Associated New Media (ANM)


(seated) Joann Weedon, Kenn Jordan and Matthew Clifford (standing) Robert Boyle and Emmanuel Mrakpor
Associated New Media lays groundwork for internal Web site development

In June 1999, Associated New Media (ANM), the London-based Internet division of Daily Mail General Trust and publisher of the ThisIsLondon.com, ThisIsMoney.- com and UKPlus.com sites, decided to broaden its horizons and test another market. "ANM identified that a women's destination site in the U.K. is one of the most crucial areas of the Internet marketplace to own," said Kenn Jordan, technical and design director, "tying in with the highly female bias of its national newspaper titles to allow for extensive cross-promotion and co-advertising deals."

APPLICATION
PROFILE

Project: CharlotteStreet.com

Purpose: Centralizing the development of ANM's Web sites.

Benefits: The ability to design, develop and manage interactive Web sites, as well as the ability to redevelop ANM's sites internally.

Platform: Windows NT

Thus, CharlotteStreet.com was born, a place, as it says on its Web site, "where women meet on the Web." The site provides information on pregnancy and babies, health, education, fitness, fashion and beauty, careers, personal finance, food, home and garden, weddings and travel.

But more than just tapping into another U.K. market, Charlotte- Street.com provided ANM with a way to centralize the development of all of its Web sites. In order to create CharlotteStreet.com, ANM created an engine that allows it to design, develop and manage interactive Web sites.

Prior to CharlotteStreet.com, all of ANM's development work was prototyped internally and then given to an external team who built and hosted it. CharlotteStreet.com was ANM's first completely internal venture, laying the groundwork for future internal development.

TOOLS & TECHNOLOGIES

Productivity Tools:
Visio, ERwin, MS-Excel, MS-Word, MS-Project

Software Tools:
SilverStream, Oracle 8.05, Macromedia Dreamweaver, Macromedia Flash, Macromedia Generator, CorelDraw, Adobe PhotoShop, Adobe ImageReady, JASC PaintShop Pro

Programmers and designers needed to experiment with code and design to find the best possible solution to each project requirement. In the beginning, the team concentrated its efforts on high-risk areas, such as interfacing Macromedia Flash with the middle and back-end systems. This process of addressing high-risk areas first proved very beneficial in allowing the application to evolve faster. The development team used objectives to manage the project. The app was split into functionality areas that translated into objectives. Team members had to then meet those objectives in a timely fashion.

Although successful, the project, which began at the end of June 1999, took longer than anticipated. The team had hoped to finish before the end of September, but had to push their original deadline back. In the end, CharlotteStreet.com did not go live until October 11, 1999, approximately 3.5 months after its inception.

DEVELOPMENT
TEAM

Three Java developers, two database/Java developers, a Macromedia Flash/ Generator developer, a technical and design director, a project manager, a design manager, a Macromedia Flash designer and a Flash/Web designer

"It took longer than anticipated to recruit the right resource," said Jordan. The right resource turned out to be ANM's own full-time Java developers with Web experience. "We became too reliant on contractors who had good Java skills, but their Web knowledge was little to none," he added.

The project's major technical challenge was meeting the need for one content database that was able to serve multiple presentation devices at the same time. Editorial content was to be captured once and presented to any device making a request. Two devices identified for phase one of the project were Web browsers using HTML and Web browsers using Macromedia Flash. In the future, ANM plans to use WebTV and digital TV, mobile phones and personal digital assistants.

To meet the content database challenge, the project team developed a device detection system and a content markup scheme. The content markup tags let the editorial team choose what parts of an article or feature are available for what devices. This required viewing an editorial piece as an object made up of other objects. For example, a feature is made up of paragraphs and, by using the content markup scheme, pagination and layout can be controlled.

The team used SilverStream for application development and as a Web application server, and Oracle 8.05 was used as content, object and code store. Macromedia Dreamweaver was used in HTML and DHTML page production, while Macromedia Flash and Macromedia Generator were used in Flash development and as a Flash movie generator. CorelDraw handled vector graphics production, while Adobe PhotoShop dealt with graphics production. Adobe ImageReady and JASC PaintShop Pro were used in graphics optimization. Products were chosen based on robustness, scalability, reliability, ease of use, and speed of implementation/integration with other systems. All of the Web surfing takes place on Windows NT.

The development team also used Visio for diagramming, ERwin and Microsoft Excel for data modeling, Microsoft Word for document production, and Microsoft Project for creating project plans that were also exported as Web pages.

Now that CharlotteStreet.com has proven successful, ANM can use the same concepts to redevelop its other Web sites internally. ANM has successfully revamped its UKPlus.com site, building it on the same architecture as CharlotteStreet.com, using an Oracle database and SilverStream. Developers have also started working on the ThisIsLondon.com site.

The biggest benefit of developing internally, said Jordan, is not being reliant on a development resource and the timing of an external company. "We have to move very quickly," he explained. "It's difficult for us to properly plan that when we're reliant on an external company." In addition, by developing all of its sites internally, ANM can track users across all the sites. Internal development also provides cheaper bandwidth, added Jordan, having the sites "all in one pipe, rather than four big pipes."
— Lana Gates

KEANE REPORT

This submission hits the target for innovation by tackling a problem that even commercial content management systems have not addressed successfully. The application uses a variety of technologies and tools (SQL, DHTML, graphics, movies, etc.) to achieve component reuse, which allows multiple Web sites to be built and managed cost effectively.

This entry received its winning votes because the architecture is sound for both current technologies and emerging ones such as Web TV, PDAs, mobile phones and so on. The implementation allows users to format the same source document for multiple output devices.

Finally, the new system allows the development team to quickly design, develop and centrally manage multiple Web sites, saving time and money in future development and support costs.

The submission could have been improved with more details on the business purpose of the project, as well as the addition of brief descriptions of the components shown in the architecture diagram.

Team Leader:
Joseph Kirpes, senior national enterprise architect

Team Members:
Vincent D'Amico, solution development practice manager; Shirish Jamthe, account manager and chairman of the Architecture Review Board; Naia Kirkpatrick, security architect; and John Varga, principal consultant

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