milestones of every project if I wasn't writing them down. In the same way I communicate with clients or team members, it's just as important that I remind myself of all the things we've discussed.

I'm a huge advocate of maintaining a running To-Do list. I always try to get my To-Do tasks down on paper but when paper isn't readily available, I grab a sticky note, I send myself an email, I send myself a text message, or I leave myself a voicemail. You may feel foolish, at first, addressing email to yourself (dont worry, you'll get over it) but you're far more likely to remember something with that simple bit of self-communication waiting in your inbox in the morning.

First thing every work day, I write my personal task list down on paper. I make sure to note which tasks I absolutely have to complete today, which items I need to make sure others complete, and which tasks are probably okay to let go until tomorrow if I don't have time to get to them. It's become a cathartic morning ritual to write everything out and it helps prioritize my daily goals.


Every bit of communication related to a project, whether with others or through notes to myself, helps to ensure that the client and the team are on the same page, on the same timeline, and on budget. The simple act of communication alone cannot produce a website, but it sure is necessary to keep the production of one moving along.