In the previous post we explored how to select a development subcontractor.
You already have reliable technical partners, but who will define actual specifications for your website? It’s a two way street, but it starts with you doing your homework.
Most likely your primary goal is to increase sales through better online marketing with the planned website. You might also want to automate some business processes and serve your customers better with an integrated application.
Write down these goals along with specific resulting benefits to the company, and use them whenever you are not sure whether certain features should be included or not. Some examples are: create a web shop for your products, gather information about potential customers and stay in touch with them, provide background and contact details for your business.
You are the one who knows your potential clients best, so what do you want them to walk away with?
It might help to define demographics of your target segments and specify their needs in details. This information will be the basis of customer experience use cases and eventually visual design.
If you are starting something new, early user interviews and survey will shape your vision. If you already have an existing website, you can also talk to your visitors and ask about improvements they would like to see.
The web is constantly changing and bringing various opportunities to online market players. Take a look at what other have done to date and note what can be applicable in your case.
Do you know that most people already view websites from mobile devices? Progressive enhancement, responsive design, native browser features, appification — do these terms ring bell to you? They really should if you want to stay competitive.
Once you are aware of the latest web trends, how will you use them to make your website stand out and present your company as a something unique? Involve your marketing team early to ensure proper differentiation.
Now, that you have decided on your value proposition and the market it will address, it is time to think about your customers and how they will interact with your system.
You need to walk in the shoes of your visitors and define your requirements in terms of their interaction with the website. Always remember about the overarching goals set forth and envision how people will achieve them online.
For example, if you are building an e-commerce website, and you want your customers to be able to complete online purchase, you might have a set of the following use cases: all visitors can access product details, leave their reviews, add them to shopping cart, and register a user account; all logged-in users can fill in their profiles, pay online, etc.
Your marketing message will be mostly delivered through content, so it’s necessary to understand its authors, purpose, relations, as well as editorial and approval workflow. Surprisingly, copywriting normally takes much longer than initially expected, often delaying website launch, so plan it early.
The basic exercise is writing down all types of content you plan to have (such as pages, files, videos), creating a list of items to include into launch version, and arranging them into a sitemap. This will help designers and developers significantly.
Think about how you often you want to update the content. Is it valid for a certain period of time after publication? Do you want to distribute it to multiple channels such as mobile version, newsletter, or social networks? Is your content multilingual, does it need to be translated?
We finally arrived to the point, when it’s time to show your findings to subcontractors and continue brainstorming together. By this time, it should be easy to come up with features that will implement all the above scenarios.
Start putting together a specification to record your joint decisions. There’s no need to document the look and behaviour of every button at this stage, but you need to make sure you can share your vision with your technical partners.
Start with providing your corporate identity guidelines, if you have any. By this time there should be enough information to create wireframes of your pages. If you feel like doing one, that’s fine, but it is now designer’s job to guide you through creative process.
You might want to prioritize the use cases to serve your visitors better, especially on the homepage. There are normally three levels of attention: one main message, several supplementary areas for easier navigation, and technical elements for miscellaneous features, such as login or social sharing.
One last hint on selecting a web designer: choose the best one to avoid weeks of frustrating adjustment iterations. When done properly, a great look will make you love it the first time you see it.
There are some non-functional requirements that you will also need to take into account, especially for larger or more complex websites. Good developers will ask about them themselves, but you can also touch base on the following:
- Expected number of users per day, including possible peak periods
- Traffic intensive media files, or potential streaming volumes
- Access levels and Information security requirements
- System performance and target page load time
- Website availability and allowed maintenance periods
- Technical support terms
- Required disk space for content and databases
- Supported browser make / version / platform combinations
So now you have defined major requirements for your website and have a clear vision on its appearance and functionality. But how do you organize the development process to ensure on time and budget delivery? This will be the topic of our next post.
Part 1: Start a web project
Part 2: Select your CMS
Part 3: Select subcontractors
Part 5: Organize development process
Part 6: Deploy the system
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