Project Hubs: A Home Base for Design Projects

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  1. Doug Smith

    I like to use a quick install of WordPress with the P2 theme as a project hub. It’s not a timeline but it does keep a record of activity in time order. It’s also not a big project management app but it encourages collaboration and tends to keep everyone on the same page in a conversational way.

  2. Ross Chapman

    I first saw Jesse Bennett-Chamberlain do this nearly a decade ago – and I’m glad it’s coming back. We may be used to using Basecamp or Jira or any other project software, but our clients certainly don’t.

    The only thing missing here is how to collect feedback – I’m wary of people slipping back into email to give essay-worthy feedback.

  3. Brad Frost

    @Mark

    I’m curious about your inclusion of blog posts, too. Were those something the client considered part of the project? Would you do that with other clients?

    The blog posts are part of our open redesign of the Pittsburgh Food Bank , so yes the clients were on board with these blog posts. I would absolutely love to blog about our process during the project for other clients. It’s something that I would love to see more of.

    Would you always include your contracts here?

    Nope. Again, this is due to the open nature of this redesign. But yeah, for most projects, the project timeline might just include things pertinent to the actual design and development process.

    Do you ever expand these beyond a timeline?

    Yes, absolutely. Those nitty-gritty in-the-weeds conversations, tasks, and works-in-progress are all essential to the design process, but not everything needs to be represented in the project hub. I like to think of the project hub as a place where the noteworthy design/development progress updates are shared. It helps separate the wheat from the chaff.

    And as far as linking to other tools (whether it be Basecamp, Trello, Google Docs, whatever), in my experience those are the tools that we’re using on a daily basis so people tend to know where they are. While I don’t find it necessary to include every other tool as a link in the project hub, it might not hurt to have a little dashboard linking to all the tools you use.

    Thanks!

  4. Brad Frost

    @Brandon

    Brad, does each date in the timeline represent a moment in time for the information?… do you leave the previous date’s wireframe as is and create a v2 version or do both dates get the updated version?

    Yep. The idea is for everyone to see the project unfold (see the “Progress Over Time” section), so if we did multiple rounds of wireframes, we would provide a new link and a new date.

  5. KJ

    What a great way to keep your clients updated and the project on track. I love this concept because it makes it super simple for your clients to stay informed.

    I think there is a bit of a drawback in that you are creating a tiny bit of extra work for yourselves compared to using an app like trello which does a great job of keeping things organized. But apps like trello and others do have their drawbacks as well.

    In regards to the feedback from clients and avoiding email, what do you think about embedding something like MOOT or DISQUS? – These are great tools for creating conversations and adding a time stamp. This would also make things a step easier without having to jump into a text editor and ftp to make changes, unless uploading a new asset.

  6. Tanner Hearne

    Hey Brad, we setup a very similar project hub we could use for each client last year that we used for several months while at a creative agency. I believe the key is the 100% scale of designs inside of the clients’ browsers. It helps them so much in viewing and visually taking in the designs.

    Around 6 months ago, we switched all of the clients to using Invision, which is super, super cool. The main benefit is their feedback/commenting system where you can mark things as regular comments that clients can see or “dev comments” specifically for development notes. This emails a perfect zoomed in screenshot of that specific piece of that specific design to whoever is in the feedback conversation.

    They also have version history and the ability to close feedback items once they have been discussed, or fixed, or otherwise.

    The also have a killer mobile experience where you can install a full screen web app and have animations in between pages.

    It keeps everything super organized and feedback is easy to use. Check it out if you haven’t before: http://www.invisionapp.com/tour

  7. Brad Frost

    @Bmenant

    In the GPCFB’s project hub, you included blog posts into the project timeline (as part of the design in the open, I guess).
    Were these resources useful to contextualize the project or to spell out your design process and your work to your client?

    Yes, absolutely. Although the client wasn’t hearing about our design decisions for the first time by reading our blog hahaha. We’d have conversations with the client in person or via Google Hangouts, and eventually blog about some ideas, techniques, or decisions. But it definitely helps crystallize a lot of the thinking that’s happening in our process.

  8. Ole

    I use Workflowy for the same thing but unfortunately I can’t achieve the same streamlined look you’re achieving with your html version.

  9. Brad Frost

    @Ross I hear you. Collecting feedback is a crazy game right now. We’re struggling with how to incorporate feedback into our Pattern Lab http://pattern-lab.info/ design system builder tool. Right now there just aren’t too many good tools out there that allow clients and colleagues provide feedback, especially in the context of the design.

  10. Brandon Ewoldt

    Brad, does each date in the timeline represent a moment in time for the information? For instance, if you link to a wireframe like you do in the Greater Pittsburgh Community hub then a month later you update the wireframe based on feedback, do you leave the previous date’s wireframe as is and create a v2 version or do both dates get the updated version? It might be nice to see a history of changes throughout the project lifecycle. Thanks.

  11. Mark Reeves

    I love this and have set up one up already for a current client. I’m going to manage all of these in 1 GitHub Repository and use our GitHub Pages organization account to push updates.

    A few observations after reading the other comments:

    * This is a great example based on an “open” project. I’m curious about your inclusion of blog posts, too. Were those something the client considered part of the project? Would you do that with other clients?

    * Would you always include your contracts here? I typically stress to clients that contracts & money talk stay out of project spaces where the rest of the team operate. I like recording the contract milestones, but would probably not link to files.

    * Do you ever expand these beyond a timeline? Or do all resource links fall into recorded timeline events? We’re using Trello boards to track tasks, progress and communication on a more granular level. If the Project Hub is the one-stop shop for all project details, where do you link to other tools? If there’s not a top-level “resources” section, one possibility is to just link to them on the date they’re released. How have you handled those?

    Thanks for sharing, Brad!

  12. Ralph

    Great addition to the calendar.
    I had this idea a couple of years ago and started to create a project hub on my web server, but it stranded at some point and landed on the shelf.
    This post made me rethink my process and I collected some bits of your process and took mine of the shelf to make something out of it (finally). I have to say creating the hub goes better and faster now, cause I got much better at coding and mine goes also a bit further then only a timeline… it became a little web app and I embed the google docs instead of linking to it.

    It’s really nice to look over your shoulder to see how you tackle issues and deal with client feedback/input. The question ‘How would some other developer. designer or information architect handle this?’ I keep asking myself quite a lot.

    Thanks for this useful post, Brad!

  13. bmenant

    Excellent! Thank you, Brad.

    In the GPCFB’s project hub, you included blog posts into the project timeline (as part of the design in the open, I guess).
    Were these resources useful to contextualize the project or to spell out your design process and your work to your client?

  14. Brad Frost

    @Ross I hear you. Collecting feedback is a crazy game right now. We’re struggling with how to incorporate feedback into our Pattern Lab http://pattern-lab.info/ design system builder tool. Right now there just aren’t too many good tools out there that allow clients and colleagues provide feedback, especially in the context of the design.

  15. Pete

    This is an absolutely brilliant post. For a long time I’ve been thrashing around trying to work out a “better” way and I think this is certainly the right thing to be doing.

    Love the fact that you’ve been transparent and let me look at your process and how you present different elements to the client.

    Thanks!

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