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Web development is a collaborative, team-centered endeavor requiring the skills and involvement of various team members. Each member has a primary responsibility and also acts as consultant during non-primary phases of the development process. Although Web development projects take many forms, this process is specifically designed to represent the steps and team members involved in a typical project.

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Define Project Requirements
  • Gather information
  • Determine objectives
  • Identify content
  • Establish functionality
  • Research technology

 In this phase, a project team collects and analyzes information, then identifies objectives and considers them in the context of practical parameters such as budget and time frame. The scope and depth of a project begins to materialize during this phase.

Checklist: Define the Content
  • Determine the objective of the project. What needs to be accomplished?
  • Understand the competitive scenario. What kind of business does the company do, and what companies will it be competing with?
  • Identify the projects content. What does the company want to sell, promote, or provide?
  • Define the types of functionality. What kinds of features are desirable? Chat rooms on a Web site? Commercial venues?
  • Establish the demographic and psychographic profile of the company's customers. What is the target market?
  • Identify the execution medium (or media). Is the project an identity package? A Web site?
  • On interactive projects, explore the technology issues. What browsers or operating systems need to be supported?
  • Determine the time line. What is the deadline for the project, and what is driving that deadline?
  • Determine the budget. How much does the company want to pay, and what determined that budget?

The length of the definition phase can vary from a one-hour meeting to months of research and interviews.

Architecting a Portal

  • Interpret information
  • Develop names positioning platforms
  • Map navigation
  • Conduct user testing In this phase, information design is implemented.

Is all the information gathered in the definition stage relevant?
Does it all have high priority? Will the structure for the information be easy or difficult to build? In this phase, the designer determines where different parts of the information will fit into the structure and which media to use to express them. Prototypes and models fall into this phase because they are a way to analyze, prioritize, categorize, and interpret information gathered in the definition phase.

Checklist: Access the Content
  • Define the key messages.
  • Define the information types and functionality.
  • Define logical relationships.
  • Define links between information types. Brainstorm and conceptualize.
  • Perform any required research and development related to advanced technologies.
  • Test the functionality of the information architecture and navigation.
  • Identify specialized resources required to complete the project.
Checklist: Deliverables
  • A proposal to design or implement the project.
  • A technology platform agreement.
  • A proposal to create specialized resources, such as a custom program or prototype.
  • Positioning statements, naming, and marketing and communication plans.
  • A time line for designing or implementing the project. Maps, thumbnails, storyboards, or roughs as required to communicate the architecture.

The architecture phase provides the framework on which the projects look and feel will be built. This phase can consist of one simple brainstorming session to determine the hierarchy of information on the front panel of a package, or an elaborate six-week Web site mapping exercise. In either case, the architecture phase should provide concise analysis of the content and complete mapping of the information. The designer's work in the architecture phase should be checked against the business' expectations. If there are differences between what is being delivered and the expectations of either the company or the designer, the cause must be identified before the process moves on to the design phase.

Portal Production

  • Create the look & feel
  • Give personality
  • Establish visual metaphors
  • Create visual language
  • Conduct user testing

In this phase, the project takes on form in colors, shapes, and other audio, visual, or textual elements that bridge the parts of the project developed in the definition and architecture phases.

It is in the design phase that a project acquires look and feel. This is not the only phase in which design plays a part, but it is where the creativity that gives the project its personality is employed, and where the visual metaphors that support and enhance the architecture of the information are devised.

Checklist: Activities

  • Create or supervise the creation of illustrations, photography, and writing.
  • Perform customer testing if necessary.
  • Perform beta testing and proofreading.
Checklist: Deliverables
  • A proposal to implement the project.
  • Photographs, illustrations, animation, and copy-writing.
  • A proposal to create or supervise the creation of illustration, photography, and writing.
  • Comps or prototypes.
  • Analysis of customer research.

The design phase maximizes the results of creative time by following the information structures defined in the architecture phase. Properly implemented, the definition and architecture phases create a solid foundation on which to build a functional and memorable look and feel.