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Here are few handy terms that you really need to know when working with any web development company on a site redesign:
- Business Requirements– This document defines the high-level needs and features of the project by focusing on the capabilities needed by the Stakeholders of the project and the Target Users.
- CMS (Content Management System)– CMS is a term for software that allows you to maintain the content of your site without affecting the graphical templates and/or having to know HTML code. There are many packages in this space, in a wide range of price points, but Beacon has selected “Cascade Server” for its content management system and is a close partner with its developer– Hannon Hill. Several members of our staff work closely with Hannon Hill on product reviews, suggestions and enhancements and Justin Klingman recently spoke at their user conference on “Cascade Server Tips & Tricks.”
- Content Matrix—This document is used to define the components (content, functions and features) of the website and determine the source, feature type and other properties of these components. It also itemizes every page in the site and its relationship to other pages in the navigational structure.
- Dynamic/Transactional– One of the first questions an account exec will ask is whether your current site has “dynamic or transactional content,” which, admittedly, can be kind of confusing. What he/she means is– does your site have web pages that are more than simple text and images (a.k.a. “static content”)? “Static” web pages do not interact with the visitor at all. Transactional and/or dynamic pages interact with the visitor in some way. For example, a form is transactional because it takes information from the visitor and passes it to either an email program or a database. Dynamic pages pull information from a database (or other data source) to display to the visitor, based on some kind of criteria. For example, the following Bassett Furniture page (developed by Beacon, of course!) is “dynamic” because it allows the visitor to first make a state/country/zip selection and then the page interacts with a database to display just the information that the visitor needs. The reason that we ask this question is that usually dynamic and transactional pages take more time and budget to create than static content pages. We want to make sure that we provide the most accurate quote as possible for your project and knowing your expectations in this area are critical to doing so.
- Needs Assessment– A needs assessment is a great way to do all of the analysis and design work for a project before committing to the full development phase. During this rigorous process, we meet with the client to discuss the site’s functionality and purpose. Usually we also develop a list of requirements for the site as well a high level site hierarchy and graphical design. The goal of the process is to create a full blueprint for the site so that we can be ready to develop the site when you say “GO!”
- Project Plan— Time line of project tasks and deliverable deadlines.
- Site Hierarchy– This is a design document representing a general organizational structure of the site in hierarchical format.
- UAT (User Acceptance Testing)– Also known as “end user testing,” this is the phase of the project where you, the client, test the site in a “real world” environment. We have specially designated test servers at Beacon that allow you to view the site exactly as it will appear in Production, without opening it up to the public yet. Depending on the size of the project, we try to reserve at least a week (and usually two or more!) for this process, to make sure that we have met your expectations for the project.
- Wireframes— Also known as “conceptual page layouts,” this is a visual representation of critical user interfaces like forms and dynamic pages that interact with database functionality.
- Web 2.0– Really more of a marketing term than a technical one, “Web 2.0″ refers to applications that allow direct interaction between a website visitor and the site. This is a departure from “traditional” web sites that simply allowed visitors to read static content and not post questions or interact with the site in any way. Examples of Web 2.0 technologies that Beacon has recently incorporated include blogs, RSS-feeds and video.
I hope this list of terms was helpful to you! FYI– My very favorite site for technical terms is http://whatis.techtarget.com/. Lots of really good information with easy to understand definitions and links to external resources…