Even in the midst of the shift to remote work, we’ve helped launch a collection of new sites this summer. Website projects require thoughtful cross-team collaboration and detailed project management techniques to keep them running smoothly, while also providing the space for creative exploration and discovery. That has proven to be even more important without in-person time with colleagues or clients.
Listed below are some of the foundational project management tools we put to the test and the platform projects we helped launch this year.
Adjusting to the new normal
Most of our platform projects started prior to the pandemic, and moving to fully remote has forced us to adapt the meetings and in-person work we took for granted. It’s also pushed us to rely more heavily on project management tools that increase transparency, manage risks, and better collaborate with teams to drive real results.
Here are some of our best practices:
Keep open communication
For easy, anytime collaboration with internal and client teams we rely heavily on shared collaboration spaces, like Google Docs and Slack. We have shared Slack channels with external partners to get real time feedback and have found that sharing work-in-progress deliverables has helped get faster alignment across teams and requires fewer meetings with clients. These channels became invaluable during our rapid response work for Planned Parenthood — when we needed constant communication and approval from our clients. The best part? Shared channels allow all team members to be a part of the conversation and feedback.
Make the most of your meetings
There’s certainly been an uptick in the number of virtual meetings being scheduled across projects and teams. It’s more important than ever to ensure meeting times are kept to a minimum — by utilizing Google Calendar’s “speedy meeting” feature, minimizing 30 minute meetings to 25 and 60 minute to 50, when appropriate — and always making sure a clear agenda and roles for participants have been set beforehand.
We’ve utilized an array of Zoom features in larger meetings so clients can provide feedback in a unified way — like the “stack” protocol, which gives space for everyone to be heard in an organized and facilitated fashion, as well as the Zoom chat, so participants can easily communicate during a presentation or jot down notes so they aren’t forgotten.
We’ve also been relying more heavily on two to three person Zoom working sessions. This way, a UX and visual designer can work through a particularly tricky section of a site together, or developers can get real time feedback from a designer on a feature they’re building. We all miss those “I’ll just pop by your desk” meetings, but these have certainly helped fill that gap.
Having a project home where all meeting notes, email drafts, deliverables, and the project brief are compiled into one collective space creates a more efficient onboarding process. This “one-stop shop” makes it easy to search through past conversations and collaborate on drafting communications in Google Docs or Confluence — it’s especially useful if your team works off hours when not everyone is online at the same time.
Make adjustments in real time
At Blue State, we conduct bi-weekly retrospectives internally as well as with our partners at the end of each sprint. We cover three areas: Continue things we want to continue doing, Start activities we want to start doing, and Stop aspects we acknowledge as areas where we want to pivot. We’ve found these continuous and open dialogues help us make necessary adjustments — earlier rather than later — and give space for people to voice any concerns.
Create inclusive partnerships
Working Agreements are something we established across Blue State last year. These are a set of values and expectations to guide how we work internally, but also how we strive to engage with our clients. They help us pay closer attention to our own behaviors so that we’re upholding a truly equitable and inclusive working culture. These have become even more critical in our remote world to ensure all team members and clients feel heard and valued during virtual meetings.
2020 website launches
Partner: The University of Bath’s Tobacco Control Research Group is a leading partner of STOP (Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products). A global tobacco industry watchdog, it works to combat damaging efforts made by the tobacco industry.
Challenge: Migrate existing content into a new wiki framework implemented in WordPress to build better engagement and collaboration tools. In turn, this would help expose the wrongdoings of the tobacco industry.
Result: A utility-focused, authoritative design of resources that present a clean visual identity, adaptable for future evolution.
Partner: Originally created to support communities rebuilding after World War II, CARE has expanded its poverty-fighting work to help 70 million people each year across 100 countries. They tackle poverty from multiple angles and through a federation of offices and partnerships.
Challenge: Elevate how content on their parent site was presented and build a platform that drives more donations.
Result: Together, we helped create a modular design framework with a high-impact visual identity that makes CMS management more intuitive and flexible for users and internal staff alike.
Partner: For over 100 years, The Trustees has worked to preserve, for public use and enjoyment, properties of exceptional scenic, historic, and ecological value in Massachusetts. They do this for over 100 properties across 25,000 acres of land within the state.
Challenge: Over the last 5 years, The Trustees has seen dramatic growth, but hasn’t been effective in marrying their vast offline presence with its online offerings. The Trustees needed to modernize their digital platform to drive offline engagement, grow membership, and more adequately showcase their collection of diverse properties.
Result: A new and immersive digital experience that brings their properties and cultural institutions to life and streamlines the supporter journey. Now, users have a clear path to what they need while also providing multiple ways of exploring all the offerings of The Trustees.
Partner: Planned Parenthood is committed to delivering vital reproductive health care, sex education, and information to millions of individuals worldwide. They have been providing care and advocating for reproductive rights since 1916.
Challenge: As the elections approach, Planned Parenthood knew that the fight for women’s rights would only get more difficult as the space got more crowded. They wanted to drive attention, mobilize, and scale their advocates to raise awareness around the impacts of the government’s COVID-19 response on women and vulnerable communities.
Result: Two rapid response sites to address real time moments for women across the country: The first, a coalition effort with 60+ other organizations focused on women’s rights, called We Demand More, to directly address the lack of resources made available to women in the COVID-19 relief package from Congress. The second, Crisis in the Courts, addressed head on the work the current administration has done to stack the courts with extreme right-wing judges that will serve for life.
Want to learn more about how we’re working remotely, or just want to chat? Reach out.