System Aids Site Design

Clients often have a clear idea of what they want for a Web site, although such notions are subject to change as work proceeds.

Clients often have a clear idea of what they want for a Web site, although such notions are subject to change as work proceeds.

Sometimes, for example, the designer who maps out a graphical idea of what the client wants comes up with a different look. The programmer responsible for the sites code may vary the wishes of both client and designer to fit what he can actually produce. Coordinating these diverging views falls to the project manager.

A new collaborative development system promises to ease the task for everyone involved.

Macromedias Sitespring system uses the conventions of the Web to coordinate site development, said Tony Amidei, interactive design director at Perimetre-Flux, a San Francisco Web site-building firm. Sitespring produces a site for each project, and "each team member gets a home page with assigned tasks, e-mail and discussion threads related to you," he said.

In addition to the personalized pages, the system provides a place where everyone involved in the project can see their tasks, and access discussion threads to capture important exchanges on decisions for the project as well as a file sharing capability.

"Often, three people need a file from a client, but the client typically sends it to one person [as an attachment to e-mail]," Amidei noted. Then the file sits in that individuals e-mail box until a deadline approaches and other people start asking whether its come in, he said.

"The advantage of Sitespring is that it provides one central communications hub," he said. A task assignment sent to a team member may include a link to a relevant file. An e-mail alert on the task may also contain a link.

Task assignments may be directed to individuals, but the deadlines for when they are due are extracted and built into a general-purpose schedule on the project site, rather than having team members "hunting through e-mail to find the one that says when something is due," Amidei said.

Perimetre-Flux, which has built Web sites for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and other clients, has been using beta versions of Sitespring since April. The product will become generally available in August at a price of $1,999 per server for three users. A 10-user license is $4,995, plus support charges.

Erik Larson, Sitespring product manager, said a client-facing site can also be constructed in addition to an internal project site, using a Java Server Pages template. Sitespring will automatically upload designated items to the client site for review, such as a finished graphic or the main proposals for a dominant graphic for client review.

Macromedia, in San Francisco, also makes the Dreamweaver site design tool and the Flash animation player. Macromedia merged with site development tool supplier Allaire in March.