Price: £1,499 plus VAT (three users)
Anyone involved in Web development will know that medium-sized projects are at most 50 per cent creativity, and the rest is project organization, and managing client expectations. It is often inefficiencies in the administration of a project that have the most negative impact on the final product. A piece of buggy code can easily be fixed, but dropped deadlines, client dissatisfaction and spiralling budgets are a lot more difficult to resolve. Sitespring is a server-based project management tool from Macromedia designed to focus on the problems Web teams face in managing medium and large-scale developments, and provides a structured framework for the entire development cycle – from simple task assignment through to client approval. Sitespring is organized hierarchically with projects, tasks, clients and developers all administered through a well laid-out, Web-based interface. Defining the various components is largely up to the administrator, and this gives Sitespring a great deal of flexibility. Projects, for example, can be entire Web sites or new features added to existing sites; either way, they’re built up from a number of smaller tasks, defined by a project owner, and assigned to specific developers. Project owners can, at a glance, oversee all aspects of the project, from timetabling to workflow, and can automatically produce reports on what’s going on. When a team member logs onto the system, they’re presented with a personalized view of tasks assigned to them. This could be anything from telling an account manager to invoice a client, or a developer to create a new login function. Each task includes a description, a completion status and deadline, and a file tree interface lets you locate and attach external files – such as content provided in Word format. Once tasks have been completed, they can be published to a secure project Web site for client approval. The project site is different from the internal Sitespring site used by members of the team, and the project owner can choose from a number of predefined styles, or design their own. From this project site, clients can add comments, approve changes, and request new tasks. A threaded discussion is set up for each project, so owners, developers and clients can discuss project issues throughout the process. Managing versions Given that a number of developers may be working on the same project, or different tasks may involve the same files, a file management system is included in the package. This file versioning control feature means that there are always back up copies of updated files, so changes can be undone easily. It also means that developers can track when the last updates have occurred so as to not overwrite another’s work. Sitespring is a well thought-out piece of software, but I imagine that any established development team is running some kind of project management system already and it doesn’t really offer any unique functionality. It’s ideally suited to the medium-sized team of between five and 20 staff, but even if your team (or the project for that matter) is smaller, Sitespring can help to formalize many of the routine tasks. Of course, as with any project management system, its usefulness hinges entirely on everyone being motivated enough to keep the content updated, which could be a major task in itself.