Managing a Web Design Agency with Hosted Software

John Reeve | July 16th, 2008 |

Being a small group of creatives tackling the day-to-day demands of running a web design agency requires a versatile and agile approach to project management. The responsibilities of the principals are inevitably fragmented, from keeping computers online to art directing multiple web site launches. At Pelago, we’ve pushed enough projects out into the great wide web to have a thorough understanding of managing the process. And distilling our process into a hosted project management service enabled us to perfect it. Here are some things to consider when evaluating web-based software to manage your workflow.

Task Management

Task ManagementIn order to quickly churn out site maps, design comps, and finally, web sites, a project needs to be managed on the task level. Tasks enable us to break down a project into smaller components so we always have something to work on, keeping the project moving forward. Having abandoned traditional waterfall methodologies due to their overly linear nature, working within tasks enables us to work on multiple pieces of the site at once. For example, we can be tossing around ideas on the design while the framework for the code is being set up. We implemented a task listing based on traditional issue / bug tracking systems, giving each task an assignee, status and severity to prioritize our efforts and distribute ownership of the project across our design team.

Time Tracking

Time TrackingAny type of design agency that bills for its time or is dependent on freelancers will require time tracking. And by tracking time at the task level, a project manager can learn how much time to estimate for similar tasks in the future. Consistently recording your time builds up an invaluable archive useful for billing clients, estimating future projects, and running reports to see where your time is going. Additionally, the more disciplined your team becomes in accounting for their daily work, the more your billable hours will increase. We built web-based timers to track our design and development time when working on tasks, and improved our billable time by 30%.

Lightweight Project Management

Project ManagementTime tracking and task management are not enough on their own. Some type of lightweight project management is required to tie it all together. Project management can take on many forms, so we coupled together the features we needed to complete our projects. For Pelago, we needed to not only track our work, we needed to meet deadlines, keep projects under budget, and bill clients. To manage these additional project needs, we developed document sharing, payment and expense tracking, financial reports, and invoicing capabilities. It is ideal to utilize hosted software that facilitates the tangential and financial aspects of a project as much as it does getting things done, forming an all seeing eye into the health of each project.

These peripheral-type project features are the gritty details that define our workflow. Most design agencies have some process for managing tasks, and maybe even a time tracking application for billing clients. When evaluating hosted software to manage projects it is necessary to consider how it will integrate with the methodologies already in place, or in the absence of a solid process, how will it define our methodologies. A comprehensive online application is ideal for getting it all done in one place, so we can take a break from being the “IT guy” or the “HR Director” and place our focus where it should be, on the creative side of our web design business .

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6 Responses to “Managing a Web Design Agency with Hosted Software”

  1. Website Promotions says:

    Your article is much more informatics for all of the visitor. I am very happy to read it. This is really very nice. Thank you for it.

  2. Payel says:


    Good post! Really glad to see it.


  3. Techienow says:

    If the software is hosted in a server and the company has paid for a good VPS plan, then things will be definitely a lot easier and and at the same time more efficient, the problem with company big or small is the why they process things, it must go up to the top management and all the way down to whom ever lastly will approved it before implementing things, it’s good, it’s organized and it’s log but like i’ve said, it has sum-up the efficiency.

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The Intervals Blog
A collection of useful tips, tales and opinions based on decades of collective experience designing and developing web sites and web-based applications.

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Intervals is online time, task and project management software built by and for web designers, developers and creatives.
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John Reeve
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John Reeve

John is a co-founder, web designer and developer at Pelago. His blog posts are inspired by everyday encounters with designers, developers, creatives and small businesses in general. John is an avid reader and road cyclist.
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Jennifer Payne
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Jennifer Payne

Jennifer is the Director of Quality and Efficiency at Pelago. Her blog posts are based largely on her experience working with teams to improve harmony and productivity. Jennifer is a cat person.
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Braden Jones
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Braden Jones

Braden is a co-founder and strategist at Pelago. His blog posts draw from his worldwide business travels and forays into the retail apparel industry. Braden loves to surf and recently adopted a Doka named Moose.
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Michael Payne
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Michael Payne

Michael is a co-founder and product architect at Pelago. His contributions stem from experiences managing the development process behind web sites and web-based applications such as Intervals. Michael drives a 1990 Volkswagen Carat with a rebuilt 2.4 liter engine from GoWesty.
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