Web based systems

Development of web based systems

Justification - is web system development more heavily influenced by a methodology or the background of the developers?

Key words: web based systems development, methodology, information systems, web engineering

I propose to review the influence of methodology against the influence of the background of developers on the development of web based systems

Recently, researchers have shown an increased interest in systems development for web based information systems. Though web based systems have been present for over a decade, little methodology influences the development of web based information systems.

In 2006, Time magazine chose as its Person of the Year the millions of anonymous contributors of user-generated content to Wikipedia, YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, Second Life, the Linux operating system, and the multitudes of other websites featuring user contribution. The choice was personified simply as YOU. This is a simple example of the attestation of the amount of design and implementation power that developers from all backgrounds have on web based systems. One question that needs to be asked, however, is whetherthese developers use methods to develop their systems or are more influenced by their backgrounds and what they want to achieve.

It can be argued that traditional life cycle stages are of no or little relevance to web systems design, or that they are followed haphazardly when designing web systems. Further, web based systems design requires an array of eclectic skills sets, such that it is rare for any single individual to be expert in all aspects. Today's web-based application developers generally seem young, full of energy, conversant in new technologies, and as though they're enjoying themselves. In contrast, those in charge of corporate applications and systems generally seem old, tired, and weighed down by legacy systems (Deshpande et al, 2001).

Lang 2009, found that there are important roles required in the design, including those of graphic designers, brand design/marketing consultants, content producers, information architects, and human-computer-interface (HCI) specialists, notwithstanding the 'more importantly viewed' software engineering and programming skills.

Past experiences from Web and interactive multimedia development projects reveal that differences between the professional backgrounds of team members can cause major problems. Add to this the fact that many of the clients requesting the systems do not actually know exactly what it is they want, and this complicates matters even more.

A considerable amount of literature has been published on these development teams. These studies show that they are often multidisciplinary, bringing together designers from a variety of backgrounds. According to Murugesan et al 2001, Web-based systems "involve a mixture between print publishing and software development, between marketing and computing, between internal communications and external relations, and between art and technology.

However, a web designer's professional training and education can shape his problem-solving orientation and world view by indoctrinating certain values and conditioning him to think and behave in certain ways.

With the popularity of Web Services technology and the increase trend of developing Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) software, there is a need for an implementation methodology for Web Services. Web-based information systems can be regarded as supersets of traditional information systems, thereby requiring conceptual modeling to include various additional features.

However, researchers such as Poh Lee et al (2008) suggest that there are gaps in agile software methodology for Web Services development, and observe that some Web Services characteristics and best practices are not captured in agile methodology and thus need to be extended and applied in an appropriate methodology.

Even with agile methods becoming increasingly popular, the role of IS professionals in web systems development does not received much attention (Ruppel et al, 2000). Often, even with different web based systems housed in one organization, the impact of development on the IS department responsibilities and the participation of users are different. Web development processes even within an organisation are likely to be at different maturity levels, if pursued by different units and independently.

One question that needs to be asked, however, is how much developers influence the process design process.

There is a need to explore how problem-solving approaches drawn from the fields of graphic design and visual communications may usefully complement and extend "traditional IS development methods. What we know about the difference in visual designers and software designers is that they are the two principal disciplines in development of web based systems, yet their relationship is typified by strain, often edging towards contempt.

For instance, older generation systems developers regarded web based systems development as being very traditional, and until recently, less challenging than conventional development ("proper programming). They do acknowledge that present day web based systems requires application of the old rigorous programming method, but are still more concerned with functionality as opposed to look and feel. On the other hand, those with backgrounds in industrial design are more keen on the interaction design. Even those with backgrounds in film making and marketing design who are employed to develop functional database driven e-commerce systems are more concerned with the concept of connecting design with the audience and not the content of production.

Thus, if an organisation employs developers with similar backgrounds they are more likely to approach the development project with more emphasis on the aspects they are wired to view as the most important.

It can also be stated that not all web-based systems desire or need the same level of user participation. In many cases user participation is the actual system development process being performed. One may suggest that new development methodologies such as agile may bridge the gap that has been formed by the different contributions that developers make. However, one criticism of much of the literature on such newer methodologies is whether there is need for extension to include best practices components previously ignored.

Recent evidencesuggeststhat while the roles of IS personnel in web-based systems development varies with the specifics of the system, IS personnel continue to play a role that includes partnering with users in a variety of ways to provide systems with the greatest possible value to the organization (Ruppel, 2000). This partnership, and the relative roles of the stakeholders including developers and the organisation's power structure, will provide an interesting area of study for IS researchers.


  • San Murugesan, Yogesh Deshpande, Steve Hansen and Athula Ginige, 2001, Web Engineering: A New Discipline for Development of Web-based Systems, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, Volume 2016/2001
  • Cynthia Ruppel, James Konecny , 2000, The Role of IS Personnel in Web-based Systems Development: The Case of a Health Care Organization, ACM,
  • Siew Poh Lee, Lai Peng Chan, Eng Wah Lee, Web Services Implementation Methodology for SOA Application, http://www.fwsi.org/resources/INDIN06-WS%20Methodology-Final.pdf
  • Michael Lang, Web-based Systems Development: The Influence of Disciplinary Backgrounds on Design Practices, JIOS, VOL. 33, NO. 1 (2009)
  • Yogesh Deshpande and Steve Hansen; 2001; Web Engineering: Creating a Discipline among Disciplines, IEEE Multimedia, APRIL-JUNE 2001 (Vol. 8, No. 2)pp. 82-87
  • Time Magazine, 2006, http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1569514,00.html, 14 November 2009

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