On November 17, 2010 we successfully launched the fully revamped and totally modernized Clean Eating Magazine website (http://cleaneatingmag.com/). The new site is a major step up in functionality for the Clean Eating team and utilizes the Agility CMS as the core engine to drive a highly optimized set of input forms, shared content objects, and highly configurable pages that put all the power in the hands of the Clean Eating team with lots of room for creativity and expansion.
From the beginning, our team decided to use the Clean Eating project as a mini test bed for a number of internal experiments on process and development refinements. Below are a few key areas that helped us make development a little more efficient along the way…
Early on, we spent a lot of extra time with the client to make sure their requirements were fully understood both by us and by them. Since this new site was a major technology upgrade for them we had to make sure they were clear on how things should be built and all the fine details related to their workflows and internal processes. We knew they had a very small team with limited time, so we focused on optimizing the content management side of things very heavily. Prior to signoff we really drilled in on how all the page elements and functional aspects linked together.
One of the areas we tried to improve here was a refinement to our design documentation. We found that the upgraded design document template generated in Visio was much quicker and easier to work with. We also found that trying to integrate the various scope and functionality questions into the document at an early stage helped keep the client on track instead of having to defer to a typical “question and answer” external document. As questions were answered we simply locked them in as part of the design description. At the end of the day we had a well-documented design doc that was also very client friendly when delivered in PDF format. Not that different than our older Word-based version, but just a bit more refined and a little less unruly to work with.
As we moved into architecture and ultimately development we focused on keeping everything in sync. As the architecture documentation was completed and signed off, we made sure that all of the work item tasks in Team Foundation Server aligned with the architecture document. We ended up with a lot of micro-type tasks, but since they aligned almost exactly with the architecture document table of contents it made it much easier for the developers to know what the tasks meant and where to find the details. This sounds pretty simple, but both David and Matt said this was a real help. Something to keep in mind for larger project with lots of tasks.
A major advantage on Clean Eating were the new Agility Input Forms. Literally in the matter of an afternoon we were able to build out the most important input forms with little to no customization required. The benefit of this was that it allowed me to get in really early and populate high quality test data. Even before front end development started, the team had 25+ real recipes waiting for them in Agility. Those recipes covered the various combinations of mandatory and non-mandatory content as well as featured accurate placeholder imagery. With accurate test data waiting in the system it seemed to have cut down development and bug fixing time pretty drastically as it removed ambiguity from the get-go. This also meant that as secondary modules became ready to go, there was already lots of good data to work with. (Good use cases came in handy here as well).
By the time we got the Clean Eating team in to train, they had an almost fully functional site with boat loads of example content to work from. It was very easy for them to go in and look at what was already setup and then simply mimic it as they learned Agility. If I had to choose the one thing I would duplicate on every project, it would be this process.
As always, big thanks to everyone who contributed to the project. Osvel’s architecture worked out really nicely and the team of Matt/David masterfully cranked out a really great site.