2005-12-18

Rules for Web Site Projects

Man, web projects are difficult. You've got design vs. functionality, compatibility vs. quality and so much more to combat, but often overlooked are the internal issues.

See, you've got to get a corporate sponsor. That's the person with the political clout to get things done, allocate resources, and sign invoices. Without him/her the whole project is DOA. The drawback is that in return for their clout they also get a say in how the web site comes together, and often they have no functional knowledge of how the sites actually work, or what it takes on the back-end for things to flow and ebb dynamically on the front-end. If they did have that level of understanding, I'd be doubly worried because that meant that they were puttering with computers when they should be minding the business that puts food on my table. Trust me, the former problem is a much better one to have. If you select a sponsor wisely, it will be somebody that you can communicate well with and whose strengths you you can build on. I was able to get a lot of good help from our President on our site.

There are three big issues to deal with early on that will save heartaches.

  1. Make sure and pick a sponsor that is local to you. Having a sponsor that is a hundred miles away can prove challenging in terms of communication and in terms of controlled revision reviews.
  2. Work out a common vocabulary, document it, and stick with it. That common vocabulary can be the Rosetta stone to translate between business and technical interests.
  3. Get marketing writing. This last point is so important. See, the big advantage of these liquid-dynamic sites is entirely built upon the data schema on the back-end. This schema is a literal translation of the aformentioned setup agreed to by marketing interests. One "slight" change in the setup can easily mean labor-intensive changes to databases and the code that extracates meaning from it.

There's more, but that's all I have time for tonight. We've had three "slight" schema changes and guess what? Our schedule is slightly off and my sponsor is getting testy, and from his point of view justifyably so. Yeah, all three of these rules were generated empirically. I violated or allowed to be violated all three. In the end, if you're the PM, it's your fault or glory. We'll get it done, and it will be right!

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