Starting your new website build project

Here I will take you through some key requirements for preparing your project definition in order to get the most out of your client/agency relationship
Article by Simon Steed
System Simplepage

Table of contents

Over the years, we’ve had many requests for new website projects with a varying range of detail, literally back of fag packet through to detailed page by page layouts of how the site will work.

Here I will take you through some key requirements for preparing your project definition in order to get the most out of your client/agency relationship

Do your research – this is key to success

Before commencing  any web project, it is best to do your own research first (and try to do plenty of it). Ask yourself (and your business colleagues, partners etc) what you do and, more importantly, do not want. Get all this written down in the form of notes; Simon is a big advocate of using Mind Maps for this purpose, it’s a great technique to learn and really opens out the mind.

This will paint a broad picture of your needs, wants, likes and dislikes, helping us to understand where you want to go and how we are going to get you there. If we don’t have this information to a sensible level of detail, it’s nigh on impossible for us to quote accurately for a project.

Be clear on why you are undertaking the project

We encourage our clients to think hard about what they want to actually achieve in the project. It might seem obvious, but too often people embark on developing a website without first thoroughly considering what they want to achieve and more importantly, that they can get a return on that investment (ROI). As such projects can be an expensive investment, it is vital that you get it right. The most common goals for undertaking a web project may be similar to “getting a fresh and updated look” or “increase sales, leads and conversions”, we often find delving a bit deeper reveals other goals such as improved workflow, clearer navigation, improved mobile responsiveness, improved SEO friendliness and greater flexibility and integration capabilities with third party applications/sites. By thoroughly mapping out your goals and metrics, you’ll have a better handle on what makes a successful project and an easier time outlining the reasons for your investment.

Have a realistic budget in mind and tell us what it is

Websites are notoriously complex to design and build, especially Umbraco sites due to their amazing ability to effectively do anything, and consequently can be expensive to build – however they don’t all have to be complex. The more features and functionality you want, the longer it takes hence costs more. Be realistic about what you want and can afford. We will always challenge you and offer the most cost effective solution available to fit your budget, this is why knowing what your budget constraints are up front are really important.

Planning for the future

Most web projects we work on are medium to long-term projects, often a part of a wider strategic plan within the business. As such, before “go-live”, make sure you have a plan in place for the on-going monitoring and development of your web project and its content. It is only natural for websites and applications to require adjustments, tweaks and additions as they get used, particularly as the web and your business continues to change. If you view the website as an important and vital investment for your organisation, it’s smart planning to anticipate the on-going cost of maintaining and evolving the website so that it continues to serve your goals and impact your business.

Defining the Product Requirements

Before we determine what will be in the project’s scope, you must be very clear about what the requirements are; this is known as project scope. In other words, what are the functions and features required for the website, application and/or software solution being developed? Is there anything specifically that must be built into the design? Must it follow a specific set of branding guidelines? The list goes on.

Defining the Process Requirements

Process requirements describe how people interact with the site and how it interacts with other (often existing) business processes i.e. does your site need to interface with an internal billing platform or CRM system? When you discuss how data gets moved from one point to another, and how business transactions flow from one area to another, you are describing process requirements. For example, the requirements for billing transactions within a website, how such transactions link to invoicing and accounts, and at what point can staff view and alter the status of orders needs to be detailed. What information do you need to retain to pay your suppliers? What reporting information are you interested in holding? How do you want to access this data?

Involve the correct stakeholders – all of them!

It of course goes without saying that for a project to be delivered successfully, the correct stakeholders from the organisation commissioning the project must be involved from the very start and also a key stages of the project scope. When this does not occur, assumptions begin to be made (which are generally subjective) and stakeholder confusion can occur as the project goes on – it also creates friction not having key stakeholders engaged at these early stages which can kill the project before it’s effectively started, or increase the costs as a result of changes needing to be made later on. This means speaking to your staff, finding out what they would expect. What do they want from the site?

Identifying the limitations and what you don’t want

Perhaps even more important than what is in-scope for a project is what is out-of-scope for a project. Often it is crucial to document what will not be done, otherwise people will assume that certain things are to be executed that were not budgeted for or included in the project timeline.

Change Management

It is natural for parts of any large project to change along the way. While it is always best to avoid scope creep (a situation in which one or more parts of a project ends up requiring more work), sometimes it is unavoidable due to the changing nature of any business. In order to avoid disagreements and changes to a project’s scope by all stakeholders, both client-side and agency-side, it is best to have strict change management processes in place. Once scope is defined, it must not be changed without the appropriate change management functions taking place, at which point appropriate action can be taken to address the shifting project requirements. At Simon Antony, we work in a very agile way which means we can bend and change the development path based upon feedback or new features needing to be added. This makes things very flexible but the downside being it can cost more as additional time is used to implement the new changes.

Research your competitors – what are they doing you are not and why?

This is crucial – take a look at your market and see what they are doing. How popular are they? Do they sell a lot of products? Are they specialising in a niche you are interested in attacking? Review as many sites as you practically can and make a note of the site url, pros, cons, what you really like, what you don’t like etc. The more information you can build at this stage the better as the pro’s become your required features (and this also shows us how they are doing it) and the cons are things for us to avoid in the design.

Research designs

Look at other sites in general and build up a picture of what designs you like, features you would want to implement, call to actions you would like to see etc Hopefully this will give you a good insight into what makes a successful project. We would be more than happy to engage with you on your new project so please get in touch and lets see how we can help.