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Assigning Your Project Team

You've heard the adage: You're only as good as your weakest link. With web development teams, this holds true. To minimize potential breakdowns in your well-crafted and streamlined plan, look for people with proven track records, even if it takes additional funds to hire more experienced people. If you have newbies involved, balance them with expertise. Then, by clearly establishing individual roles and responsibilities — for both client and team — you can safeguard against tasks falling through the cracks.

On the client side, establish one contact who has final sign-off on behalf of all client decision-makers. Avoid redesigning for an unorganized committee and encourage a single point of feedback. With regard to the project team, remember that a single person can fill more than one role — thus the term "wearing multiple hats" — and hire or delegate as necessary to avoid overloading a single resource with more than he can handle.

Table .

PROJECT ROLES

Project Manager

Programmer/Backend Engineer

Art Director/Visual Designer

Also called site producer or account manager, the project manager organizes a web project from start to finish and is the primary contact for the client as well as the central point of communication for the team. Project managers are responsible for determining and defining the site's actual needs and for educating the client as to how much technology and development time is required to meet the stated goals within the specified budget and/or timeframe.

The project manager keeps the project on track, troubleshoots, and communicates with all team members and the client in every phase of the Core Process. Project management is the glue that holds it all together.

Depending on the technical needs of the project, varying levels of technical expertise are necessary to make a site work. From basic JavaScript to more complex programming — Perl, PHP, Java, etc. — a careful analysis of the project from the onset is important in determining your backend needs. The backend engineer runs a parallel workflow behind the front-end site development.

This individual can also act as point person or liaison between backend and front-end, especially critical during production. Please remember that backend workflow runs on a separate, parallel workflow. See Chapter 9 for more information.

The art director/visual designer creates stunning, effective graphics while working within the limitations of the capabilities of the target audience. A fluency in industry-standard programs (Fireworks, Flash, Dreamweaver, Photoshop, GoLive) should be a given. As with any other team position, the art director/visual designer should know how to follow a schedule, must check in regularly with the project manager, and should be adept in the art of client communication.

If there are several visual designers, the art director is responsible for leading the others in shaping the creative vision. (For more information on visual design, see Phase 3: Design.)

Production Lead/Production Designer

Copywriter/Content Manager

Information Designer

The production lead heads a team of HTML production designers to facilitate HTML production and testing, while keeping an eye on scope and schedule at all times. It is ideal for the production designer to have a background in visual design and have working knowledge of CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) web standards.

On smaller projects, the production lead often is also the HTML production designer. The individual fulfilling this role should be fluent in HTML and art optimization standards, including use of CSS, tables, frames, and cross-platform and browser issues. The production designer can also be expected to have a fluid understanding of PHP, Perl, ASP, JSP and Java., etc. Responsibilities include building the HTML Protosite and implementing final HTML layouts, as well as combining design specifics and art integration into the site. (For more information on production, see Phase 4: Build.)

One of the most important (and often overlooked) roles in effective web development is that of copywriter. The copywriter should have experience with web-specific needs, including style and tone.

In some situations, the copywriter is also the content manager — in charge of tracking all assets (i.e., photos, media, copy) and ensuring that they are delivered to production in accord with the content delivery plan. For content-heavy sites, it is not uncommon for there to be several copywriters and a full-time content manager. Regardless, those involved in creating the content should work closely with the information designer.

We suggest that the copywriter(s) and the content manager be hired by, and work directly for, the client, with their output being defined as a deliverable. (For more information on content, see Phase 2: Structure.)

With an eye for design, structure, and usability, the information designer translates content and business goals into functional schematics. This person develops the site map and structures the way content navigation is laid out on a page — all of this in a non-design-oriented manner. The information designer defines site navigation, functionality, and user interaction. And when working with web-based applications, this person will be responsible for developing Use Cases (user task flows in scenario format). See Chapter 9 for more on Use Cases.

Information design is sometimes a shared role with either visual design or production. (For more information on information design, see Phase 2: Structure.)

QA Lead

Usability Lead

Additional Expertise

Sometimes known as the Exterminator, the quality assurance (QA) lead checks for bugs starting right after production or engineering starts, and, in some cases, testing after launch. Responsibilities include building a Test Plan and checking browser compliance, HTML, and content placement. The QA lead also works hand-in-hand with engineers while testing individual applications or functional components. The QA lead also develops and tests use case and test plans. (For more information on QA testing, see Phase 4: Build.)

The usability lead gathers firsthand information about how site visitors actually use a site and analyzes what works and what doesn't. The usability lead works with the information designer on navigation and user paths and then tests the redesigned site for usability issues at the HTML Protosite phase, alongside QA, and at launch. This person generally has a background in cognitive psychology or human factors engineering. (For more information on usability testing, see Chapter 8.)

Other experts are often brought in for specific projects. As an example, a search engine expert can be hired as a consultant during Phase 2: Structure, and Phase 4: Build, in order to impart the most up-to-date knowledge of search engine tips and tricks for higher rankings and search optimization. When accessibility is critical (for government and educational sites) it may be necessary to bring in someone with a working knowledge of W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) standards.

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