Virtual Construction

Why is it that you don't have builders on staff at your home? Your property needed to be built in the first place and from time to time you may want to extend it, renovate or whatever. The major jobs happen infrequently. However, day-to-day you want to be able to maintain your property, decorate etc.

This analogy may not translate accurately to your business systems and your web presence - but you can probably see the point. You need expert help from time to time but mostly you want the option to look after things yourself.

Time was, this scenario could not apply on the web. Internet technology was primitive and the tools were crude. Only specialists could get good results quickly enough. Fortunately, as the tools and technologies developed these restrictions have eased and it's now possible to do things differently.

What to Build?

These days, the watchword for business systems is "integration". Your web presence needs to act as a front end for your back-office systems so that there is a smooth flow through the business process. The simplest examples of this are order-taking and handling customer complaints. Speed and completeness are of the essence so an integrated system has huge advantages.

Often, we find there is a long shopping list of requirements for public website, extranet and intranet functionality. After the sifting process has done its work the requirement is often for abasic solution with some of each on which the remaining functions can be built over time.

Enter the Virtual Construction Team

The team: Architect, Designer, good tools and You.

The key resources needed to build effective solutions are not as technical as some people think.

First is the Architect who must work out how the business requirements will be met. It is best that the Architect has been closely involved in documenting the business requirement. The first task is to work out an overall site map and a list of the data objects that will be needed. Towards the end of the project this same person should perform an initial audit to make sure that the requirements have indeed been met.

The Architect's job is more difficult in some situations - for example, if integration of new systems with existing back-office systems is needed. The Architect may also need to work with a Systems Engineer if the system has demanding security requirements.

The Designer's job is to work with your corporate branding and the site concept to come up with a look and feel for the site. This is a highly skilled task and very subjective task. This work comes mostly at the beginning of a project and should be iterated until a satisfactory design is reached. Thereafter, some of the same skills will be needed for visual updates. For example, if the site uses cartoons these may need to be produced on an on-going basis.

You are the primary content author because you understand your business the best. You need to write the copy that gets your message over. If you prefer to delegate to a colleague that's fine, but try to select someone with a firm grasp of your business objectives and who writes good copy.

The Toolset

The above process should be facilitated by an appropriate set of development tools. Ideally, these tools should allow the work of the Designer and copywriter to proceed in parallel. This is because of the need to iterate. The site content when seen together with the design may inspire you to tweak the design. You do not want to find that you cannot do so.

The Kickstart framework is one toolset designed to work this way.

Getting started

Please see the Kickstart Quick-start guide for some guidance.

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