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Building a website – your requirements

By Paul Wilson

Once you’ve done your market research and developed your business requirements, it’s now time to move onto the next stage – building your site. 

What’s feasible and in scope? 

Once you have a list of high-value business requirements, you’ll need to investigate which of these can be converted into a technically feasible solution that’s within your price tolerance (if you don’t have a budget). You’ll need knowledge to do this.

If you want to DIY your website build, you may want to turn to the section on “Which web publishing software?” to find out if entry-level web building technology will serve your business requirements or not.    

Or you can turn to a website developer with a wide skillset to quickly inform you of what’s technically possible, what’s the best software to use and the cost.

If you DIY, you may not find the best fit for your business and miss out on opportunities to grow. 

You don’t necessarily have to employ a developer to build the site. You may just need them to initially help you with the functional requirements. 

In discussion with the developer, you might find that technology is not always the silver bullet you seek. Seemingly simple problems you want the site to solve may, in fact, be too technically challenging and costly to develop and implement.  

For example, expecting technology to simplify complex processes may be a big ask. Sometimes the solution can involve pruning back a process that has evolved organically. 

Functional requirements 

Working out the feasibility and cost of making your ideas a technological reality will come out of the process of identifying your functional requirements.  

If you choose a developer to build your site, they’ll ask you a raft of questions to create a list of functional requirements. This process will give the project a defined set of requirements that the developer can quote on. These requirements will also help avoid scope creep – the proven death of many technical projects. 

Considerations for the functional requirements include (but are not limited to): 

Business objectives for the site 

What are your business goals and how will you measure them? Having goals will help you measure your return on investment. They’ll also help provide a high-level guide to what technology will be needed. 

Scope and quantity of information 

What information do you want on the site and what content does your potential clients expect to find there? The quantity of information will determine the scale of the site’s information structure and how end users will reach that information. 

Information structure 

It’s best to create a layout of your site’s information structure to determine how many page design templates you’ll need and what software you’ll need. The more tiers of information you have, the more page templates you’ll need. Also, some entry-level software products do not have the ability to produce more than two levels of navigation.  

The top level of navigation may include the following pages:  

  • Home 
  • Products 
  • About Us 
  • Contact Us.  

The Products section have many subsections sitting under it, and each of those subsections could be further broken down by categories at a third level.   

Page design 

This not only involves the branding and look and feel of the website, but also what content modules you think you’ll need on each page. Examples of content modules include text, image sliders, video, forms, side-bar advertisements for special offers, maps, description lists, surveys and sidebar links to related information.  

What processes need to be considered?  

For example, if you want an online shop, how do you want payments to be made: credit card, bank transfer, a payment gateway like PayPal or Stripe, or an offline process like cash, bank transfer or a credit line? It’s possible to have variations or all of them at once – but the pathway the end user can take will differ accordingly.  

And if you choose offline payments, what is the process for receiving payment and notifying the customer the goods have been sent? These things have to be taken into account to ensure the end user has a seamless and uncomplicated experience.  

Who will publish content for your site?  

If your organisation needs a number of people to add and publish content, the web publishing software will need to be user friendly. You may also need workflows to ensure only approved content is published online.  

What’s the cost? 

If you want the web developer to build the site as well, they’ll cost your first draft of requirements. Pricing will make it easier for you to prioritise what’s a must have and what needs to go.  

Once you settle on the final list of functions and the cost, the developer can devise a contract and project schedule. As an aside, it’s always good practice to give developers time to get the job done properly.  

If you need to add to the list of requirements after the contract is signed, a web developer can add it as a ‘variation’ and charge you accordingly. Before you ask for a variation, it’s important to find out the impact on the project timeframe. Too many variations can blow your budget and create deadline overruns.   

The contract should require that you sign off on every requirement, giving you the opportunity to thoroughly test each one. 

Once you’ve done your market research and developed your business requirements, it’s now time to move onto the next stage – building your site. 

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