Tim Frick discusses web development issues and his new book, Managing Interactive Media Projects.

Five biggest web developer mistakes:

1. Not Giving the Big Picture – Clients usually have no idea what a web update or overhaul entails. Make sure to take them through the ENTIRE process so they have a clear understanding of activities and timelines.

2. Ambiguous Budgets – “We can do it for about …” Initially it may seem fine to give a budget number without parameters, but it usually comes back to haunt you. Developers need to be clear about defining EXACTLY what the budget and timelines entail. And be sure to ask clients for their budget expectations prior to putting together the proposal – it helps everyone in the long run.

3. Improperly Defined Projects – Exactly what is considered a “revision”? How are maintenance or glitches handled? This helps avoid “feature creep” (clients adding on time-consuming and expensive features) and sets expectations.

4. Viewing Deadlines as “Suggestions” – Clients usually have their own internal or external clients they’re reporting to who are also looking at deadlines. Respect the deadlines you and your client set as finite.

5. Dismissing Brand Guidelines – “The logo would pop better in green…” Clients have spent time and money putting together their brand and identity guidelines. Make sure you’re familiar with what can and cannot be altered.

Why I wrote Managing Interactive Media Projects:
I have always been interested in workflow process from the very first time I picked up Adobe Premiere and Photoshop back in the early 90s. Finding better, faster, more efficient ways of doing things has been at the forefront of my professional development since day one. When you are a self-employed designer, which I have been since the mid 90s, you often work alone in the vacuum of your back bedroom and must be extremely proactive in searching out approaches that will keep your skill level fresh, fast and up-to-date. Learning new technology tricks is one thing, but being able to efficiently apply those techniques to your workflow and still maintain some level of profitability is something else entirely.

When I began teaching in the late 90s I encountered many students whose creative and development talents were exceptional, but who had no clue whatsoever about how to manage expectations, meet deadlines, or keep others abreast of their project progress. In looking around for a text to address some of these general communication and workflow issues as they related to Flash or Web design projects, I really couldn’t find any that were specifically suited to creative people like me or my students or to those who maybe hadn’t worked on a long-term larger scale project before.

Shortly thereafter, I helped a large client of mine set up their own internal interactive communications department. They asked me to write a “best practices” white paper on my process and for the first time I was faced with sitting down and compiling what I’d learned over the years about how to successfully manage and run my business. As I compiled research data and began to outline my process, I realized that the contents would not only be helpful to my clients but to students as well. Eventually the contents of that white paper morphed into the outline for Managing Interactive Media Projects.

Mightybytes is a small company, which allows us to be flexible when unforeseen project hiccups arise, as they always do. Of course no one can predict every possible production stumbling block or out-of-scope request that might occur during any given project, but building steps into your workflow that help accommodate for those unforeseen hurdles can go a long way in maintaining a high success ratio of profitable projects and happy clients. The intent of my book is to help readers implement these best practices for interactive media projects into their own workflow. Not every step outlined in the book is appropriate for every project, but each chapter has take away tips and tricks for keeping projects on track, on budget and so on. Detailed case studies with a “real world” approach to various production tasks round out the content.

Who can benefit from it:
Managing Interactive Media Projects can be an extremely helpful tool for marketers and designers looking to expand their skills, take on larger projects, or learn how to manage development tasks without becoming developers themselves. Since it doesn’t address a lot of specific production tasks, such as how to wrangle code or edit layer masks in Photoshop it has a broader appeal than a book on Flash or Dreamweaver might, for instance.

The book discusses how to manage the art direction process, address multiple rounds of revisions, build a good proposal, create prototypes, implement effective testing techniques, and so on while also maintaining timelines and budgets. I specifically set out to write an easy-to-understand, friendly and accessible book on the rather, well, dry topic of project management that would be attractive to the creative community and those to whom technical or development expertise may not be a strong suit.

By putting a face to concepts that might be a bit baffling to the average marketer or designer, real world case studies peppered throughout the book can help demystify many production tasks in the life cycle of a typical interactive media project. Nearly every chapter contains interviews with developers, designers, project managers, producers, programmers, writers, testers, research analysts, and so on, talking about various elements of their craft. The book also follows an actual project – the development of a Chicago theater company’s award-winning Web site – from concept to completion, outlining various challenges that arose during production and how they were addressed.

Tim Frick is the president and founder of Mightybytes, Inc., a ten year-old digital media design firm located on Chicago’s north side. A former instructor at Columbia College and Ascend Training, Tim is also a frequent conference and seminar speaker with recent engagements for the American Marketing Association, the Web Design Conference and the Motion Graphics Festival. He is the author of Managing Interactive Media Projects, a digital media project process guide from Delmar-Cengage Learning.