How do I scope a dynamic webpage thingy?
July 11, 2013 6:40 PM   Subscribe

I'm pretty dim, but I've been told to write a scope of work for a dynamic webpage. Can you help me with the lingo?

I have software that can create a simple table of numeric IDs and values every 15 minutes. This can be done as a spreadsheet, text file, or XML. I need to wrap this in a nicely formatted display where the IDs are translated to names, some static links and other info for each name are added into the table, with some boilerplate language on top, and maybe a soothing blue background.

I have a reasonable budget, a website, probably everything I need except the ability to render into programmer-ese exactly what I'm asking for. Can anyone feed me some prompts?
posted by Banish Misfortune to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you sketch up what the page might look like in a Word or Google doc and pair that up with the text and/or XML data input file that should be plenty to get the conversation started. A formal scope of work document may be overkill unless you plan to shop the work around to a bunch of devs/shops.

A big question will be Do you have hosting set-up or will you require that from the dev as well? Another thing to think about is the process by which the data text/XML file gets updated....what will be the interface between the table creation software and the web application?
posted by 0 at 7:06 PM on July 11, 2013

Who has told you to write this scope of work? Is it the developer you're thinking of working with?

At the small software / web dev company where I work, we normally talk with a prospective client in whatever level of technical terms they're most comfortable with, letting them describe their requirements in plain English. Then usually I (a project manager) work with a developer to "render into programmer-ese" an outline of what we think the best technological solution will be, and we go back and explain that to the prospective client. So, based on my (limited) experience, my answer is that it shouldn't be your job to write the scope of work; the developers you're getting bids from should do that, and their ability to translate your plain-English requirements into a technological solution will tell you a lot about what it will be like to work with them on your project.

Your first paragraph under the fold looks like a good starting point to me. The next things I'd ask about are your use case(s) and more information about the software you already have—where is it running, where do its outputs go, does the new web application need to run in the same environment or remotely, etc. I'm sure the developers would have additional questions.
posted by Orinda at 7:17 PM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I should have mentioned, formal procurement procedures will require a good scope. The remarks about the outputs and interface will help me.
posted by Banish Misfortune at 7:50 PM on July 11, 2013

Best answer: I'll use some programmer-ese to ask questions that might be relevant to the work, so maybe you can address them in the scope:

- Does the app have to work in IE8?
- Does your data need to be retrieved from a location that's remote with respect to the website?
- Does the data ever need to be cleansed of unexpected / changing values in the txt/xls/xml?
- Does the data need a history/archive of past values?
- Is the data so large that it would be impractical to re-parse it on every page load?
- Does the developer need to import it into a database just once every 15 minutes for that reason?
- Does the other data (e.g. names, links, etc.) need an interface for inputting it into a database?
- If so, does the interface need to list some data to associate the info with, or will you just manually input an ID you know to be in use in your txt/xls/xml file?
- Does the data need to be searchable through the web? All fields or just some? Should there be an advanced search interface where people search in particular fields?
- Note: if you have something like a search interface or an admin interface, it would be reasonble to state in your scope that you expect user inputs to be sanitized to disallow SQL injection and CSRF attacks at a minimum, plus XSS if anything a non-admin types in might appear somewhere on the web (this includes search/sort fields, if you can link to a search/sort).
- Does the presentation of the data need to be sortable? Does any of the data sort by criteria other than alphanumeric, numeric, or date comparisons?
- Are there any dates involved in the data? Is their timezone relevant to the presentation of the data?
- Does the date/time of the last update of the dynamic data need to be presented through the web?
- Should the public view of the data update itself automatically as new versions of the txt/xls/xml are published? If so, how close to the actual moment of publication does the update have to be?
- Does the boilerplate language need to be editable through the web? Do you need other pages to explain what the data or project is, such that you'd want a content management system, or can the developer just give you one field of boilerplate text to edit through the admin screen?
- Does your hosting platform have technology constraints impacting the implementation of your solution? Does the solution have to be written in a particular language? Should the app be portable to any OS? Should the app be able to use any RDBMS for the extra info? Does your hosting provider offer a selection of SQL and NoSQL databases to choose from in storing any data?
- Should the design/layout be composed of templates that are reusable on other pages in the future?
- Should the design/layout use contemporary technologies such as a grid system (e.g. Bootstrap or 960) or a stylesheet language (SASS or Less)?
- Should the designer also supply any original/uncompressed image files for the design as part of the project deliverables?

I'm sure the answer to lots of that is just no, but there's a lot of terminology there that's ordinary to me that you might be able to pick from when writing your scope of work.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 8:58 PM on July 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Monsieur Caution, you are extraordinary. Thank you.
posted by Banish Misfortune at 12:24 AM on July 12, 2013

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