Collaborative Web Development Strategies and Best Practices for Web Teams
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|The Insider's Scoop
by Donna Boyette
What made me want to buy this book was the author’s statement in the preface, “I had produced more than 20 Web-related projects and at least half of them seemed akin to torture.” Aha, someone who knew. The author, Jessica Burdman, mentions friends at Cisco, Red Sky, Netscape and several other companies who feel the same way: "Web projects are death-march projects...I need to take three months off to recover.” As a project manager working on seven web-application projects simultaneously, I wanted the insider's secret. I wanted to know what this author knew!
Collaborative Web Development; Strategies and Best Practices for Web Teams includes interviews and case studies in addition to the fundamental project how-to information. According to the author, “No amount of reading can teach you what you will learn from experience.” But at least by reading this, you can learn from others’ experience.
Chapters cover the basic subjects such as the project itself, the project team, the client, planning and process development, communication issues and quality assurance and testing. There are also more detailed subjects, like multidepartmental and large-scale sites, technological advances and the impact on web teams. Each chapter includes a To-Do list and personal side notes from the author that make you feel like she’s on the phone with you, giving you advice.
The book comes with a CD ROM that includes many of the forms and templates the author uses on her projects, and when the text refers to one of those forms, she plainly tells you where to find them.
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The case studies detail strategies and solutions for commercial web projects such as sites for Lands End and Quicken. These scenarios helped me learn that I am not alone; my team is not the only one with problems. You will discover how other teams worked around issues, such as, “The design team missed their deadlines…As a result, the application developer had to redo a lot of the code." Imagine my surprise when I learned that my developer is not the only one complaining.
If my team were creating websites for retail clients, I would have appreciated actual dollar amounts for fees charged in these case studies. In the side notes of the chapter on planning, the author does include details about charges. For instance, in her contract she states that if the client requests changes after initial requirements that result in a longer development time, she would increase their fee.
The book also includes a “Web Team Resource Guide,” found in Appendix B, which “…help[s] you choose from the best-of-breed tools out there. My web team and I have tested each one of these tools (hardware and software) and each comes recommended.”
My coworker, Michelle, brought this book with her when she joined our department. Her copy is well highlighted. We have since ordered a copy for each project manager. Michelle said that the CD ROM was her favorite part of the book, and she had used the “Creative Brief” on previous projects to help define site objectives. The CD ROM Index, included in the back of the book, is a helpful tool.
One quick way to implement strategies included in this book is to scan the table of contents to find your area of concern, then go to the CD ROM and look over the forms included for that chapter. Then read the portion of the chapter detailing how it is used.
I was disappointed to find there are no forms associated with the chapter on communications (Chapter 4.) That is the one area of the book that I would have liked to have seen in more detail.
I discovered, however, that the communication chapter might be light because the author includes communication details throughout the book, as it applies to each subject. For instance, Chapter 5, “The Client” includes sections titled “The Client Education Process” with “Your Client’s Point of View” and “Communicating Your Process to Your Client.”
I consider this to be required reading for any project manager involved in developing websites. It offers very thorough coverage of the subject, is easy on the eye with excellent layout and plenty of illustrations and screen shots and could leave you feeling like you’ve been involved in sophisticated web design and implementation for years.
Donna Boyette is a fulltime project manager for a large telecommunications company, and a part-time freelance writer. Her team develops web-based applications for the company's intranet.