Home > Articles > Web Development

Best Practices for Collaborative Web Development

Building an effective collaboration environment rests on clear roles and responsibilities. Although software tools help facilitate the process and automate certain tasks, development is fundamentally a social process. The fundamental problem of web development is to rapidly and precisely produce changes that are responsive to business needs. The goal is to efficiently organize people, processes, and tools around the assets of a web property. To achieve that organization, you must assign the tasks of creating, editing, reviewing, and testing assets to diverse specialists, who produce finished web assets to be deployed to production. An effective web development environment maximizes the throughput of changes to the web property while maintaining control of the process and the content.
This article is excerpted from Russell Nakano’s book Web Content Management: A Collaborative Approach, published by Addison Wesley.
Like this article? We recommend

"Make this awful thing stop!" ordered Mr. Teavee.

"Can't do that," said Mr. Wonka. "It won't stop till we get there. I only hope no one's using the other elevator at this moment."

"What other elevator?" screamed Mrs. Teavee.

"The one that goes the opposite way on the same track as this one," said Mr. Wonka.

"Holy mackerel!" cried Mr. Teavee. "You mean we might have a collision?"

"I've always been lucky so far," said Mr. Wonka.

—Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate

The WSE Paradigm

One of the hard-won lessons we have gained from helping development groups implement more robust systems and procedures is that building an effective collaboration environment rests on clear roles and responsibilities. And whereas software tools help to facilitate the process and to automate certain tasks, development is fundamentally a collaborative social process.

With that in mind, we're going to proceed on two fronts. On the one hand, we're going to introduce and define a particular style of organization of individual and shared work products, and also introduce with a set of basic collaboration operations. This organization forms the technical underpinning for a content-management system. Then we'll interpret the meaning of the various operations within a social context of collaboration.

These two views are no different from the ways that we interpret a corner stop sign. At the technical level of interpretation, a stop sign tells us to bring our vehicle to a complete halt, under the threat of a traffic ticket if we are caught in violation. At the social level of interpretation, there's a tacit agreement between drivers at an intersection that fewer accidents and injuries result if drivers agree to stop and look both ways before proceeding through. By analogy, the content-management system defines the "rules of the road," but ultimate success and satisfaction will derive from understanding the intent of the rules and following them wisely.

We call the collaboration approach the WSE paradigm, shorthand for "workarea/staging-area/edition paradigm." WSE relies on multiple work areas, a single staging area, and some editions (versions of the web property) to organize the flow and integration of changes from developers. (See Figure 1.) The previous article introduced the notion of a workarea, which is an independent copy of the web property that is used to add, remove, and modify assets. The use of multiple workareas fosters parallel development of many tasks. Multiple workareas have the desirable effect of increasing the rate at which projects complete by giving each developer a controlled work environment.

Figure 1 The WSE paradigm uses workareas, staging areas, and editions to organize the flow of changes from development to production.

Eventually the new and modified assets need to be brought together. This blend occurs in a single staging area. The staging area is like a workarea because it, too, contains a copy of the web property. But it is different because it accepts changes from a workarea. The staging area changes through the incorporation of new, modified, and deleted assets. This file-level versioning operation captures a copy of the asset and records the submitter, the workarea, the submission time, and comments.

Collaboration Strategies

In a collaborative development environment, each developer works on a task in a workarea. Depending on the overlap between her work and the work of others, the developer must be vigilant for changes submitted by her colleagues as she submits changes to the staging area. (See Figure 3.) Four collaboration modes are depicted in the graph shown in Figure 2. The most effective integration the incoming flow of changes depends on the nature of the collaboration among colleagues.

The horizontal dimension in Figure 2 indicates whether assets are primarily new or whether changes are primarily to existing assets. On one hand, the changes being made by a developer can consist primarily of new assets. For example, a contributor can create new assets, such as a writing a press release or building a new section of a web site. On the other hand, changes might involve mostly modifications to existing assets. For example, someone might be assigned to modify elements on an index page or to add a question and answer to the frequently asked question page.

The vertical dimension in Figure 2 indicates whether one or many people are making changes to assets of the task at one time. For example, the frequently-asked-question page may not be actively changed, so that there's at most one person making a change at a given time. On the other hand, because the index page typically functions as a gateway into major sections of a web site, index pages tend to have people attempting to update the same page.

When we overlay these two dimensions on a graph, we get four quadrants; these describe the most effective strategies to moving changes efficiently to production. In quadrant I, because assets are primary new ones, and because the assets are relatively isolated and infrequently changed by others, there is little chance for collision. Focusing purely on rapid development is the best strategy.

Figure 2 The activity type and the number of concurrent modifiers determine the best development strategy.

In quadrant II, assets are primarily new, but the section of the web site has assets that are frequently changed by others. In this case, the best strategy is to develop rapidly but to be cognizant of the changes made by others. This could mean frequent updates, or developers receiving notification when changes occur in the staging area.

In quadrant III, changes are primarily made to existing assets, and the changes are relatively isolated. Because the likelihood of collision is low, the best strategy is to develop rapidly, with occasional updates or notification to stay apprised of impending collisions.

In quadrant IV, modifications occur in existing assets, and the likelihood of simultaneous edits on the same asset is frequent. In this situation, the challenges of carefully orchestrating the efforts of the development team are especially great.

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020