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  1. 1. Web Project Considerations This document is intended as a guide to the issues that need to be considered when undertaking a redesign of a website (or indeed creating a website from scratch.) When undertaking a website project, there is a tendency to concentrate on the technical development aspect of the project. Certainly the actual development of a website is the most significant aspect of any such project, however the overall success of the project will also depend on other factors such as a clear definition of the aims and objectives of the project, careful testing of the developed system and adequate provision for the maintenance and sustainability of the site. Check List This checklist is a framework for ensuring that all aspects of the project have been considered. This checklist can also be used as a basis for writing a project specification. 1 - Background Briefly describe the current situation of your website (technology used, personnel involved, content present/absent, functionality, etc.) and indicate the motivations behind the redesign.
  2. 2. 2 - Description Features and Functionality What features and functionality will the site require? Scope and Structure How much content will the site need to accommodate? How will the site be structured? Look and Feel Do you have a particular style in mind for the look of the site? Goals and Outcomes What are the desired outcomes of the project? Are there any particular goals that the website needs to achieve?
  3. 3. 3- Project Plan Design Who will design the look of the website? Who will be responsible for approving the design? Development Who will build the website? What level of programming development does the site require? Does the website require existing software to be installed/configured/extended? Testing What testing will the site undergo before its launch? How will testing feedback and revisions to the site be managed? Who will decide when the site is ready to be launched? When do you expect a functional test site?
  4. 4. Deployment Where will the website be hosted? Who will be in charge of overseeing the process of putting the website live? Maintenance Who will be responsible for the technical maintenance of the site once it is up and running? Sustainability Who is going to ensure that the website stays up-to-date and relevant? This can mean updating the content and possibly the scope and structure, over time.
  5. 5. 4 - Timetable Give a rough idea of the timescale for the project. Indicate key milestones in the process, as well as any dependencies within the process. Take into consideration not only time taken for action, but also for decisions and approving work. The approval of the design and signing off the site as ‘ready to launch’ are two points where decisions can take time. 5 - Budget and Funding What is the budget for the project? Is long-term technical maintenance and sustainability of the site taken into consideration in the budget? Who is funding the project? How will it be funded in the future?
  6. 6. 6 - Site Plan Drawing out a site plan can be helpful to gain an idea of the scope of the site and therefore the project. This can be as simple as a structured list of sections and pages, or perhaps a diagram (lists are quick and easy to produce but diagrams are useful for quickly giving stakeholders and developers an idea of the scope and structure of the site).
  7. 7. Technical Considerations The following is a more in-depth look at the range of technical issues that may be relevant to your project. There are several key technology decisions to be taken when producing a website: whether to build a system from scratch, or to utilise an existing system; which programming languages to use; how to ensure security, what type of server to use, all of which impact on each other. Technology A key consideration will be what technology to employ in the development of the site. Will the website be built using an existing technology (a Content Management System for example), or will it be written from scratch? If an existing programme is being used will it be open source or proprietary? Will such a system be configurable (i.e. modified by users) or customisable (i.e. modified by programmers)? Conversely, if the site is built from scratch, what techniques will be used? Which programming language will be used and which version (php 5 for example)? Will the site make use of databases? If so, which database platform will be used (e.g. MySQL)? Hosting The issue of where a website will be hosted needs to be given some consideration at an early stage, as the server platform (Linux/Windows/Apple may have an impact on which systems and technologies can be used. . You also need to consider who will be providing hosting services for you - will the website be hosted on an in-house server, with NSMS at OUCS, an external hosting provider? It is also worth noting that depending on the nature of your site, University regulations may require that it hosted on an Oxford University owned server. Security Security is a very important consideration with any website. What steps will be taken to ensure that the server is secure? Who will be responsible for ensuring the server software is kept up-to-date with security patches? In addition to server security, there may be security issues regarding the site’s content. Are there areas of the site that need to have access restrictions? On what basis would such restrictions be implemented (by domain, by IP address, Oxford login, bespoke login)? User Interface There are several technical areas to consider with regard to a site’s interface. Obviously the site’s visual appearance is important. It is also important that information is presented in a logical manner. As such it is vital that web pages are produced using valid HTML mark-up, and that the HTML code accurately describes the content. It is also vital that a website provides information in an accessible manner, as this is a legal requirement. Will the website meet the University’s rules for Web accessibility (http://www.ox.ac.uk/web/rules/accessibility.shtml)? Mark up It is important that some consideration is given to the type of HTML mark-up to be used to render the site. What version of HTML will the site be using (HTML 4, xhtml
  8. 8. transitional, xhtml strict, etc.)? What processes will be in place to ensure that all of the site’s pages are validated according to the version of HTML specified? As well as being valid, the site’s HTML needs to be descriptive. Descriptive mark-up is recommended by the W3C (descriptive or ‘semantic’ mark-up is an important factor in making your site accessible – semantic mark up describes your site in terms that computers can understand, enabling the end-user’s computer to describe it to them, whether they are using a browser, speech-reader, etc.). Page styling It is recommended that Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) are used to control the styling of your site. This enables presentation to be separated from content, and also allows you to have control over the presentation of all pages within your site from one central point. You also need to ensure that the site is intelligible and usable when viewed without CSS (some users may wish to disable Style Sheets, or apply their own). This largely depends on your site being marked up with valid mark-up in a logical and descriptive manner Compatibility It is important that a site is designed to function correctly in range of browsers across all platforms. What range of browsers will the site be built to be compatible with (IE6 and above? Safari? Firefox? Netscape Navigator 4?) You also need to consider what range of screen sizes the site’s design will cater for. What is the minimum screen size at which the site will be usable? What is the minimum size at which the site will appear at its best? Searching Many sites will feature a search facility. Will the site require a search facility? If so, will it search the whole site or only specific parts? Will the search facility be able to search uploaded files such as pdf and Word documents? Support and Maintenance Once the site has been developed and is up and running, it will still require a certain level of technical support. This may include making adjustments to the system, dealing with bugs in the system, training users how to use the system, etc. When considering support, you may like to keep in mind the following questions: • What support will be available for the site once it is running? • If the site is run using an existing system, what ongoing support is available? • Is support charged as a recurring fee or one-off payment? • How long is this support guaranteed to be available? • If the site has been built from scratch, will the system be documented? Who will maintain the system in the future? • If the site has been built from scratch, will the system be easily intelligible to those other than the developers of the system? • What is the expected lifespan if the hardware on which the system will be running?
  9. 9. Content Management As well as technical maintenance, the site’s content will also need maintaining. It is likely that several individuals will have responsibility for maintaining the content of the site, some of whom may not be that technical. As such, the site may require some sort of content management system that enables content owners to add edit and remove content. Such a system may also need to be able to allocate different access rights and editing privileges to different users. Additionally, there also needs to be a mechanism for administrating the users of such a system. Some sites may also require mechanisms for consuming dynamic content from external sources such as rss news feeds or databases.