In some respects, creating a website from scratch is almost similar to making a building. Most internet marketers want their websites to be visually appealing and simple as well as having the attractive quality so that visitors will want to keep on navigating from page to page and stay there for a while. It is the same as improving curb appeal before selling a house. Many website designers rush to execute everything on-the-go and make adjustments as they progress, resulting in a website that does not seem to resemble the client’s actual intentions. The final product probably works without problem, but the design fails to meet client’s expectations. In such case, further modifications are necessary which means spending more time, more efforts, and more money. Just like an architect when making plans for a building, a website designer needs website requirements document.
What is Website Requirements Document?
A website requirements document is detailed outline or visually drawn plan of a website. The main purpose of the document is to make your vision of the website clear for you, web designer, and anyone else involved in the creation process. It also depicts potential end-result or final product, so everyone is clear on the outcome right from the beginning of the process. Website requirements document should be made in collaborative environment between you as the client, web developer, designer, and content creator.
A website requirements document should contain at least three major components including:
- Website architecture: front-end accessibility, back-end functionality, and navigational structure
- Website design: layout of the website including appearance and interface features
- Page Copy: general description or requirements of contents on each page
Creating such document takes teamwork to ensure a final product that meets your expectation but does not exceed the budget. More importantly, the developer team can deliver the required amount and quality of work to transfer visions into workable ideas. Another important thing is that everyone is on the same page with the same purpose to minimize the risk of overhauling an on-going process. It also means that you can save considerable expense.
Website architecture has everything to do with interface. It covers many important factors of a website including but not limited to navigation, page elements, functionality, and contents; every factor bears mutual relations with each other. When it comes to interface, navigational structure takes major important role because this is how users interact with the website. Navigating through a website should be easy because users can click many links to go to many parts contained in a single page or even to other pages and websites.
Apart from links, website interface must provide additional navigational features such as search bar, call-to-action buttons, widgets and sidebars. Each of them can also contain several features such as sorting options, advanced search, link to homepage, and more. The whole idea of good interface is to transform complicated website components into user-friendly pages everybody can use and navigate easily. With all those things included, every page on the website still has to provide useful informative texts. Because text fields are usually in the center of the page, placement of clickable buttons and links must not interfere the texts.
A website can simply contain informative texts, images, and multimedia contents. Almost all actions and buttons link to other pages or websites, but users cannot affect or interact with the contents at all. With such website, the focus is merely on providing information. However, commercial websites such as an e-Commerce website and online registration form require more functionality for examples shopping cart, payment gateway, and content editing by users.
2. Website Design
Website creation process adheres to the concept based on requirements document. Good design is effective design, meaning each page contains only the necessary elements placed in strategic locations. A homepage may only offer basic functionality including links and search bars, but other pages must convey more elements such as shopping cart and direct messaging platform. There must be clear overview of what should and should not appear in each page. In addition to providing a glimpse of how the final product will look like, website requirements document must also specify locations of conversion elements including call-to-action and subscribe buttons.
To accomplish all of those, both client and developer can use website wireframes (also commonly referred to as page schematic) to draw a blueprint of website’s navigational paths and functionality. Wireframes do not typically have colors, images, or typographic styles because the main purpose is to help see how the website behaves before it is actually ready to use. Although without contents, a website wireframe depicts the arrangement of website’s navigational systems and interface elements, as well as how each of them works together. Website requirements document can contain multiple wireframes.
3. Page Content
Content creation can start when the architecture and design are ready. Contents are about not only texts or images, but they also include color schemes, font body, font size, header styles, and footer styles. Many of these contents will give navigational links too.
Clearly Laid Out Ideas
One of the easiest ways to deliver concise website requirements document is to look at competitors’ websites. Make sure you write down all elements that you want and do not want, so the developers get an idea of what to include and exclude. You may even find some elements that do not exist in your competitors’ website and add these missing elements on your own website.
A developer team can build a website based on someone else’s creation, but without any resemblance at all. You will use your own company logo, different font styles, colors, and interactivity features. Building a website is a job best left to professionals, and as long as you provide clearly laid out website requirements document, website creators can develop your idea to meet your expectations.