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Icon or Spacer Macromedia Website Production Management Techniques Phase 2: Define

When starting a Web development project, there are often many issues that go unattended when a project starts. Make sure to set up the administrative details such as the project site and confirm details such as the hosting and server information and the definitive launch date. Other areas include content and production management and tracking and version control. Setting up the project properly in the beginning will help the overall organization and production run smoothly.

Setting Up the Project Site
The project site is the central communication area for the entire project. Sometimes called a client staging site or client site, it is a Web-based repository for posted deliverables, administrative tasks, and often the ongoing development of the site itself. The project site should be a password-protected site containing sections for administration (contact information, approved documentation, schedules and updates, etc.), design (screen schematics, comps, illustrations, etc.) and production (prototype click-throughs, working HTML demos, etc.). The staging site is a key component to maintaining a professional relationship with the client and keeping the communication flowing.
Creating an Internal Development Area
The internal development area should be set up to mimic the live site environment as closely as possible. It is best to have a separate local server for development—for easy uploading, testing and access. Keep it clean however—it is a common scenario to have multiple versions and tests of the site in the same directory structure on the development server, and being unable to determine which is the most recent. Set up rules for archiving and version control in advance of starting any production. There are many ways to set up a development area, but making sure that the site is being developed in an area that mirrors the actual site when it is live is critical. If you can set up a password-protected staging environment on the live server for testing, it will help with testing and QA.
Confirming Hosting and Server Information
It sounds simple, it is merely a check-off item especially for operating Web sites, but it is something that sometimes gets missed until the end of a project. If you are an internal team, make sure to confirm your site URL, the Internet service provider, and login information. If you are working with remote team members, make sure there is a solid FTP access point in your server to access, transfer and drop files.
Setting Up Production Management Tracking
Content creation, distribution and tracking is one of the trickiest parts of managing a project workflow. Create a system and a plan for receiving and tracking of content and assets. All images, graphics, text and media will need to be named, stored and shared in a central location. Your team and your client will need to know where items are located and their status (which is the most recent?) at various stages of design and production. The design team will need to save any stock photos or other images/elements used during the visual design process. Have a binder, online tracking system or a designated person assigned to monitor and track all assets and materials.

The defining stage is the pre-production necessary in order to get the project, team and client working together smoothly. By taking the time to clearly define the project from a conceptual (goals and strategy), creative (vision and perception), technical (restrictions and requirements) and audience (who are they, what do they want?) viewpoint, you have set the groundwork for a successful project. Gather the client and the team together for a kick off meeting, and present all the materials you have created and collected to date. Is everyone on the same page? Get signatures (whenever possible) and move on to the next phase of the process. Now that you have laid out your plans, it is time to create the blueprint in the next phase—Structure.

Analyzing Your Industry
Understanding Your Audience
Goals and Objectives
Creating a Project Plan
Establishing Requirements
Site View
Screen View
User View
Design and Prototype
 Build and Test
Evaluate and Maintain
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