Ensuring that a website meets all requirements can be difficult without a set process for doing so. That’s where thorough website requirements documentation comes in handy.
This article will provide a checklist for project managers to follow when creating their own specification document to double-check that no crucial steps are forgotten during website design or development.
We’ll start with the basics and then dive into more advanced steps.
At the initiation of the project, you first need to have a clear and succinct statement highlighting what is being accomplished with the website.
What problem are you solving with this website? What business goals will this website help to meet? Looking at the business requirement document to better understand before diving in can be helpful.
How complex will this website project be?
Are you creating an entirely new website, completing a website overhaul or redesign, or simply redesigning certain pages?
The project requirements would greatly depend on the scope of the project.
Before developers can begin, they need to know the scope of work they are responsible for.
Identify the Target Audience
Understanding who the website is targeting makes a world of difference.
In her article, Kyla Wren from getlevelten.com explains that a well-researched user story can drastically improve user experience by following a simple input formula when developing a website.
It goes a little something like this:
“As a (insert user role here), I want (insert product or feature here) so that I can (insert desire here).”
An example would be, “As a buyer, I want a calculator widget so that I can stay on the page while calculating the projected cost of the site owner’s offering.”
Using this method will simplify your user story application to web development.
Behind every project, there are people. Introducing the organization and key stakeholders can help to shine more light on how to tackle the project.
Researching the company and its mission statement can help your team members align their design and development with the company’s culture and values.
A B2B website will greatly differ in both functionality, design, and usability from one created for a B2C company and possibly the number of stakeholders you’ll need to sign off on the project.
2. Team Members
Who will be taking part in this project?
All team members should know who they will be collaborating with and who is tasked with each action step. Nobody wants a new face to pop up in the middle of production or to find out that “Jim” is responsible for design specs. Who the heck is Jim?
In this section of the website requirements, you should list the people by name, followed by their job titles and their roles and responsibilities for this project.
You may have several involved in content management, website design, and development. All team members and stakeholders should know who they will be collaborating with and who is responsible for each action step.
To ensure success and that all bases are covered, clarify who will be responsible for these roles:
- Technical support
- Quality Assurance (QA)
- User acceptance testing (UAT)
Include the contact info for each individual, especially if you lead a remote team. If your team can’t walk down the hall to ask a question, they need to know how to get in touch.
This will help all contributing members to reach out and collaborate when necessary.
3. Goals of the Website
So that the web development team knows exactly what you hope to achieve, you need to convey the goals of the website. Be as specific as possible.
This may mean that you take another glance at the business requirements and be sure that you can explain the goals of the website accurately.
It may be boring to hear about SMART goals yet again, but yes, it is touted everywhere because it works! Make your goals specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely.
Let’s discuss some common goals but make them fit this formula.
Many websites have the goal of gaining qualified leads. If this is the goal of the website you are working on, great, but you aren’t done yet.
To be SMART, we need to expound on this. You need to answer some questions:
- Specific: What is the best way for the site to capture qualified leads?
- Measurable: How many of these leads are you expecting, or what percentage of growth?
- Attainable: What are the indicators of a realistic expectation for this goal?
- Relevant: What is considered a qualified lead?
- Timely: In how much time are you expecting to see these results?
4. Content Structure
Developing the content structure of the website is like engaging in information architecture. There needs to be a logical structure to the website content so that users don’t get lost on your site.
Several different aspects of this layout should be included in the website specifications document.
The sitemap is usually represented by a tree chart. This tree chart is a visual representation of the hierarchy of your website.
It usually starts with the home page at the top, with several pages under that. Each of those pages may have some pages under them, and so on.
Explaining this in words can get confusing and tedious. There’s no better way to organize and develop your site map than through the use of a tree chart.
You can choose to use a vertical or horizontal one, depending on how you prefer to organize things. If you are a more linear thinker, horizontal will work better for you.
It is important to list the types of content that will be included in the website. Each type of content will require a slightly different tactic.
Informational pages need to be structured in a way that gets the main idea across, while product pages will highlight only the products.
The spectrum of content types used in websites has grown exponentially, and the more variety offered, the better the engagement.
However, you don’t want to overload your audience. Providing high-quality and relevant content should take precedence.
URL taxonomy is a way to organize your content to provide easy navigation for users.
Tags are non-hierarchical. Tags label content into certain groups or subjects. Users can find tagged articles through the search function or by clicking on the tag.
Categories are hierarchical and provide clear links from one content to another. Categories will break content up by broad subjects covered on the site.
Each page will be structured differently. Even before the content is written up, providing some basic templates of how the page will look can be helpful.
This can include a simple block mockup of where the headings will reside, what type of media will be included and where they will be placed on the page, and any links or forms.
Some examples of pages that you would create a template for include:
- About Us
- Contact Us
5. Design Elements
Are the design elements provided, or will you need to create them?
Web design follows the same principles of design in any other industry. You will want the website aesthetics to have flow, harmony, color, and visual interest.
When you are working on a website for a client, they will usually provide some guidelines on style or share their branding guide. You can then provide them with several mockups designs for approval.
You may be wondering how the brand guidelines differ from the style guide. They are very closely related. Let’s review the basics.
Brand guidelines include the colors, fonts, graphics, and logo that the company has used in all its marketing products, from flyers, social media, and even its physical sign. (Check out ours!)
A style guide will explain how to integrate those guidelines into the website. Using company branding keeps the website design consistent and easily recognizable to its clients.
The functional requirements include the technical requirements necessary for the website to function properly.
Failing to meet just one of these requirements can mean the failure of the entire website. It is vital that you pay special attention to these tasks.
It may seem like a no-brainer but setting up the SSL certificate of the website is essential.
Without an SSL certificate, users will not trust the website. Many browsers won’t even allow their users to enter a site without an SSL certificate.
There are six different types of SSL certificates, each with its own level of authentication. The most common, affordable, and easiest to set up is the DV SSL (domain validation).
However, depending on the company for which you are designing the website, you may need a more secure SSL. This topic should be well discussed and finalized before proceeding with the project.
Using valid code for the website should obviously be a high priority. Whether it’s HTML or CSS, you’ll need to double-check all code for any errors. When there is an error in the code, you’ll have a slow site with plenty of glitches.
You will want to ask a few questions regarding the website code:
- Will you use CSS hacks?
- Are there any unnecessary ids or classes in your HTML?
- Is the code semantically structured?
Responsive Across Devices
According to Statcounter, smartphones hold over 60% of the global market share.
Although all websites are initially created to be used on a desktop computer, it is a serious mistake to overlook the importance of ensuring the website’s mobile and tablet versions are also functional and attractive.
Failing to make the site mobile-friendly means stakeholders will be missing out on the largest group of internet users on this planet.
Make sure you test the design and functionality of your website across multiple browsers and devices. (Bugherd’s website annotation tool can help point out any design flaws or functionality bugs).
Speaking of reaching a larger audience, making the website multilingual can also broaden the website’s reach.
Let’s back this idea up again with a powerful statistic. According to Statista, only slightly over a quarter of all internet users are native English speakers.
Adding another language option (or two) to your website can get it in front of many more eyes. Of course, deciding on which language to choose depends again on the clientele of your client.
Get some feedback on this from your client, and be sure to lay out all the reasons it may be a good option for their business.
For those building multiple language versions of their site, there are additional code requirements to make it easier for search engines like Google to understand your site. Ahrefs offers a great overview of those considerations here.
Many websites will require integrations to extend their functionality. These can include social integrations, on-site forms, and a search function.
For e-commerce sites, you’ll want to include a shopping cart and payment gateways.
These integrations should be functional, easy to use, and easy for users to find.
Analytics and Tracking
Most clients will request that analytics and performance tracking are added to the site to measure the performance and traffic of the site. There are many different website tracking tools on the market today, some free, some paid.
Google Analytics and Google Search Console are two big reporting tools that most businesses will opt to add to their site.
This comprehensive list of tracking tools can provide plenty of options for your clients to choose from.
Which browser will the website support?
As a general rule, being as inclusive as you can is the best option. However, that may not be in the budget. If so, it is best to prioritize your browser compatibility by popularity.
The top four browsers worldwide are:
There are four main types of web hosting for businesses, each with its own benefits.
Shared hosting is the cheapest option, but it isn’t optimal for a business website. VPS hosting is shared hosting, but it is only shared by a limited number of sites instead of thousands on a shared site.
Cloud hosting is similar to VPS, only instead of having limited sites sharing one server, sites can share multiple servers.
Dedicated hosting is the gold standard. You have a dedicated server for your website. Still, it will cost you. Using a dedicated server is usually reserved for sites with very high traffic or containing very sensitive data.
One of the main factors to consider when choosing your hosting platform is the loading speed capabilities. Page speed metrics can get tricky. Know which metrics to keep your eye on.
8. Web Portals
Would the website visitor benefit from a portal?
If the answer is yes, you’ll need to determine what type of portal to use and which requirements you need to include.
Some common customer-related portals include account sign-in, forums, and notifications. A corporate portal would be different. It could include things like access controls, analytics, and personalization.
9. Legal Requirements
This list is a biggie when it comes to website development. Failure to adhere to these legal requirements can mean bad juju for your client.
When developing a website, you must ensure that you meet:
- Data privacy and collection requirements
- Cookies requirements
- Data security requirements
- Copyright and plagiarism requirements
- Anti-spam laws
- Accessibility Requirements
Accessibility requirements include the legal requirements, such as those outlined by the WAI to make your site accessible to those with disabilities. They can also include the ease of use for your intended audience.
Is your site geared toward children or the elderly? You’ll need to take that into consideration when designing the UX of the website.
Termly.io gives a full breakdown of how to meet each of these legal requirements.
10. Maintenance and Support
After the website is set up, it will require ongoing maintenance and support.
One of the biggest factors that will require maintenance is the website’s security. You’ll also need to set up a system to track the website’s performance.
We all know what they say about assuming but in this context, it doesn’t apply.
The assumptions list things to be done and who will do them.
Each website will have a list of tasks that need to be completed, and it helps to have them listed and who will be in charge of them so that nothing is getting left out.
What kind of tasks will need to be completed?
Here’s a common list of project tasks you will find under the assumptions:
- Ongoing maintenance
Breaking up the project into chunks or phases helps keep your schedule on track by providing more manageable workloads without overloading any team members.
Deadlines are just as important to keep the project progressing at a good pace.
There should be deadlines for each milestone. For example, you can set a date when each of the deliverables is ready to go.
Of course, you’ll also have the deadline set for the development project as a whole. Every milestone deadline should lead to the next and allow for all milestones to be completed before the project deadline is met.
Getting feedback from stakeholders at each milestone will give you peace of mind. It will also keep the project progression moving at a good clip and prevent major changes later.
How? With Bugherd’s website feedback tool!
Every project will have a budget, and you will need to know the limits before you go gung-ho on getting the biggest and best of everything.
You will also want to go over your own pricing model so that your fees are clear and upfront.
A fixed-price model will charge a flat fee for the entire website project. Alternatively, you can charge for time and materials, which will differ based on the scope and complexities of the project.
Following this checklist will ensure that your website requirements specification is complete.
It will also ensure that all business objectives are covered, making stakeholders happy campers.
As you design and develop the website, it can be helpful to get your client’s thoughts on how it’s shaping up by using our website feedback tool.
It requires no technical savvy to use, making it easy to gain feedback from anybody.