Regardless of what methodology is used for your website project, you should clearly define the stages (phases) of the project and understand what they include and entail. Have your web developer explain the proposed flow and structure of the project.
For example, are you going to have to delay programming until all pages of the website are designed, or can the developer start programming them in the order they are approved? Also, be sure to have an outline of all the components that go into your website. For example, is the web developer providing you with copywriting services, or is the copy provided by you? Will you use custom photography or stock photography? It is very important to understand all the components and flow of the project in order to manage it properly.
Set Deadlines and Define Deliverables
In order to keep the project on track you should set milestones for completing major phases of the project and set tentative dates or deadlines for each milestone. For example, when does the web developer foresee completion of design, slice-up, programming, etc.? While you do want to retain some flexibility in the project and some dates may be tentative, it is very important to set projected deadlines and update them throughout the project.
Keeping track of milestone deadlines will help you track the completion date for the entire project. For example, if the design completion was two weeks late, does it mean that the entire project will be delayed by two weeks or more? In order to maintain structure and organization, I recommend a sign-off process at the end of each milestone. I urge adherence to written sign-offs (or documented via e-mail) to provide a paper trail and prevent misunderstandings as the project moves along. If you give your face-to-face or phone approval, make every effort to follow up with a quick e-mail, so you have a paper trail and date stamp of the approval. It is also a good idea to define deliverables at the end of each phase.
Have your web developer explain precisely what will be delivered. For example, “design” can be interpreted in many ways. Are they going to be providing electronic or printed designs? Will they just show you the designs or also provide source files, etc. Finally, I recommended tying payments to the completion of specific stages of the project. This will help you control the project flow, meet deadlines and reduce the risk of going over budget.