Using Excel and Powerpoint for Managing your Website Projects

Effective and surprisingly simple ways to harness Excel and Powerpoint for project management.
Arun N Nair - Author of the article

If you are in the business of developing websites, blogs you know how important project management is and would appreciate the importance of planning. Creating a website involves creating design layouts, wireframes, content, coding & database (if the website is dynamic in nature) and the marketing plan. It is important to separate each of these components as phases in the project lifecycle and use tools to help you plan and schedule the project.

There are plenty of tools available that are free and commercial, bare-bone and exhaustive but it would require you to learn these tools or spend time evaluating what works for you. I have a simple solution, one that has worked for me time and again, as the title of the blog states, using Excel and Powerpoint. There are plenty of reasons why I’m in favour, the foremost being that the Microsoft Office suite of applications is very popular and chances are you are already putting Excel (or Powerpoint) to good use. Also, you are very likely to have it installed in your laptop. Even if you don’t have the Microsoft version, you may have the free OpenOffice versions of Excel and Powerpoint – Calc and Impress

Let me now demonstrate some examples of how you could use them for project management.

The following screenshot demonstrates an example of how Excel can be used to plan, schedule and track your project.

Excel for project management - plan and schedule
Excel for project management - plan and schedule

Observe how the cell color changes with the Project status. This can be achieved with the “Conditional Formatting” option. In the case of Excel 2007, select “Conditional Formatting” from the Home ribbon. Here is a snapshot ...

Excel - Conditional formatting, step 1
Excel - Conditional formatting, step 1

…in our example, select “Text that Contains…”, enter the text that will activate the format (In Progress for e.g.) and select a yellow cell fill from the “Custom Format…” option.

Excel - Conditional formatting, step 2
Excel - Conditional formatting, step 2

You can spruce up your project scheduling by adding a Gantt chart equivalent into your sheet. This requires you to include a start date, end date and a formula to generate the timeline.

Here is an example …

Excel - Gantt chart
Excel - Gantt chart

For the selected cell in the example above, the formula is as follows…

=REPT(” “,(D5-(MIN($D$5:$D$8))))&REPT(“|”,(E5-D5+1))

In the formula, I have used the REPT function to repeat the number of bars. Also observe that I’ve used the range $D$5:$D$8, which is also the range of the project (the various start dates). For e.g., if your project time range for the various start dates is between D5 and D30, replace $D$5:$D$8 with $D$5:$D$30.

Now where does Powerpoint fit into the scheme of things? Powerpoint is an effective tool for designing wireframes for website design, and provides enough elements to create an attractive layout.

Here is an example of how I’ve used Powerpoint to design the home page layout of a website…

Powerpoint for designing website wireframe
Powerpoint for designing website wireframe

This was entirely designed in Powerpoint (except for the icons). Notice the random text used in the layout “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet…”, this is a common piece of garble that designers use as mock-content when testing layouts. Visit lipsum.com to generate your own random content to be used as filler.

The greatest advantage of Powerpoint is that it gives you the versatility to create website layouts without having to know anything about design tools like Photoshop and you can create attractive layouts in no time.

Like I said earlier, I find it particularly useful that I can use them to plan, manage and design my web projects effectively without learning or installing additional software. There is more that you can do with Excel and Powerpoint when managing your projects and you will discover your own gems as your progress from one project to the other – and if you do, do share them!