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Cisco Networking Academy Program: Web Design Pre-Production Process

Chapter Description

A majority of web projects are developed in three phases: Pre-Production, Production, and Post-Production. Each phase has many interim stages, and some stages overlap others. This chapter provides a sample approach of the steps involved in a typical pre-production phase.

Production Roles

Depending on your role in the web-design process, you need to be familiar with all aspects of the process and with those professionals who specialize in particular aspects of the process. You might start as a web designer, but you might need to learn how to edit audio sooner or later. You might do only web design, but need to communicate with a programmer, and thus need to understand the basics of the job. The responsibilities of the web designer might vary depending on the size and scope of the project and the web-design firm—especially if you are a one-person web-design firm. Not all roles are always necessary for all projects. You could play all the roles at once.

It is rare that any one individual has all the necessary expertise to perform all the tasks associated with the development of a complex website. Because web development can involve many different forms of expertise, it is common practice to work in a group and to hire others to help meet tight deadlines or to perform specialized tasks. Skilled writers, photographers, illustrators, graphic designers, programmers, multimedia artists, and even additional web designers can be employed to complete the project. Roles can include the following:

  • Web designer—The term web designer covers a wide variety of artistic tasks, including the design of the interface and layout; creation of templates, menus, logos, banners, and buttons; typography; development of color scheme; creation and manipulation of images; and sometimes animation and video. In large firms, web designers implement the website design that was created by the creative director. An ideal web designer has an innovative sense of style, a strong understanding of interface design, and a solid foundation in design theory. Some web designers might have a fine art or graphic design degree. They should have a solid foundation in areas such as color theory, design, drawing, layout, and typography. They should also have an understanding of browser and platform capabilities and constraints. Web designers are also expected to have experience working with HTML, WYSIWYG editors, and various graphic applications.

  • Creative director—Large web-design firms generally have creative directors who are responsible for the overall look or appearance of a product. They develop the overall concept of a product. Most creative directors were once graphic or web designers.

  • Web masters—The term web master is often confused with web designer. A web master is someone who maintains an existing website. Some web masters are also web designers. Generally, they are responsible for updating links, updating the site with new content, fixing scripting errors, answering e-mail enquiries, and keeping the web server up and running. Web masters typically have backgrounds in networking, web design, or programming.

  • Audio designer—An audio designer or engineer is responsible for all audio elements of a website, including musical scores, sound effects, and voice-overs. Smaller design firms hire audio designers for projects.

  • Video designer—Similar to the audio designer, the video designer might be an independent contractor that you or your web-design firm hires for individual projects. The video designer creates and edits video clips for websites. They work closely with the audio designer and the art director.

  • Animator—There are people who specialize in creating animations for websites. Some are animators who worked with film and have switched to the web medium. Others were trained as web animators from the start or were graphic designers who learned the specialized tools. Sophisticated animations require knowledge of relevant programming languages and scripts, but most web animations can be created without sophisticated scripting such as Animated GIFs. Most web animations can be created by using an animation tool, such as Macromedia Flash or Adobe LiveMotion. With tools such as these, you can create effective and entertaining animations fairly quickly.

  • Programmers—Programmers can be responsible for coding HTML and creating scripts for the website. The programmer might have experience with CGI scripting, JavaScript, VBScript, SQL, Perl, XML, and Dynamic HTML. Dynamic websites need a programmer who is proficient in one of these programming languages. Involve your programmer in early meetings regarding the definition of the site. The programmer can then make suggestions related to programming issues before the design begins.

  • Technical, copy, and script writers—Writers are responsible for creating and editing the words that are used throughout a product. These include the text that appears on the screen and the words that are spoken in an audio or video clip.

  • Usability expert—This person analyzes designs for ease of use. A usability expert looks at your website, tests it, and determines what you can do to improve the design so that users can get information quickly and easily. Many usability experts are self-employed and can be contracted for various projects. Chapter 6, "User Interface Design," and Chapter 10 discuss the issues of usability and usability testing in detail.

  • Project Manager—A project manager is responsible for all aspects of the project: schedule, budget, production, and all contacts with the client. The project manager also manages all members of the team. Knowledge of all aspects of the web-design process is critical for this person. Project managers are also responsible for hiring capable professionals who can accomplish the necessary tasks within the specified time frame and budget limitations.

Team Structure

Unless you set up your own business and design the entire website from scratch, you will probably be part of a web design team. The size of the team depends on the project and the resources of the web-design firm or company. In large web-design firms or IT departments, there might be many members on the team, each with a specific task. Smaller companies might only have a few people who are responsible for the entire development of the website. Figure 4-2 illustrates how some of the positions discussed earlier might fit into a team's structure. (This diagram is a sample structure and might not reflect what you will encounter in your job.) Remember: None of these titles are set in stone, nor are the relationships between positions. You will find that each company operates differently.

Figure 4.2Figure 4-2 Typical Team Structure

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