Web Development Specifications: Part 2

Last week, we were creating our specifications document, section by section:

  • Business Model
  • Purpose of Web Site
  • Target Audience
  • Metrics for Success
  • Scope of Work
  • Current Features, Content, and Functionality of Site
  • Planned Features, Content, and Functionality of Site
  • Proposed Site Map
  • Design Requirements
  • Technical Requirements
  • Production Schedule

We got as far as what to put in the “Planned Features, Content, and Functionality of Site” section before ClickZ kicked me off my soapbox. Here is the rest…

Proposed Site Map

When we started this adventure, we put our content into logical buckets that’s a snazzy consulting term I made up for the top-level hierarchy of the site. Use that to build out a site structure in either the form of an outline or an organizational chart. This helps a web-design firm understand how much content it is dealing with.

Design Requirements

This is where you give some guidance on how things need to look. Now don’t go as far as to say, “The background on this page must be blue…” Remember, you are hiring the web development firm to tell you how to organize the presentation of information on the site’s pages. But you do need to tell the firm, in general terms, the navigation elements and content that should be on every page (e.g., links to contact information, privacy statement, etc.).

Also, use this section to explain what percentage of your customers are in specific states of mind. For example, if our customers hit the site in one of these three states of mind:

A) they want to buy a particular widget;
B) they want to learn more about widgets; or
C) they want to buy some kind of widget, but don’t know what kind,

and 65 out of 100 are in the “C” category, then whatever navigation or content you develop to help category C customers needs to have the most visual weight on the site. Visual weight making certain navigation or content more prominent than other navigation or content is how one controls the flow of traffic through a web site.

Technical Requirements

Treat this section the same way you did the design requirements don’t tell the firm about the technology necessary to make it work, just tell the firm how you want it to function. Be sure to divide things up into “Must Have by Site Launch” and “This Can Wait Until After Site Launch.” More often than not, you can get into a situation where a particular technical requirement holds up a site launch or costs lots of money and it isn’t mission critical.

Also, this is where you need to talk about reporting because generating reports requires a technical solution. Look back to the Metrics for Success section to understand what you should ask for.

Production Schedule

And finally, this is where you tell the firm when you want the work done by. Even the best web development firms on straightforward web projects need at least six to eight weeks to make things happen. So don’t set unrealistic expectations by asking for things quicker than that.

This next statement may surprise you, but in my experience, the single biggest delay in a web site development project isn’t the web development firm at all. It is waiting on the client to organize and deliver its content. So be sure you are able to meet your deadlines and get content to the web developers as quickly as possible.

And there you have it. A starting point that helps both you and the web developer understand what you are trying to do.

Since this has turned into a “two-parter” already, I’m going to bump my discussion of the types of back-end technology a web development firm is likely to use for your new site. Instead, let’s fold it into next week’s article, when we’ll talk about finding a web development firm.

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