10 Steps to Finishing a Website Project So Everyone’s Happy

Approaching the finish line of a web development project is an exciting time. Knowing that you’re almost done is part of the excitement, but there’s also a sort of rush you get as you tick off those last pieces before launch. As any good project manager will tell you, though, a live website is not where your project ends.

As you work on improving your business and streamlining your processes, there’s one more piece you’ll want to incorporate into your workflow—and it comes after the site has gone live. You’ve done so much planning up front, so why would you rush the close of your project without giving it as much close attention or care as the rest of the job?

In today’s article, I’m going to talk about the various ways you can wrap up a development project so you, your team, and the client all walk away satisfied. Every time.

10 Steps to Finishing a Project and Ensuring Everyone’s Happy

The last thing you want to do after wrapping up a project is say “good luck” to a client and wipe your hands clean of it and them. I can tell you from personal experience that that’s bound to get you into trouble at some point. Not only is it bad for the relationship you’ve worked hard to build with your client, but it’s also bad for your business. I’ll explain why shortly.

Wrapping up a development project should go above and beyond just checking off “I did this” and “I did that”. In fact, it’s about bringing it full circle with your client. You’ve established a relationship with them, you’ve served as their trusted developer and advisor, now you’re going to be the consummate professional and close out this project in a way that respects what you’ve created here. Oh, and it’s going to give you an opportunity to plant the seeds for future work. That couldn’t hurt, right?

Here are the 10 steps you need to build into your post-development process:

Step 1: Check Your Checklists

There’s so much that goes into web development projects that it’s easy for things to fall through the cracks. It’s really no one’s fault, it’s just what happens when you have indecisive clients, multiple project phases, and revision after revision to keep track of.

This is exactly why checklists are a web developer’s best friend. You can create the most granular of checklists to ensure that you’ve covered necessary pieces like SEO and security. You can also use checklists to cover a more expansive look at your project, like a pre-launch checklist.

The goal in using checklists is to give your over-taxed brain a rest while still being able to effectively verify that every step, every requirement, every necessary piece has been completed. This is especially important at the end of your development project (and before reaching out to the client) so you have a record that proves you met all milestones and deliverables.

In terms of storing and creating these checklists, use your task or project management software. The digital record can be made available to your team and even your client (if you want them to see it). Digitizing your checklists also means you won’t have to recreate them with each new project; simply create a template and reuse. Oh, and it’s always good to save a record of what you did in case your client comes back later claiming you didn’t fulfill part of the job specs.

Step 2: Talk to Your Team

Before you even think about reaching out to the client to let them know the project’s complete, schedule a “wrap up” meeting with your team to ensure there aren’t any loose ends. Checklists are going to do most of the work for you, but there’s always the possibility that someone forgot to update something and preemptively completed a checklist item.

Be on the safe side and have this meeting to cover your bases. It’s better to realize at the last minute that no one created a Thank You page than to receive an angry email about it because your client’s customer was dissatisfied with the response they got after filling out a form on the site.

Step 3: Predict the Future

You know that, despite your best efforts to avoid it, some clients will email you after the bill is paid because they want your “quick” help doing something to their site. Usually, they’ll hook you by sending a message like, “Oh, hey! Great job on the site! Our customers are so happy! Blah blah blah… So I was trying to figure out how to add pop-up deals, but can’t figure it out.” Don’t let flattery blind you. Your time and expertise are worth money—and they know that.

Clients who try to get free work out of you after the job is done suck. Plain and simple. But that doesn’t mean that every client who needs work done after the fact falls into that same bucket. If you can anticipate your client’s potential needs in the future, you can craft a personalized maintenance pitch as you work on finalizing their website.

Maybe you know that they’ll need help changing out the offers on their Deals page every month or that they won’t want to take care of updating the core, plugins, or themes in WordPress. If you know your client well enough and can anticipate that future need, lay it out in a pitch. If you don’t have to worry about random one-off, paid-hourly requests, you can sweeten the deal with a special offer to incentivize them to sign up for ongoing maintenance services.

Step 4: Compile the Assets

In preparation for the close of your project, you should compile all the assets that belong to your client. While chances are good they won’t know what to do with the custom Photoshop designs you created for their site or they won’t care that you gave them the source photos you purchased and used, those assets still belong to them.

Also, think about how this small action will affect the impression you leave on your clients. By packaging up all their assets in one easy-to-access zipped folder, that may be the impetus that inspires them to reach out the next time they need assistance with a new website or rebrand project.

Step 5: Leave Your Mark

Talking about leaving lasting impressions, white labeling the WordPress dashboard is another opportunity you shouldn’t miss out on. You can add your contact information to the dashboard and also leave some tutorials and helpful hints along the way. Think of it like those billionaires who do something really great for local organizations. We all know that there’s part of them that’s hoping to do some good with their charitable donation, but we also recognize that it makes for good PR, too.

Step 6: Empower Them with WordPress

WordPress can be a very dangerous tool in the wrong hands, which is why it’s important to make the WordPress admin client-proof. At the same time, you don’t want to leave your clients feeling burdened by WordPress because they have no idea what to do with it.

Schedule a brief WordPress training session with your client or someone at their company who plans to “manage” their site in the future. You don’t need to train them to be a web developer or even on how to change the settings for their site or theme. All they need—and will totally appreciate—is for you to help them get their bearings. “Over here is your dashboard. See where I left my contact information? And over here is where you can create new content for your blog.”

Fifteen minutes and then you’re done.

Step 7: Host a Closing Call

At the end of every project, no matter how good or bad it went, you should have a closing call with your client; ideally, as a video call or, the very least, with screen sharing. You can use this opportunity to walk them through their new site, showing them all the cool stuff you’ve done with it. You can also take this time to solicit feedback from them on the process, the results, and anything else they feel would be helpful for you to know as you work with other clients.

At the end of your call, inform them that you’ve gathered up their assets and will hand them over once the project is officially closed. Let them know that you’ve drawn up an official project approval notice and ask that they sign it so you can close the contract and provide a receipt for services rendered. This also ensures that if they try to ask for free help later on that you can point back to the closed project receipt.

One thing to remember here: this isn’t the time to try to sell them on more services. Simply let them know that you’ve created a maintenance proposal in case they do find that they need help in the future. If they’re open to discussions now, great. If not, then at least you’ve planted the seed.

Step 8: Conduct a Post Mortem

Whether you have a team that worked with you on this project or you ran the job solo, you should conduct an internal “post mortem”. This will give you a chance to review the project from start to finish, along with the client’s feedback, so you can identify what went well and what didn’t. By identifying the successes and failures and what led to each, you can better prepare your operation for future projects.

Step 9: Stay in Touch

It’s best to let the dust to settle a bit before you reach out to your client about future projects or maintenance work. That doesn’t mean you can’t add them to your mailing list or follow them on social media now though to ensure those lines of communication remain open. In fact, the sooner you can open those lines the better. That way, it won’t appear that you’re reaching out solely to pitch them more work.

Also, put a reminder on your calendar to follow-up with them at a later date, maybe three months to six down the road if you haven’t heard from them. At that time, you can let them know you were thinking of them, wanted to see how things were going with the site, and then hope they’ll need assistance then.

Step 10: Officially Close up Shop

Alright, you’ve done all that you need to do. Woohoo! Time to archive that project folder—along with a copy of all the communications, assets, and contracts related to the development project.

Then it’s party time.

Wrapping Up

The end of a web development project is always an exciting time. You have a new check to cash, a new website to add to your portfolio, and potentially a new WordPress maintenance client to add to your roster. There are a lot of positives that come out of finishing a development project.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the time to look back over everything that happened and accurately assess whether or not it was good for your client, your business, and your team. If you’re in the business of providing a service like web development, you should always be focused on “How Can I Do Better?”—and the end of a project provides the perfect opportunity to identify those areas for improvement.

Brenda Barron
Over to you: What’s your post-project celebration ritual?