The Interactive Development Process

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| June 19, 2007

Interactive development process

Interactive development process Guide

In my experience as an interactive art director at a strategic marketing firm, I’ve found that the best client relationships are open and collaborative, enabling a productive exchange of ideas and fostering a common pursuit of a singular goal. I have also found that creating visualization charts of my interactive development process has been a good exercise. For all the organizational benefits of having a well-defined process, it can also be viewed as a flexible framework. While I use it as the foundation of all my projects, I realize that it can always be adjusted to fit the situation.

To help my clients understand the steps I take in developing a website or Flash presentation, I have designed a communication tool to help them visualize each phase of a project. I created the “Interactive Development Process” diagram to help distill the complex projects into their essential and optional components. Below is a detailed description of each phase of the process…

Discovery Phase: This phase typically is composed of a series of meetings with key client representatives to determine project goals, objectives, audiences, marketplace competitors and other factors necessary to create a plan. I often follow up with further questions to ensure that I fully understand the scope, schedule, priorities, information architecture and functional or database requirements. I discuss how success is to be measured, and make recommendations for evaluating return on investment and other research or testing opportunities as needed.

Planning Phase: The purpose of this phase is to synthesize the information gathered in the discovery phase into elements useful for site development. For each interactive project, I create a functional site map, feature list, production schedule and creative brief, all of which are shared with client representatives and adjusted as needed. I also develop a list of all the content that must be obtained from the client. In this phase, I often make recommendations for specific enhancements or audience-specific marketing, like Flash animations or content profiling.

Design Phase: During this phase, I develop multiple, audience-specific interfaces and navigation schemes for the site. These prototypes typically consist of non-interactive mockups, interactive mockups, and storyboarded animation. The goal of this phase is to agree on a basic design of the site, including general look and feel, colors, images, logos, layout, and navigation. When time and budget allow, I test chosen designs with actual members of target audiences to determine their usability and effectiveness.

Production Phase: Here’s when I produce all necessary graphics, photography, animation, coding, database and applications for the site. The copywriter develops and edits copy and content for use on the Web. Often, production occurs in three or more stages so that the clients can get a Web presence up immediately, but complete functionality is delayed until the site is fully developed and tested. Coordination may be necessary between developers and the client’s information technology department to ensure systems can be fully integrated as needed.

Testing Phase: During testing, quality control specialists check all aspects of the Web site—every link, mouse over, animation, script and form—to make sure all aspects are working correctly before launch begins. Developers also thoroughly check for operation system, browser and ADA, as well as Federal 508 compliance. The copywriters create all necessary tags for search engine optimization during this phase.

Launch and Maintenance Phase:
In the final phase, the media department works closely with clients to plan and promote the launch. They assist with PR initiatives and other marketing strategies to draw in new audiences. Often during this phase, I provide documentation and training so that internal client resources can efficiently update content and feature changes on their own after the launch.

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