All website design by an agency should begin with requirements gathering. The requirements gathering phase of a web design project is critical to the success of any web based project. The importance of this document grows as the complexity of a site increases.
Think of a requirements document as the blueprint of a website. Every single feature and function that will be on the final site should be listed in this document.
Every website is different and often more complex than you can imagine. It’s not enough to say “just do what ‘insert popular website name here’ is doing. How long would it take you to go through a robust site and document all of the functionality? You probably wouldn’t catch everything either, especially without access to the backend.
Traditional website requirements focused on functionality and technical aspects of a site. Due to the evolving complexity of technology, modern website requirements document need to be much more in-depth.
Modern requirements include:
• Business requirements
• Functionality & IT
The best requirements gathering involve the entire team, both agency and client. You must define the site’s purpose. Is this an e-commerce site? A brochure-ware style site? Or is your site driven by other unique functionality? What does the site do, and why?
When gathering website requirements it is generally accepted to focus on what is required of the site without constraints as to how it will be done. The leading business requirements will be outlined first.
Business requirements include your main goals and how to implement them. Let’s look at this example of business requirements for a trade show model staffing company website:
• Staff models
• Recruit models
• Model management database
• Social media
In this example everything is driven by the company’s desire to staff models. To staff models you need to have models. This is handled through a model management database. Research revealed that the software to perform the required duties did not exist, so a custom system with its own functionality requirements was designed and programmed.
Functionality & IT
After business requirements are gathered functionality requirements must be defined. Programmers or IT are typically involved to help define server and application issues, accessibility, database, platforms, mobile use, technology and programming choices.
In our example, a database of over 10,000 members and a large number of variables per member were required. Analytics revealed that a large percentage of visitors were coming from mobile devices so a mobile strategy was implemented. This in turn, influenced server choices, security, and other IT decisions.
Of equal importance is your documentation being available for testing. As many issues as possible should be resolved during the programming phase. Any gray areas should be hammered out with the client before too much time is spent possibly programming solutions that were not part of the client’s vision.
For example, a search for “Atlanta models” displays a far smaller percentage of actual Atlanta models available. What happened, did members not accurately enter where they lived or was something wrong with the system? A system review revealed that many models put the suburb of Atlanta that they actually lived in.
Two solutions were added to the requirements documentation to resolve this issue from happening in the future. The first was to add a data field “nearest major city,” which enabled models to rank in searches for those cities. The second was a zip code radius based search results.
Marketing and usability are often an overlooked component of a requirements document. Organic search engine optimization (SEO) and Social Media are not typically applied to a traditional requirements document, but they should be.
SEO was as critical component to this national staffing agency and it influenced the functionality, importance of page load times, content, and site structure. Online marketing tactics were outlined in advance and programming was made aware. Any alterations that needed to be implemented to accommodate marketing requests were documented.
For SEO benefits, our model-staffing agency required a dynamic page be created for every model that was approved. This requirement defined that engineers program search engine friendly URLs, URLs that were dynamically generated based on member content and pre-defined syntax.
Modern requirements documentation should contain how you will meet your user expectations, how your site will express your brand, design consistency and user experience. Usability is what most people think of when they think about web design.
Usability may impact technologies used, content strategy, and design. As important as this step is, many flaws in your site may not be revealed until it is live and user testing has been conducted.
Usability was extremely important for our model-staffing agency and it was addressed in the requirements documentation. Key stakeholders were interviewed to learn more about their processes and how the new site could better handle them for the end-user.
Before programming, designers and usability experts created the interfaces and layouts, focusing on ease of use and user experience. Because there was an existing site, analytics were able to demonstrate that an improved user interface resulted in key metrics being improved through usability.
A final requirements document should be used to ensure every requirement and client expectation is met, that future growth is built on a strong foundation, and miscommunication is kept to a minimum.
Even if you already have a website, it’s not too late to create a requirements document and to continually test. Implementing best practices and choosing a partner with experience will help reduce the chance of usability errors, flaws in functionality, or emissions.
Expand your planning from traditional functionality and remember to document marketing and usability. When done correctly, you will have not doubts that requirements documentation was well worth your investment of time and resources.
Website Requirements Form
⎯ I require search engine optimization services
⎯ I require marketing services
⎯ I require social media services
⎯ Include a database
⎯ Database type:
⎯ HR database
⎯ The following fields must be included in the database
⎯ Visitors must be able to filter through the database with the following restrictions
⎯ Include a search feature
⎯ I require an advanced custom search feature
⎯ The search feature must have ability to search by the following segments
⎯ Include an events calendar
⎯ I must be able to add and delete events
⎯ Events must include an image
⎯ Events must include a description
⎯ The Calendar must include the following functionality
⎯ Include log-in functionality
⎯ Parts of the site can only be accessed by members
⎯ Page for employees
⎯ Page for paying members
⎯ There will be multiple levels of membership
⎯ Members will pay for access to the site
⎯ Other _______________________
⎯ Include image galleries
⎯ I must be able to add edit and delete galleries
⎯ I must be able to add edit and delete images
⎯ Images must feature a description
⎯ Include E-Commerce functionality
⎯ Visitors must be able to place items into a shopping cart
⎯ Visitors must be able to create an account to store their information
⎯ I will input products products into the shopping cart
⎯I would like you to input products into the shopping cart
⎯ Include a CMS
⎯ I must be able to edit and update page content
⎯ I must be able to edit and update images
⎯ I must be able to adjust formatting of page content
⎯ I must be able to edit the following SEO information
⎯ Page title
⎯ Meta descriptions
⎯ Alt image tags
⎯ This site will feature AdSense
⎯ Include the following forms
⎯ Additional business requirements
This site must be able to accommodate ______ visitors daily
The site must include the following security measures
⎯ SQL Injections
⎯ We require the server to have the following capabilities:
⎯ I will provide my company logo (jpgs, gifs, and eps are preferred)
⎯ I would a logo to be designed
⎯ I am open to suggestions on my logo
Website Color Scheme: A website’s color scheme is typically drawn from the company logo in order to promote the brand.
⎯ I would like to use specific colors
⎯ I would like to base the website on my logo colors
⎯ I am open to suggestions
⎯ % desktop
⎯ % tablet
⎯ % mobile
⎯ I would like a custom 404 error page (recommended)
⎯ I will provide images (jpgs, gifs, and tiff are preferred)
⎯ I am willing to use stock imagery for my site
⎯ I will write the ALT Tags for my images
⎯ I would like you to create the ALT tags for my images
Marketing & SEO
⎯ I will provide the content
⎯ I need help integrating keywords into my content
⎯ I require SEO Copywriting services.
⎯ I will provide you with keywords to use
⎯ I would like you to review my keywords
⎯ I would like you to create a list of keywords
⎯ Include social media links
⎯ Include social media share buttons
⎯ Include Twitter mention button
⎯ Forms must harvest emails into a database
⎯ This site will have landing pages
⎯ I would like you to optimize my site to drive conversions