When you are a web designer, you might feel that there is no real need for web design project management software.
Truth is, however, web design clients and work need to be managed – otherwise, they’re prone to failure, delays, or lack of profitability. They suffer from the same risks as all other types of work. When website design is your livelihood, you can’t afford to run the risk of mismanagement of your web design projects.
However, the reality is this – most project management software is not built for designers. In reality, what happens is that, either the software you are using is too open, or else it is too complicated.
When it’s too complicated, you end up spending more time struggling with the software. When it’s open, there is no added-value for you as a web designer.
So what should a designer do?
We’ve had a look around to find the best web design project management software for designers.
But before we actually go through a list of the services we would recommend, we’re going to go through what you need to consider before you make a selection.
Project Management Software Finder
If you’re short on time, you might want to look at the below.
We partnered with Crozdesk to give you access to the project management software finder. Just run through the steps below (should take less than a minute) and they will send you a shortlist of the best project management software products that fit your business.
Your search is over!
Wrike – project management for web designers.
Let me tell you a quick story before we continue with this article. When our parent company, the digital agency Switch was setting itself up, like many others before us, we started looking for a service that caters to web designers, agencies, and creatives like us.
We scoured the internet. We asked our peers. We visited websites and forums, Facebook groups, and everywhere else people were willing to listen to our question.
“Is there any good website design project management software?”
The answer was dismal. Yes, there is PM software. But no, it’s not specifically for website design.
We were both dejected and amazed that nobody had catered for such a large niche of users.
Eventually, we stumbled on Wrike and never looked back!
But before we dig into the actual details, how do web design activities fail?
5 Reasons Why You Need Web Design Project Management Software
Truth be told – many website proposals fail. Quite a lot of our work at Switch consists of cleaning up the mess left behind when other web designers started a piece of work and failed. Let’s go through some of the reasons why web design proposals fail and why you should invest in website design project management software.
1. Scope creep
So let’s just say, as a freelancer or small agency, you make a pitch for a website. You set up a quick meeting, a good pitch and pretty much you soon find yourself hired for the job. You’re of course quite thrilled.
You send out a quote, negotiate a bit, and soon you find yourself hired. Woop! Woop!
So the first thing you want to do when you start the work activity is to create a list of the exact things you need to get done up to and including launch.
(Incidentally, we’ve created an awesome list of questions to ask – a website client questionnaire – 70 questions to ask your client before you start).
But suddenly, your client starts to dream up all sorts of functionality which was never mentioned when you sent the quote.
These weren’t part of the quote. Now were they part of the specifications!
Even worse, those clients who start extending the scope of functionality when you are nearing completion, always postponing the payment to when we finish “just this one little thing more”.
That’s why filling the web design questionnaire above is a MUST! And the set up of a web design contract which lists ALL the deliverables.
2. Insufficient communication
Communication breakdown is one of the biggest stumbling blocks that any team can encounter. Web design work is not immune to this kind of failure.
Whether this communication breakdown is with the client, with your fellow teammates, with other freelancers you are working with, with offshore developers or designers, or anybody else involved in the work activity. The biggest killer, of course, is insufficient communication with the client.
Another example we’ve experienced is this: we had asked our client “Which multi-purpose WordPress theme do you want? Divi or Avada? They’re both great, but it’s a crucial decision.” They opted for Divi. 70% done, the site had been nearly done, they came back to us, “You know what – I’d like to go with Avada, I think it’s better suited for my website”. Facepalm!
Incidentally, on the BeeWits blog, we’ve created a very long-list of Divi theme examples.
Your project management software of choice for your web design work should enable better and easier communication.
Specifically, we feel, since your client is paying the bills, the most important communication has to happen with your client.
But how do you actually involve your client in the feedback loop, whilst also not giving them access to all of your tasks, content, (and heaven forbid), known bugs? A good web design project management software will be able to keep your client in sync with the work progress.
We’ll show you a solution to great client communication later on in this article.
3. Uncontrolled developers
Following up with our communication breakdown problems, we must say that most website design work will involve a level of development. Of course, developers and designers are known to have quite a few differences in the way that they understand things.
Clear communication, clear tasks, clear goals, clear outputs, you need to make sure that your developers are in your control.
Besides actual specifications, there are problems such as deadlines not kept, low-quality code or results.
Your developers can be both the reason for success and the reason for the failure of your work activities.
Your choice of web design project management software should be able to take into consideration how you will be dealing with your developers, with things such as notifications and reminders built-in.
4. Incomplete functionality or lack of Quality Assurance
At the beginning of this article, we mentioned one of the problems being scope creep. Now, whilst doing things that are out of scope may kill your profitability, there is another thing that might kill your work: lack of completion of all tasks and incorrectly implemented functions and features.
Let’s start with the first. Any website, irrespective of scope, is going to require a number of things that should be implemented, without the client have had to ask for them. Simply put, your client will not even know these are basic functions of a website, and it is your responsibility to put them in place.
In fact, we’ve actually created another website checklist – this is a list of all of the tasks you’ll probably have to do for your next website design activity. As a very simple example of these tasks, you need to make sure that images used are optimized for the web.
Once the tasks are done, you also need to make sure that the functions are working well. For example, you need to make sure that links have not broken when setting your website live, forms are sending data to the correct email addresses, spelling and grammar are spot-on and there are relevant CTAs in each page as necessary.
A good web design project management software will be able to guide you towards making sure all of the necessary functions have been implemented and thoroughly tested.
5. Not enough visibility into work
Whilst many times, projects can fail due to circumstances which we might not have anticipated, sometimes, it’s the lack of planning which is actually to blame.
Of course – this is not something which we do intentionally. We don’t plan to mismanage your work. In reality, if you don’t have a good bird’s eye view of the situation of each and every task, you’re going to have trouble planning your work.
That’s why web design project management software is essential – because it allows you to have a good look at the “state” of your tasks and workload. You’ll be able to see what’s done, what’s left, and whether or when you can decide to slot in other work.
What benefits (as opposed to features) should your web design project management software have?
1. Cloud-based vs on-premise
Gone are the days when you had to manage your own software. We are in the age of SaaS or Cloud-based software.
We won’t go into too many details of SaaS benefits, it’s been proven over and over again. More and more small businesses are adopting SaaS-based software services.
Local deployments have simply become the technology of the past. Your software should be completely cloud-based because you have more important things to do than managing the software itself!
2. Focused on web design
When you are expecting to depend on your web design project management tool for the daily running of your business, you should make sure that the software has been built for designers.
This is because if you opt for generic PM tools (such as Basecamp or Trello) you have to make some compromise – you’re going to have to work around the software and configure it suit your needs.
On the other hand, something which has been built for and around website design is going to hit the spot every time.
For example, with BeeWits, you can take a website checklist and get it right into your list of tasks. You can just pick and mix from all of the checklists we’ve made available as preset task templates, such as the WordPress checklist, the SEO checklist, the website review checklist, the website client questionnaire, and so many others.
Recommendation: If you want your choice to perfectly suit your needs, you should go for a service which caters specifically to the needs of your niche.
3. The web design project management software addresses your pain points
Pain points – they’re the reason you need a PM tool right?
Maybe you don’t have enough visibility into work progress, right? Maybe you’re not sure who is doing what? Or maybe you’re not sure if all of the tasks you need to do are in place? Or maybe your content, files, resources, copy, images are scattered all over the place? Maybe you’re having a hard time keeping the client in sync with progress?
Your web design PM software needs to address your pain points. You don’t need lots of funky features. You don’t need a snazzy interface (you just need to make sure it’s dead simple to use).
What you really need is something that addresses your pain points.
The best way to resolve this is to brainstorm all the problems you are facing. The person who then is researching the tool should make sure that the web design project management software of choice addresses the pain points highlighted by the eventual users.
Incidentally, we’re a digital/design agency, we’ve experienced these pain points before we built a solution for them.
4. Cost which you can afford
Most project management software tools these days are unfortunately tailored towards squeezing every possible penny out of you.
There is no clearer example of this than user-based pricing. This means, that as the number of users increases, so do your costs.
This you think, maybe the most logical way of charging for services right, but this is highly skewed in favor of the SaaS software providers.
On the other hand, modern SaaS software services are going for a very different approach. You are charged based on a per-account basis, and you’re only charged by the number of current activities you are running.
This approach is very attractive to small to medium-sized businesses, where they are not “penalized” when new users start using the web design project management software. If you have teams of users that are likely to change between one work activity and the next, user-based pricing may not be ideal for you, because at any point in time a number of your users will be idle (and you’re charged for them regardless).
Incidentally, at BeeWits, we only charge on a per-account basis – you get as many users as you need at any point. That also includes access to the client (should you choose to provide access).
5. Simple to use
The problem with most project management software tools is this: they are much too complex for everyday use.
In essence, much of the larger PM tools have been developed for the management of large teams, with long development and project cycles.
For example, construction work, large software development projects, production, and design of buildings. Most of these kinds of activities have complex resourcing requirements, many dependencies, and need a highly complex and configurable tool to manage things.
Now, if you wanted to crack a walnut, you might opt to use a sledgehammer, but clearly, a nutcracker will do a much better job.
Same goes for your web design project management software – why should you use a sledgehammer on your (smallish) activities, when there are much more suitable tools.
If you are a freelancer or a small website design, digital and/or creative team, you need a tool that is simpler to use.
BeeWits has been designed with freelancers and small digital agencies in mind. Not complex resourcing, no Gantt charts, no strict dependencies and fancy features. Simple, gets the job done.
To use a cliche, built by web designers, for web designers.
To use another cliche, it’s project management software for people who are not project managers.
With that bit of a (somewhat) lengthy intro, let’s go onto our choice of web design project management software.
Wrike has long been regarded as a top provider of online project management tools. It’s been growing in popularity and has been marketed quite aggressively over the last few years, thanks to a number of funding rounds it’s been getting.
Quite an open and configurable project management tool, which however does not have website design as its primary aim. Can you get it to function as web design project management software? For sure. Is it configured and designed to do this. Not really.
Yet, we have to start such a list by mentioning one of the biggest players in this niche, which comes highly recommended by plenty of people.
BeeWits has reviewed this tool extensively here.
BaseCamp, currently on v3 has been going through a series of redesigns focused on usability after getting very serious competition from the likes of Trello and Asana (another two project management software tools which can be applied to website design work)
The current version has taken much from the likes of Trello, using “boards” to store the tasks and files as necessary.
Is BaseCamp strictly for web designers? No. But for sure, if you just want to work with a blank slate, BaseCamp is a good way to manage your projects.
BaseCamp is available at $99/month with unlimited users.
3. Trello – a different way of managing projects
Founded by Joel Spolsky, CEO of StackExchange, and Michael Pryor, Trello is termed a visual project management tool.
There are two types of people. Those who like the way that Trello works and those who absolutely hate it.
Incidentally, if you’re not sure whether you like Trello or our next suggestion Asana, you might want to have a look at our showdown – Trello vs Asana – which is the best project management app? (2020))
This is going to be a bit unfortunate if you plan to use Trello in a team because you’re going to get quite some resistance from those who hate it.
If you can live with that, Trello has an innovative way of managing work. Again, this is NOT for web designers, but for sure, it can be something that can work for website design projects, since it is very open.
Evidence that Trello is a love it or hate kind of software is the minimal amount of funding it’s been getting – the growth it’s experienced is thanks to its different way of doing things.
4. Asana – track work for teams
Asana, powered by a couple of former Facebook employees (Dustin Moskovitz and Justin Rosnestein) is a nice tool for managing work. Again, though this is quite generic in nature, and you’ll have to organize your work around the tool since it is not primarily aimed as a web design project management software.
It’s been receiving quite a few rounds of funding, hence its growth in popularity and why it’s been making quite a lot of rounds lately.
5. Jira – project tracking for software teams
Jira is one of the more popular work-tracking software for software development teams. From our feedback when we visited WebSummit, people love to hate Jira, yet for software teams, this has been the first (and many times – the only) option they encounter.
Although software developers and web designers have a few things in common, many times their needs do not fully overlap. In fact, any software aimed at software development teams is going to be overkill most times for designers.
Still, Jira has quite a few good features for software teams, which can be hammered into place and be also used as web design project management software. Not our first choice, if you had to ask us to make a choice, but not a bad choice.
So we’re finally in the realm of webdesign project management software which yes, is specifically targeted for building websites.
JumpChart is specifically about planning websites as they are being built. So much so, that it also includes a “mockup” kind of tool built-in. Besides the ability to store content, sources, and resources as necessary, with JumpChart you can also actually mock-up the pages of the website you will be writing.
Whilst JumpChart is great for planning content of the website, we feel it misses the mark when it comes to tracking all of the work which needs to be done to complete a site from start to finish. In essence, a site has plenty of tasks that need to get done – JumpChart does not help you track any of the progress of work that needs to be done.
7. Zoho Projects
Zoho has developed quite a few tools around the PM industry. Besides Zoho Projects, which is targeted toward management, there is also Zoho CRM, Zoho Books for small business accounting and plenty of other apps designed for small businesses.
What Zoho does is try to remove the complexity from these pieces of software, which are typically aimed at larger sized businesses.
Just like many of the above tools, Zoho can fit really nicely, however, there are few if any web design project management software specific functions. As a web designer, you’ll have to look at setting all of this up from scratch for each webdesign activity you undertake.
8. RedPen – collaborative design
Ok, so this is another tool that can surely fall under the web design project management software niche. In reality, this is a great tool for anywhere creatives are working together on designs, but are possibly in several remote locations.
RedPen actually allows you to collaborate on a specific design, with comments and annotations on the design itself. Of course, designing a website is something that requires plenty of collaboration on the designs. Whether it’s the designers with the developers, the project manager with the client, or the designers between them, there is plenty of room for collaboration on the actual designs.
RedPen does exactly this – and it’s a pretty great tool for doing that. It’ also priced very simply, starting at $20/month for 5 projects, with unlimited users.
Honorable mention: Launchlist.net
Launchlist was until its premature demise, Launchlist was one of very few specific web design project management tools. In essence, Launchlist was exactly a whole list of all of the tasks you need to get done to launch a website. Unfortunately, the service has recently stopped accepting customers and is now closing down.
Wrapping Up – Project Management Software
As you can see there are quite a lot of good options when it comes to software to manage your projects and your business. If you’re too busy to check them all out, we partnered with Crozdesk to give you access to the project management software finder. Just run through the steps below (should take less than a minute) and they will send you a shortlist of the best project management software products that fit your business.
Great list of tools, I came across your blog, and here I found the most valuable information about project management software tools. Thanks for sharing this information.
It would track our various projects, integrate with time management software (like Harvest), permit us to generate invoices to clients, permit my team members and vendors to track their time and generate invoices to me, and integrate with Quickbooks Online. It should be cloud based, so we can track time in real time. It should permit us to budget time for each project and track budget to actual time incurred. Our projects are fairly basic. Some of the project management solutions are complicated and difficult to learn. We need something fairly basic, with the features noted above. We are currently looking at Basecamp, integrated with Harvest but want to know if there are simpler options. We would want our vendor team to enter their time using whatever timekeeping solution we select.