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Over the past five years, PixelDance has worked with dozens of clients on a wide range of interactive marketing projects. Our clients tend to be experienced marketing professionals at major companies.

However, because of the newness of the Web and CD-ROM technology as marketing tools, many of our clients have never before been responsible for interactive projects.

Developing or redesigning a site is usually a major project. It can involve large amounts of content, lots of people, a range of media and complex technical issues. Understanding how you can best work with your interactive developer will make the project more successful, faster and less stressful.

Get the right fit

As a starting point, it is critical to hire the right interactive company. Many different types of companies are out there, and they may each have a specific industry or development focus. Make sure their skills, capabilities and experience are a fit for your project, your company and your industry.

In addition, try to find a personality match and make sure you trust the developer.

Then invest in building the relationship. Treat the developer like a partner and, if possible, build a friendship. It will help you get through any rough spots ahead.

Once you have chosen a developer, here are some important thoughts to keep in mind:

1. Plan ahead. If possible, plan enough ahead so you have time to complete the project without working on a rush deadline.

2. Share information regarding budget resources and limitations. Likewise, understand how the developer is going to charge you and what is included.

3. Clearly communicate your needs and objectives for the project.

4. Involve key decisionmakers early. Make sure you know who needs to be involved within your organization. Get their input early so costly changes or delays don't occur later.

5. Provide information and documentation about corporate design standards.

6. Make sure you and the developer understand each other's roles and responsibilities in the development.

7. Provide a single point of contact on decisions. One person on the client side should play "project manager" and coordinate internal input. It is critical that the developer knows who is in control and that the developer gets clear feedback and direction.

8. Ask for clarification of technical issues. Some of the technology can be confusing. Make sure the developer clearly explains what it does and why it is being used.

9. Try to avoid last-minute changes. Understandably, things can evolve during the course of development. But changes to approved content or features can be difficult to handle, delay the project and increase the cost.

10. Meet your commitments to the production schedule. Client delays in providing content, feedback or decisions can be disruptive to a project. When you can't stay on schedule, let the developer know as soon as possible. Especially on projects with tight deadlines, unforeseen client delays can cause large problems for the developer.

As a final step, when the project is completed, have a debriefing meeting with your developer. There, you and the developer can discuss what worked, what could be improved, and how to work together more efficiently the next time around.

Jim Levinger is president of PixelDance Communications, an interactive marketing communications company based in Watertown, Mass.

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