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Building a
Collaborative
Web Project
Define
Design
Site design
Project site
Web development resources
Web design
Write for the Web
Balancing content & presentation
Copyright issues
Summary
Further reading
Deliver

The Project Site

Side Bar

Everyone should know how to make and use a project site. It's one of the fundamental communication breakthroughs of our time.

David Siegel,
Secrets of Successful Web Sites

Side Bar

In his book, Secrets of Successful Web Sites, David Siegel describes a new type of groupware, the project site, that many designers are now using. And, the best thing about this new groupware...it's free. The only thing required is clear and constant communication between team members.

The principle of a project site is fairly simple. A project group, like a Web project team, houses all relevant information on a password protected server. This shared space becomes a valuable tool for working and creating together.

How to create a project site

You'll need to find a Web server with FTP access where you can house your project files. However, even though you may not have a Web server yet, you can begin work now by simulating a project site with teachers and students at your own school.

The following includes an example of how you might want to structure your server's directories and subdirectories:

  • the project's Root Directory
  • the cgi-bin Directory
  • the media Directory
  • the data Directory
  • the gather Directory
  • the gather/cgi-bin Directory

These subdirectories are going to be the core folders where you will store your Web project. But it is also possible to create other folders that will be used strictly for development purposes. For a more detailed description of directories and subdirectories, go to the Directories defined page.

How you decide to set up your additional directories for development and sharing information will be up to your team. You may only want to create one directory to store ideas, structure maps, sketches, storyboards, timelines. You may want to create several to keep your development information organized. Once again, it's up to your team what will work best.

Think of the development server as a shared workspace. What kind of information do you want to share with your Team mates? Do you want them to have access to your ideas, your thoughts, your brainstorms? Do you all want to be working under the same timeline, the same structure map?

Let your creativity go. You will be surprised at the different ways you can share your information online. Once the project team has shared their information on the development server, other members can view the information on their own time, regardless of where they are.

As an example, you have an idea for a logo. You've spent the afternoon sketching it on your computer, or maybe you scanned an image of something you created by hand. You upload this image to your common server into the directory you specified for shared ideas. You e-mail your project team the name and location of the image and ask them to give their opinion of the new logo. Thus, team members can work whether they are in different classes, different homes, or different countries.

Another example. The project team can have a chat session while at the same time review information that has been put up on the development server. By visualizing information as you "chat", team members can maximize their time together online.

The following includes a number of different items that project teams may want to share on the development server.

Calendar/Timeline

A project team can place their timeline on their common server for all members to reference throughout the project. It doesn't need to look great. It can even be just a text file that members all can access. But, it does need to be followed and updated as new tasks are identified.

These timelines can also be a great way to check if all team members are completing their tasks on time. By including

  • specific tasks
  • team members responsible for the task
  • expected completion dates

on the timeline, team members can identify potential problems or areas that need to be re-evaluated before a real problem occurs.

If a team member is unable to finish his or her tasks as agreed, the team now has the opportunity to discuss how additional help can be offered, or how the tasks might be redistributed.

Site Structure Maps

Like we discussed in previous sections, the site structure map can be a tool for visualizing the scope of your Web project.

Once the structure map has been created, it can be uploaded to your common server to be used as a reference throughout the development of your Web project.

The Sketchbook

Most designers carry around a sketchbook of their ideas. This can be a simple folder with images, colors, pictures, writing, doodles, other ideas... anything that triggers your imagination.

But, how do you create an online sketchbook of ideas? It may not be as difficult as it first appears. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Images created on the computer can be saved in an image format that all members can view. Upload the image to the development server for review.
  • Sketches, doodles, quickly drawn storyboards or structure maps can be scanned and uploaded to the development server.
  • If a team member doesn't have access to a scanner or graphic software, they can still convey certain ideas by uploading images that are found on the Web. These images would only be used for getting and sharing ideas.
  • Bookmarks to different "inspirational" sites can be compiled. 
  • Different color schemes can be shared.
  • Text, ideas and writing can be stored in the same folder.

Meetings

If your team has regular communication or meetings, the development server is a great place to store notes from your meetings for team reference.

As you can see, this is only the beginning. Once team members begin sharing and storing information in a central place, development for the Web project becomes much more unified, and the results more consistent.

Next section: Links to Web development resources

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