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Chapter 03. Phase 1: Define the Project

Chapter 03. Phase 1: Define the Project

Set parameters and expectations — develop methods for clear communication throughout the project's lifecycle.

Starting a web redesign project can be daunting. So much to do… where to begin? Although you — and the client — may have a general understanding of what will be involved in getting the project done, the details and process of starting a redesign project can be elusive. The first part of this first phase is all about gathering information.

This chapter will help you set the stage, plan, and prep. Here we focus on developing methods of communicating expectations and making sure there are no mistaken assumptions. We include a lot of handy tools designed to help you help your client provide the necessary information you need to define goals, objectives, budgets, timelines, and of course, the audi ence. (Don't miss this one; defining your audience and their goals is one of the most important and overlooked preparatory points in any development project, web or otherwise.)

  • Gathering Information

  • Understanding Your Audience

  • Analyzing Your Industry

  • Understanding Discovery

  • Determining Overall Goals

  • Preparing a Communication Brief

  • Creating a Project Plan

  • Setting the Budget

  • Creating Schedules

  • Assigning Your Project Team

  • Setting Up Staging Areas

  • Planning for User Testing

  • Kicking Off the Project

Please note that this chapter outlines the workflow steps necessary for defining a project. We do not go into getting a project. We present workflow, not business development. But because it is often necessary to define quite a bit of the project in order to get it, there is a great deal of information here that is potentially helpful.

Discovery is an industry-wide term that can mean several things. It can have a budget (often significantly into five figures) and a plan all its own. We have simplified the Discovery process so that it is accessible across a range of projects and pricing.

Also, a project may not be a complete redesign. You might be overhauling a site's architecture without changing the look and feel. Or you might be addressing a specific path through your site in order to increase sales leads. Whatever the project or initiative, take the time to define and clarify goals before starting. Overkill is not required, but some advance planning is necessary in order to operate efficiently instead of haphazardly.

We have divided this first phase of the Core Process into three tracks: Discovery, Clarification, and Planning. Through a series of surveys, discussion, and research, Discovery leads to understanding three critical things: the client's online goals, the audi ence and its needs and online capabilities, and the industry and the competition as it relates to the web. Discovery is all about gathering information and asking a lot of questions. The answers will serve as a reference for nearly every step that follows.

Clarification and Planning each consist of taking the information gathered and putting it together into documentation — the former into a Communication Brief and the latter into a Project Plan. This documentation is designed to communicate several topics clearly and concisely to both client and team:

  • What are the client's wishes and goals? What is the proposed plan to carry these out?

  • How much is the entire project going to cost, how is that cost broken down, and how many hours are allocated to each individual task?

  • Who are the team members, and what are their responsibilities?

  • What are the client's responsibilities?

  • What are the specific project deliverables (both client and team), when are they due, and what are the budgetary and scheduling impacts of missing deadlines?

  • How will the site be tested against audience needs?

  • What are the immediate measurable goals of the site redesign? What are the long-range goals for the site?

  • What, if any, are the technical requirements for complex functionality? (For these and other backend references, please see Chapter 9: Working with Complex Functionality.)

At the end of this defining phase, the preparatory materials are distributed at the kick-off meeting, atten ded by all team and key client members. The goal is to communicate clearly, to keep the members of the team aligned with the same goals and terminology during the life of the project, and to make sure no one is ever left guessing as to what comes next or when what comes next is due.

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