How to be the best digital PM evar?
January 13, 2012 6:49 AM   Subscribe

How do you moderate a beautiful kick-off meeting for a website redesign project? What questions do I ask our prospective client?

A prospective client is coming in so our company can redo their small organizations website, and I'll be sitting in a half-pitch, half-kick off meeting with him and our web designer. I imagine it's going be me asking a ton of questions about his current site and his organization but what are the most important questions to ask?

I have never moderated one of these conversations before but my company needs me to step in and do it because our interactive project manager has left us.

I have a light understanding of HTML and some of the languages (not fluent in any of them), I know what a CMS is but I couldn't tell you the differences between them (our company always used DNN, but we have also used Drupal before for our clients). I don't even know if he wants a CMS. I don't know a lot of stuff.

I guess I'm going to need to BS my way through this one today and am looking for any help on how to be an awesome, non-idiotic, non-annoying and intuitive website project manager who orchestrates amazing kick-off meetings...and then proceeds to be an awesome PM?
posted by windbox to Work & Money (8 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Don't ask them what they want at first, ask them what problems they have to solve. That should get everything started. Functionality conversations come next. Just dig deep and try to find out how they feel about the issues.
posted by Pants! at 7:02 AM on January 13, 2012

Helping the client define his audience will be huge. Many people, even folks with existing websites, don't think about what their site is for. What are they trying to achieve with the site? Just to get their phone number and location out there? Change people's minds about an issue? Are they selling stuff? Who are they trying to reach? What image are they trying to convey? I recently helped my wife design her site, and these were bit things that she, an internet-savvy, deep-thinking, empathetic person, had never really thought about.

What are they trying to do with the site?
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:04 AM on January 13, 2012

I think the important thing right off the bat is to listen. Too many times I've seen companies try to sell their services and fit the customer's needs around their capabilities. So get really high level with them: What do they like about their website? What do they not like? Is the redesign part of a rebranding? What are they trying to accomplish as a company?

I'd also look for hints that there may be more than just a redesign. How is their information architecture? Are they looking to add new content, new sections of the website? Any new applications or interactive features? Focus on their business goals, but you'll hear buzzwords like "new product offerings" and "more user-friendly" that signal additional work such as usability testing and app dev.

As for a CMS, see how often they update content and whether a lot of staff will be involved in content management. The more dynamic/larger the site, the more likely it is that they'll need a CMS. Drupal is ideal, or even Wordpress if it's a small site.
posted by adverb at 7:05 AM on January 13, 2012

Questions that might be useful to ask:

* What is your intended launch date for the new site? Are there any outside considerations that might affect the schedule (for example, PR launch, trade show, annual report)?

* Do you have a specific budget range already established for this project? Can this project be divided into phases to accommodate budget and timing constraints?

* What specific areas of your current site do you feel are successful? Why are they successful?

* What shortcomings exist with the current site, and what three things would you change on the site today if you could?

* What are the main reasons you are redesigning your site (new business model, outdated site, expanded services, different audience)?

* What are your primary online business objectives with the site redesign?

* Describe a typical site visitor. How often are they online, and what do they generally use the web for? Give basic demographics: age, occupation, income level, purchasing habits. (Use as much detail as possible in profiling your target user. Profile more than one type if appropriate.)

* What is the primary "action" the site visitor should take when coming to your site (make a purchase, become a member, search for information, contact you)?

* How does your company differentiate itself from competitors? Do you think your current audience differentiates you from your competition? Get competitor URLs.

From there you should get the answer to a lot of other questions.
posted by backwards guitar at 7:06 AM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah, like everyone is saying: this is all about values values values.

• What's most important to the organization as a whole, apart from the web?

• What do they want to communicate to the outside world?

• How aspirational do they want to be in an ongoing website? Do they want to be a thought leader? Do they want to be quiet and just "there"? What are their devoted resources to going forward? Who is their web team? Is it one person part-time? Is it everyone?

Etc. Pull waaayyy the hell back. Recommendations come later.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 7:08 AM on January 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

I recommend reading the Happy Cog Site Planner word doc:
What does your organization do? Why does it matter?

What are some of the fundamental issues you’re trying to improve or business problems you’re trying to solve with a site redesign? Or, if this is a new site, what’s its purpose?

What differentiates your site or idea from the competition?

Who on your end will guide this project to completion?

Who will be responsible for maintaining the site after launch?
posted by Jairus at 7:12 AM on January 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

UX teams at my agency have had great luck with Innovation Games and Gamestorming techniques.
posted by Lieber Frau at 8:11 AM on January 13, 2012

Some general advice.

Do they have a need and do they have a budget?

It's really important to listen. I agree with discovering what problems they might have. Avoid technicalities and listen and write notes. Ask for examples of what they like. Other sites that they wish to emulate.

Take on board questions you don't feel comfortable answering, no one minds "I'll have to get back to you on that" rather than being caught out with bullshit.

It's OK to ask about budget - but when they ask you for a price just tell them that you will need to evaluate their requirements and get back to them - do so ASAP and try top break the price up into components you both understand.

Make sure you cover all their requirements in your quotation. Be aware that to achieve their goals their may be tasks or componentry that isn't immediately obvious - Reporting is a good example. They want PDFs? This might require some specialist software. The want graphs in their reports?

Be aware that that functionality can be like an iceberg. Things might look simple on the surface but can be quite complex to deliver - like changing a CMS template or introducing a custom workflow,

Round up pricing - don't make a line item $578.20 Make it $580 or $600.

Good luck
posted by the noob at 4:36 PM on January 13, 2012

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