Whether you are a Web designer, or the buyer of Web design
services, the planning phase of the Web design process is
the most important phase. Planning requires a significant
amount of effort before there is a visable product, so it
is sometimes a hard-sell to business people, especially those
who are used to “flying by the seat of their pants.”
I often find, however, that once involved in the process,
the client gains valuable insights into their business, their
market, their clients, and their competitors. Taking time
to really plan a Website project, which requires stepping
back and thinking, in a systematic way, about how they are
approaching their business, gives the Website buyer an unexpected
added value, especially if they are in start-up mode.
The first step in planning a Website is define the project.
You want to make sure that you, as Web designer, and the client
are on the same page, and remain on the same page throughout
the project. The following are questions that need answers:
- Project Scope – What will be included in the
project and what will not be included?
- Audience – Who are the main types of people who
will be visiting the Website, what are their characteristics,
and why will they be visiting the Website. What will the
want to do?
- Competition – Who are the competitors and what
do their Websites do and look like?
- Niche – Specifically what market niche does the
business occupy or want to occupy?
- Positioning – What is the company’s positioning
strategy for their niche? Why buy their product or service
over the competition?
- Overall goals – What does the business want
to acheive through the Website? Sell products? Provide online
resources? Present a professional image?
- Business processes – How will the Website fit
into the company’s business processes? How will it integrate
into those off-line processes?
- Marketing and branding strategies – What existing
marketing or branding stategies can be leveraged for use
on the Website?
- Workflows – What processes will need to be completed
on the Website, described in a step by step fashion?
- Goals for Web site – What specific, numerically
defined goals exist for the Website. What are the expectations?
- Keywords/Search Terms – What words will people
searching for products/services/information use to find
the client’s Website, using the major search engines?
- Message – What message should the Website communicate
to the user, either explicitly or implicitly?
- Perception – How should the user percieve the
business, based on visiting the Website?
- Action – What action or actions should the visitor
take while on the Website?
- Technology – What technology should be used in
designing and building the Website?
- Marketing – How will the Website be marketed?
How will the business get visitors there?
- Administrative – How will the Website be administered
and maintained after it is launched?
- Schedule – When does the Website need to be complete?
When will decision makers be available or unavailable to
approve deliverables throught the process?
- Budget – What is the budget for the project?
What is the ongoing budget for maintenance and updates?
What is the budget for promotion?
The answers to these questions should be put into a “creative
brief” or “project definition” document that
will be used as a touchstone throughout the design process.
The information in the planning documents should be as detailed
as possible, and based on as much empiricle evidence as possible.
Having someone fill the a questionnaire off the top of their
head will be useful, but to the extent it rely’s on guesses
or false assumptions, it will provide flaws in the planning
and therefore flaws in the finished Website.