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Website Design Method: Project Planning for a Website

written by: Hans • edited by: Marlene Gundlach • updated: 2/28/2013

Project planning for a website is often similar to other software projects. The first part of this short series will show the technological point of view.

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    Ten Aspects: First in a Series

    This is the first article of a ten-step series that introduces some ideas about website design. Here is an overview to introduce you to the series components:

    • Part 1 - "Website Design Method - Project Planning for a Website"
    • Part 2 - "Web Site Design Method - The Implementation Phase"
    • Part 3 - "Implementing Web Sites Using Automatic Code and Graphic Generation"
    • Part 4 - "Web Site Design: The Project Management View"
    • Part 5 - "Small Static Website Projects"
    • Part 6 - "Dynamic Website Projects"
    • Part 7 - "Data Based Frontends - Its Own Category of Websites"
    • Part 8 - "Artwork - The Beauty of Website Design"
    • Part 9 - "Web Based Application - A Growing Market"
    • Part 10 - "Community Development"
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    User Centric Website Design

    The Website Design Method, WSDM, was described by Professor Dr. Olga De Troyer in 1998. For the original resources please refer to the Web & Information System Engineering (WISE) research group of the department of Computer Science of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

    This article gives a short overview of the methods idea from the technological point of view. First this method points out to the audience, then to the conceptual design, followed by implementation design, and finally the implementation itself. Testing is not included in a satisfactory way. The most critical part of the WSDM only deals with implementation oriented design and does not include the test design.

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    Audience Modeling

    First you need to understand your audience, and that is little more difficult in web design than in usual software projects. This will apply the user centric design as in the user view of the 360 Degree Software Design. Modeling the audience for a website leads us to the question: Whom are we building this page for? It is normally the client's customer? Thus we need to ask our client about this and hope to get answers that are applicable.

    The audiences will be divided by classifications and then described by the audience characterization. This is primarily required because of the complexity of website audiences, but also because the interaction may differ between the different classes of audience. The interaction is strongly dependent upon the mission the website will follow. This mission is always a difficult analysis, and it should be part of this first step in website design. Professor de Troyer claims the decalration of the mission statement is the first step. This idea is not followed within this article because it is not in-line with the plan of project butterfly, and this fits strongly with web design.

    Another point in the discussion of the WSDM is the type of requirements engineering (RE). Professor de Troyer supposes to include this in the mission statement. Good idea, indeed, although I'd rather like to define a project phase called requirements engineering that starts right at the beginning but never ends. Instead it is an accompanying process during the whole project. There is no other class of software project that suffers from so many change requests as websites. Therefore, a well defined RE should be explained and completed.

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    Conceptual Design

    The conceptual design phase transfers the results of the analysis phase into a more abstract level where the requirements (if not managed in an RE process) are described in a way that supports automatic generation of the website. Some of the most important steps may be setting up a structure of tasks and sub tasks that have to be controlled by the website's navigation system and must support the audience as much as possible. The success of a website depends mostly on the art of user guidance. That's why developing your own navigation design phase is proposed by de Troyer.

    To build the task tree we can use UML tools to create navigation, like with an activity diagram or scenarios using a sequence diagram. Even the proposed object role modeling (ORM) can be supported using the Unified Modeling Language (UML), where the use case diagram (ucd) is a good idea. Not all website projects deal with semantic support, but as time passes this fact is of increasing interest especially to support search engines and to improve the semantic networking between web pages. Project managers should think about this future technological basis and should start right now with building their own ontological basis for further web projects. Building ontologies takes a lot of time, many months up to 1-2 years, to be used in a highly efficient manner. Start right now dealing with this time consuming topic. Learning WSDM with Web Ontology Language (OWL) could be a first step.

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    Navigational Design

    The Navigational Design is based on a tree of tasks performed by the website. These tasks are to be restructured to fit into navigational concepts and structures. There are navigation tools to be designed including semantic ways, structural links, short cuts, and others. The different kinds of links need to be represented by controls that fit the purpose of the link. Make sure that visitors with disabilities are supported.

    The next article in this series concerns the implementation phase.

Website Design Projects

This short series gives some ideas, not perfect solutions, about website design, website projects and some depending processes. The reader gets a distant point of view to reorganize his web projects using some possibly helpfull ideas.
  1. Website Design Method: Project Planning for a Website
  2. Website Design Method: The Implementation Phase
  3. Implementing Websites Using Automatic Code and Graphic Generation
  4. Website Design: The Project Management View
  5. Small Static Website Projects