When you take on any project, you absolutely need to know what you’re dealing and working with.
You need to learn the number of pages, posts, comments and other statistics of the site itself, the number of visitors or users (if it’s a web application), how it’s monetized, how many pages are indexed in Search Engines, what other people say on other blogs and how many link back to the site, and other important things and little details.
Original image by Honest
It is important for a developer to get familiarized with its working environment. It is best recommended for you to make a note of everything you find unusual or good, so you can remove, improve or re-implement that later. If the site has a newsletter system, subscribe to it and test it, as if you were a real user (also employ your family members or even people on sites like Ask500People.com, mTurk.com or Fiverr.com).
You must also know your employers – what do they want, how they want and like to do things, why they decided to go for certain design and coding decisions on the site/web application, and other details.
Find the most popular pages in the site and find ways to improve them and keep them active while you work on the other things, because traffic is valuable and you want to keep as much of the old one as possible when redesigning a site.
Original image by Miss Vu
It would be best if you are organized from the start. You’ll do your work faster, manage your time better and be able to keep track of everything that’s going on, including smaller details that you could’ve missed without pre-planning.
If you’re not already doing it, start using a separate email address for all your web development and design work. Tell everyone to update their contact info with your new address.
Another important thing you must do is keep track of your accomplishments and task/project milestones. You should do this not only for yourself, to know how the work is going and approximate when it can be finished, but also for your employers, to demonstrate to them that you did your work in time and well, and maybe get a premium.