Archive | October, 2010

It’s the Blueprint of the Plan of the Guide to What You are Building

31 Oct

While writing a Functional Specifications Document (FSD) may not be part of every Producers role, it is a skill worth spending some time developing.

It’s the blueprint of the plan of the guide to what you are building

In short; the FSD is a blueprint of how to build your project. It is most commonly used within  the Waterfall method to site development with good FSDs, or the lack of, linked to the success or failure of a project.

At a minimum, most FSDs will cover off all functional elements of the site, plus include a range of ancillary information to help the development team pull disparate site elements together. This can range from navigational elements to the visual treatment of links, buttons and lists. Detailed information on pull-down menu content and form elements through to site maps, wire frames and prototypes detailing user flow or look and feel. There really is a lot of information that can go into a FSD.

While there are many elements of a FSD which are constant, no two FSDs are the same. Depending on your project scope and how close you work with your development team will partially determine what detail you include. A good FSDs will often cover:

  • Details of site features
  • Outline of functional elements
  • Interaction Points
  • User flows
  • Dynamic elements and content including dependencies

Gonna get me some learning

One of the best tutorials for writing a FSD can be found online at Mojofat.com. This is a highly detailed tutorial running through requirements gathering through to writing the actual document. I highly recommend making the time to read this as it is a great introduction to writing a FSD.

In a nut shell

Writing a FSD can be both time consuming, and at times boring, yet a well thought out and detailed FSD can help ensure your project will be delivered on time and to budget.

So how do you feel about writing FSD, is is a large part of your role or something to be avoided like the plague? Feel free to share your thoughts below.

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Six Revisions

22 Oct

Six Revisions is a great resource for Producers. Focusing on development and design the site offers excellent insights on building websites such as this recent article on producing websites under difficult IT restrictions.

Live, Work, Meet Up

15 Oct

The Global Financial Crisis has hit a lot of countries quite hard financially. Many governments have had to take austerity measures in order to reduce costs, while looking at ways to shore up diminishing revenue streams.

Reforms

With ageing populations and longer lifespans, one increasingly common approach western governments have taken, has been to increase the pension eligibility age within their countries. This can be evidenced with moves by the Greek, British and German governments to increase eligibility ages, and more recently the announcement by the French government of their intention to increase the pension age from 60 to 62.

As a result of the French governments announcement, France has seen dramatic scenes of civil unrest and protests including strikes, blockades, student protests. These events have been similar to those which previously transpired in other countries such as Greece.

Nothing of consequence

These reaction from Europe have had me thinking back to the Australian governments announcement earlier this year to raise the official qualifying age for the Age Pension from 65 to 67, and the Australian publics response to these changes: Little attention, no  public outcry and certainly no civil disobedience.

So why was the Australian response so dramatically different to those in Europe? Has our miraculous economy provide such a buffer that we feel safe and secure with no need to voice and opinion. Or has the laconic Australian attitude of “she’ll be right mate” simply helped Australian workers take the changes in their stride?

These are questions that I myself can’t answer, and while I can’t tap into the greater Australian psyche and answer why Australia has been relatively OK with the idea we will now be working longer, I can make a suggestion on how to deal with it.

Working longer

With the expectation that we will now spend a longer time in the workforce, it becomes even more important to ensure we keep up-to-date with what is happening in our industry while making sure we keep our skills relevant.

Investing in your own development is key, and you don’t need to wait for your boss to sign off on training to invest in yourself. For a free development hit, look for industry groups and get togethers where you can meet people in the industry and discuss new ideas and directions.

These types of events also offer fantastic networking opportunities and can lead to exciting side projects or event new roles.

If you are trying to find something to get involved in, there are a range of sites to help you find things that are going on around you;

While a lot of the above events are Sydney based, this list can give you a good starting point to help find things that are happening around you. And if you have any suggestions of resources for industry meet ups or discussion groups, please feel free to share below.

5 Useful Firefox Add-ons for Web Producers

10 Oct

Over on Kontain, Future Interactive’s Executive Producer Stephen Martin posted an excellent piece on what tools a producer at FI would use in their daily role.

This got me thinking, what tools I use on a daily basis, particularly given I currently work in a very restrictive corporate environment? While I have access to the normal Office suite of applications, the range of utility applications I can install is pretty much nil.

As result, Firefox has become my faithful workhorse. It allows me to install add-ons to provide browser based tools that let me complete key tasks my role calls of me, and with 1000’s of add-ons there’s something for every job.

Fireshot
Fireshot is an extremely good screen grab add-on that allows the capture of whole web pages. You can then annotate, edit and save all your screenshots quickly and efficiently right in the browser.

Pencil
Wireframing is part and parcel of the producers role. Pencil is an amazingly useful add-on that allows you to create and edit wireframes directly in the browser. Released for free under the GPL, this is one extension you should not be without.

SEO Quake
When dabbling in the dark art that is SEO, you can’t go past the SEO Quake add-on. This add-on provides an insane amount of information relating to each page you view. It’s highly recommended you RTFM as the plugin options are extensive.

Firebug
While you may not always do a lot of coding as a producer, it is necessary at times to peek under the hood to understand what’s going on. Firebug is simply THE best tool to do this.

ColorZilla
Packed full of goodies such as a colour picker, eyedropper, page zoom, pallate analyzer all with Firebug integration; when colour matters ColorZilla is the tool to use.

So there you have five very useful extensions for Firefox that help in the day to day role of the producer. Feel free to share below, any add-ons you find useful in your role.

The Producer as the Project Manager

6 Oct

Recently I was outlining the role of a Online Producer it was asked of me:

“Isn’t that just what a Project Manager does?”

It’s a common misconception thrown around frequently, that is the idea that a producer is just another name for a Project Manager. So the question begs, why bother with producers?

From my experience, the producer and the Project Manager roles are, in some aspects, not too dissimilar. Though one thing seems to constantly present itself in defining the differences between the two skill sets is the creative aspect of a producer.

In a great post on his Digital River Guides blog, Bryan Daniels sums this concept up nicely;

“…a Digital Producer may cross over into doing project management work but seldom, if ever, does a Project Manager cross over into driving and influencing strategic and creative work”.

The point of difference that Daniels is making, and backed up by Tony Zeoli’s post to the Web Producers list, revolves around the producer as a strategic creative thinker, a link between creative, technical and the client while the Project Manager focuses on things such as timelines, budgets and resource allocation.

To help visualise this difference a better, I have taken direction from Sarah Lantry’s post on econsultancy.com and further defined some explicit skills and tasks between the two jobs and the roles they play.

The Project Manager
Often tertiary educated in Logistics or Project Management with qualifications in various Project Management methodologies. Project Managers are fanatical organisers, look at a project as a whole including impacts outside of the digital sphere with an awareness of risk management, project progress and commercial requirements.

The Online Producer
Often tertiary educated, although in a varying range of areas, the producers primary focus is the digital landscape. Producers mostly come from creative or technical backgrounds with strong functional understanding of the development process. Producers help define a clients vision and develop a digital strategy. In many cases the producer is the common thread between development stages of project.

Who does what and when?

The scope of a project will often determine what role the producer and  the Project Manager will play in a project. For larger scale projects where there are impacts with systems or departments outside of the digital space, the producer may play second fiddle to the Project Manager, often acting as the online Subject Matter Expert (SME) for the project while co-ordinating the digital aspects for the Project Manager.

In smaller projects the producer may take on the end-to-end management of the project, taking on many project management tasks including budgeting, resource allocation, dealing with stakeholders an managing the production work flow.

So who you gonna call?

While the above scenarios and tasks are not hard and fast rules, hopefully they help to provide some insight into how the role of the producer fits into a project and the production cycle. And hopefully they will help you understand when best to call on a producers particular set of skills.

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