One of the things that often gets overlooked when building web apps is design. And there is often confusion about design and what that means. In fact application design enters into the realm of “Usability”. E.g. what type of interfaces will make the applications as easy to understand and pleasing to the user as possible. Great usability design will have an impact on support, adoption, productivity, etc. When you think great design and usability you usually think Apple – just ask Bill Gates (remember that whole saga with Windows…). If your assembling a team or selecting a company for complex application development, make sure design and usability doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.
The reality of many web strategies is the requirement to build some fairly complex applications. Those can range from sophisticated applications that connect different repositories of data in a web interface to applications that automate processes and work flow. The key to success with these types of web apps is the up front design process. Having a well thought out strategy and roadmap is crucial. Here are a few things to consider:
1. What’s your budget – And we are not just talking licensing, hardware and development – make sure you consider costs in time for your team, your domain experts, your executives, your IT staff, etc.
2. What’s high impact or low hanging fruit – Big projects need big wins to be successful. If your not sure what those big wins are – then do a functional analysis and do some cross team rankings for priority and impact. This will help to get everyone on your team focused on success and priorities.
3. Roadmaps – One of the best things you can do if you are building a solution in stages is to develop a roadmap. Build the large targets on the roadmap and outline the key strategic goals and enterprise impact.
4. Technology Selection – Often large projects will require more than one technology to be utilized and implemented. If the technology budgets is high consider doing a more formal technology selection process with RFPs, demo sessions, etc. A well run process can help to ensure the right technologies are selected to implement the solution
Large projects can be wildly successful if well planned and thought out. Projects that are done in knee jerk fashion or with little analysis and planning can often be more negative than positive in impact.
CMS systems are a critical component of any web strategy. Not only do most allow for “content management” but many also provide extended features such as document management, workflow, security, versioning and more. Whether you are focused on building a web site, extranet, intranet, etc. considering your CMS is an important part of the equation. Here are some things to consider:
- Technology platform – .net, php, java, etc.
- Cost – there are wide range of prices
- Viability – given the large number of players in the marketplace, is the company competitive and viable
- Third Party Support – Is there a market place of training, add-ons, developers, etc. available
- Features – work flow, document management, ease of use, scalability, and security
- Required Skills – What internal skills will be needed to use the system
Some systems to consider are:
- DotNetNuke – open source .net based framework
- Joomla – open source PHP based framework
- Ektron – .net based CMS
- SiteCore – .net based CMS
- Drupal – PHP open source platform
- Sitefinity – .net platform
- Vignette – Java based platform
A good link for reviewing even more options – check out the Wikipedia entry – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_content_management_systems
There are a lot of excellent systems available. If you are looking for a feature rich system, don’t be turned off by open source – many of these systems are widely supported and continue to grow in feature richness. Open source pricing (e.g. free) can free up more budget for implementation and customization.
As a follow on to the last post – imagine this – a man watches how to deliver a baby on YouTube. Sure many of us go to WebMD and look up the occasional malady. But this is pretty powerful stuff. What happens when the third world really gets connected – suddenly people who have little idea of what the modern world is a about will have access to a wealth of information.
The same goes for business – as a technical person when I have a problem – I Google it. All types of businesses are going to be empowered with the extensive growing database that is the web. The key is how to find that information and harness it.
The following article about Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau comments that the internet is something that has only just begun I strongly agree with. They speak in terms of # of people connected, new business founded, etc. That is certainly true. But I also think in terms of 21st business practices and operating procedures we have only just begun. Its common now for businesses to do online marketing, e-commerce, implement communication work flow (email), share information (documents), outsource, collect data and more. The most sophisticated businesses, including notably many web based businesses, are going even further. They are creating virtual teams of loosely nit resources into cohesive working groups. Some organizations have “webified” complex business practices into flexible operating groups. But, what happens when every single procedure, step, bit of information and more is dynamically captured and mined for information value to the organization? Think of it like moving from the horse and buggy stage to the superhighway system we have today.
I truly believe we are just now seeing the existing Model-T era of the net move into a more ubiquitous era when the net will touch everyone’s lives in way they could not imagine. Take one small example, I recently decided to mine my network of contacts over the last 15 years into Facebook. Something that would have been nearly impossible 20 years ago to get accomplished with out a lot of research and hard effort, took a couple of days. That’s cool. Now imagine in 10 years when Facebook or some other app simply tracks all I do (under my watchful eye of course) and automatically maps and tracks my entire network of interactions through my entire life. I could connect to the pizza delivery guy who I get a delivery from 3 times a month to my Dr. and his/her staff instantly and more… Imagine that type of power in large organizations – finding people to solve problems, connect, share and more. And that is just one example… Recently we have been involved in software for major disaster clean up (e.g. Hurricane Katrina and Ike) – that entire process over the last 5 to 7 years has radically been transformed with web technology.
The future is very exciting and bright for the net. Hopefully we will also see it help to connect those who are right now left behind to open up a whole new world of opportunity as Berners-Lee and Cailliau suggest.
Article Link: http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=CNG.3bb1cb136038ab4034b51162ec256bcc.2f1&show_article=1