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Web Production & Distribution:

Project Plan

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Refine Your Concept

When your production timeline is ready to begin, assemble your production team and define your project plan. You should also begin to identify a small team of academic reviewers (including both content experts and educational curriculum experts) and potential audience focus group reviewers.

One effective approach for the kickoff is to write an audience and mission statement. It's helpful to keep this as short as possible and to think of this as your benchmark for making all future decisions about project content. You can also get signoff on this statement from all project "stakeholders" -- funders (if they have editorial review), others on the project team, academic reviewers, presenting stations or online services, etc. This will give you some boundaries to work with in case a stakeholder asks for changes to the site that are beyond the mission. Here's an example of such a statement, written for the Web site for Building Big.

Our primary audience is fifth to eighth graders in informal educational settings, but we also want the site to be appealing to adult viewers of the video programs. Our mission is to build awareness of (civil) engineering as a career choice and of the scientific principles that underlie its practice by creating an engaging and informative site about building large structures. The site should stand on its own, while serving as a companion to the TV series and complementing the other outreach materials and activities.

You might next consider bringing in your entire team, together with others who are working on other aspects of the project or on other projects for a similar audience, in a brainstorm session. It's most likely been quite a while since the proposal was written, and this is your opportunity (and final chance) to rethink the content and approach. The brainstorm should have around 10 to 15 participants and should be focused around four to six key questions about site content or presentation.

The goal of the brainstorm is to generate at least 30 ideas in answer to each of the questions. You should have a timekeeper, a facilitator, and a recorder. The brainstorm should follow certain rules in order to keep the session focused and productive:

  • Encourage wild ideas.
  • Don't make any judgment about ideas.
  • Stay on the current question.
  • Express an idea and then move on.
  • Build on the ideas of others.
  • Have only one conversation at a time.

After the brainstorm, the core team should reassemble to prepare the project plan. There may be new content ideas or new presentation approaches that were generated. The project plan should include:

  • The audience and mission statement
  • An outline and brief description of all the content sections of the site
  • A description of the design approach you'll be taking (use lots of adjectives!)
  • An elaboration of the technical specifications for the site (Will there be any materials in anything other than straightforward HTML formats? Are there special database, server, or bandwidth needs? How well will this work on slower or older computers or on slower dial-up connections?)
  • A preliminary site schema, identifying the layers of home and sub-home pages, and the way these link to each other

Example: Enhancing Education original site schema (PDF)

As with the mission statement, the project plan should go to site stakeholders for signoff. You may want to get reviewers to comment on the site plan, asking your academic experts to determine if you're approaching the subject fairly and comprehensively enough and if there are any content landmines you may encounter. And you may want to bring in a focus group representing your potential end-user audience to determine how well the site covers their needs and interests.


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