The Skills

The day of the web guru is over. This mythical character hung up his robe and sandals when web development became a serious business requiring a specialized skill set for each member of the team. The process is complex and, depending on the scope of the project, will require skills ranging from project management to database programming. This situation requires a team-based approach to the development process and grew from the fact that the industry quickly realized the skills needed are specialized, not generalized.

The complexity of dynamic web design has also injected complexity into the production process. The major accommodation to this change was the shift from the "one-developer-does-all" workflow to the adoption of a team-based production workflow.

These teams are a collection of internal or external specialists, each charged with a specific task. These individuals are either currently employed by the developer or are a collection of contract workers with whom the company has developed a working relationship through collaboration in past projects or through peer referrals.

Those of you reading this book who are sole proprietors or who manage a small firm composed of two partners and a couple of developers may think this workflow model doesn't apply to you. Nothing could be further from the truth. In today's production environment, time really is money, and clients are no longer willing to fund your "learning curve." You either can do the job, or you can't, and if you can, budgets are such that there is no margin for doing things a few times before you get it right. You have one or two opportunities to get it right. After that, the client will seriously start to question your competency or refuse to pay for the time spent getting it right. Thus, finding the right people to bring their talents to bear on a project at the right time not only makes business sense but also could be an issue of simple corporate survival.

Though the skills are varied, they fall into three loose groupings:

  • Management

  • Design

  • Code

Keep in mind that the structure is rarely formalized. The skills vary to reflect project complexity, and those skills can overlap or be carried out by one or a number of the team members.

Management

The following is a breakdown of the management team and their roles:

  • Project Manager: This individual is the primary contact between the client and the team. He or she could have a formal title reflecting this status or could be a principal of the firm. Regardless of title, this individual is tasked with managing the team and the client, as well as the entire process from concept to upload.

    You may also be working with a Project Manager on the client side. In this case, this individual is charged with representing the client and will be responsible for approvals, content delivery, and generally ensuring the client's needs and expectations are met.

  • Information Architect: This relatively new position ensures the information on the site is both accessible and understandable. He or she will work with the Creative Director, the Technical Director, and the client to determine how the information on the site is structured, how the information flows through the entire site, and that the technological infrastructure being developed is sound.

  • Creative Director: Tasked with setting the parameters for what the users see, hear, and experience on the site, this individual manages the creative side of the process. It is his or her task to create and champion the vision: to motivate the creative team and to articulate the creative vision in such a way that each member of the creative team clearly understands the "look and feel" of the site. This individual also develops the creative strategy, develops the storyboards, and then rolls up his or her sleeves and goes to work.

  • Content Manager: A large, technically complex project will require this individual's services. He or she is charged with gathering the content in the areas of copy, images, illustrations, video, audio, interactive animations, or any other element that will appear on a page in the site.

  • Technology Director: It would be a huge mistake on your part to regard this individual as the "Lead Geek." This key individual is responsible for how the site functions. One task is the creation of a document outlining the site's technical and functional specifications. This individual also may be responsible for the creation of forms, shopping carts, databases, and content management systems.

Design

Though there could be a myriad of creative specialties brought to bear?type designer, illustrator, digital imaging specialist?there are essentially two major roles:

  • Web Designer: Reporting to the Creative Director, this individual works on the site's appearance and assembles the web pages using the provided content. In certain instances, this individual will also be assigned the illustration or imaging tasks using Dreamweaver MX 2004, Freehand MX, Flash MX 2004, or Fireworks MX 2004. Though sometimes derisively referred to as the "Pixel Monkey," this individual's role is far more critical than slinging pixels around a screen.

  • Interactive Designer: Using either Flash MX 2004, Fireworks MX 2004, or Director MX, this individual ensures all animations or interactive content are both well-designed and functional. This role inevitably involves a familiarity with ActionScript (Flash), JavaScript (Fireworks), or Lingo (Director).

Code

No matter how you approach it, the web inevitably revolves around code. Some of the major roles are:

  • Web Programmer: Reporting to the Technology Director and working with the Database Programmer/Designer, this individual is responsible for ensuring the code?XML, HTML, JavaScript, DHTML, and XHTML to name a few languages ?integrates seamlessly with both the look of the site?usually driven by Cascading Style Sheets?and the back-end server functions that actually make the site work.

  • Database Designer/Administrator: If the project involves e-commerce or has a degree of complexity requiring a skill set unavailable to the team, you need this individual. He or she is responsible for developing the database and the ColdFusion MX code links to the content in the database. In addition, it is this individual's task to ensure the various relationships between the elements of the database are both logical and functional.

  • ActionScript/Lingo Programmer: The addition of ActionScript to Flash 4 and the constant improvements to Director MX's language, Lingo, may require the services of these very talented individuals. On the Flash side of the equation, this individual may be required to manage the coding tasks around the use of Flash Components or to write the code that matches the vision of the Creative Director. On the Director side, this individual will write the code that manages the Director Xtras that communicate with a database or drive the interactivity of the entire presentation.

  • Quality Assurance Tester: This is one of the more thankless jobs in the process. What makes this a key position is this individual will be the difference between a project's success or failure. This individual is tasked with assuring everything does what it is supposed to do. He or she will test every element on a page and report any problems to the Creative and Technology Directors.

These are some of the key roles, and this list is, by no stretch of the imagination, a complete one. A team's structure derives from the scope of the project, the budget, and the project plan; thus, there are no standards for team composition. In the case of Amazon.com, the team is huge, with clear lines of responsibility and duties. In the case of smaller shops, the duties may overlap or be shared among individuals.



     
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