One of the most difficult parts of any Web project is establishing an accurate timeline for completion of the project. There are so many unknown factors that can creep up during a project that will inevitably delay the project.

So how do you try and account for these factors and establish a schedule you can count on? The simple answer is to break a project down to its smallest pieces and project those items.

It's so much easier to put a time estimate on a task that has been broken down into its pieces. For example, let's say one of the big project tasks is to develop a shopping cart. That's a pretty daunting task to try and slap a time estimate on if you don't know all the individual pieces that make up that task. So, the best thing to do is take that tasks, break it down and then project those smaller pieces. So in our shopping cart example, I might break it down like this:

'¢ Build front-end shopping cart graphics – 4 hours'¢ Install shopping cart software – 12 hours'¢ Integrate software with merchant account – 8 hours

Of course, I can then break these tasks down into their pieces as well if I don't think I can accurately gauge their times as well. Then I can simply add up my times to get an idea of how long a big task will actually take me.

When I begin working with a client, the first topic I discuss is the specific list of site features and the sitemap. My goal of tackling this subject is to get an idea of all the different components that will make up a project. My next step is to break all these items into their individual tasks. Only then can I accurately estimate a timeline for a project.

Creating a timeline can be intimidating. When you have some many items to get done and so many moving pieces that are always threatening to derail your project, the best bet is to deconstruct the project. Put times to items and then do your best to stick to them. That's the key to effectively establishing a project timeline you can live with.