Website specification is no easy task if you are doing it for the first time. How do you present the information to your website visitors? what pages do you need? What information will you need to present to your potential customers?
The approach to website specification is of course significantly different if you are specifying a large website with many pages.
For small websites with 5 to 20 pages all you have to do is decide what pages you need and what type of content you will place on them.
Remember also that your site designer must be able to interpret your website specification so ensure that it is clear and unambiguous.
What you don't need is the hassle that is created if your designer misinterprets your requirements.
The following information suggests some of the things you should consider when specifying your website.
This is not an exhaustive list but it should provide you with a few tips and basis for your site specification.
1. First of all try to be positive about your requirements. Using words like "if possible" and "something like this" is the wrong way to go about it. Tell the designer exactly what you want. He or she will tell you soon enough if it's possible and if they can do what you require.
2. Write down exactly why you need the website and do not lose track of this while writing the specification. What are your goals? Is the web site to be a brochure advertising your products or services? Is its purpose to sell your goods online? Do you require it to generate enquiries for your business? Consider this as the "bottom line" and consider this when looking at other aspects of the specification.
3. If you know another website that does something similar to yours make a note of this in your specification. We are not suggesting that the website designer should copy anyone else's work but there are many websites of a similar nature on the Internet and using one of these as an example will help the designer to understand your requirements.
4. Once again we are not suggesting that you copy anyone else's website but you should look to other websites for inspiration and think about what your competitors are doing.
5. Specify how you want the website to look or the "website livery". Once again providing examples of similar websites will help. Does your business already have stationery, logos or a preferred colour scheme that you want to preserve on your new website? If so provide details of this.
6. Does your business have a current marketing or business branding strategy that you want to promote through your website? If so provide details.
7. Think about the specification from your website visitors perspective. Consider what information your visitors may be seeking and ensure that this is easy to find.
8. What is your target market, age group, sex, etc? If it is not already obvious ensure that your website designer is made aware of it so that he or she can design the site accordingly. If you are a consultancy or a similar, serious agency you probably don't want lots of vivid primary colours on your website. If you are selling ring tones then you probably don't want muted shades of grey and blue.
9. Do you have any messages, feelings or attributes that you would like to convey through your website? These could include friendliness, warmth, reassurance, stability, integrity, reliability, excitement, youthfulness, sympathy, caring, professionalism, intelligence or otherwise assuring people that you are an authority on the product or service you provide.
10. Decide what pages you require on the website and list these. Specify how the website should be structured. Does the site navigation or menu require categories and sub categories? Indicate how you think the pages should be presented but listen to your designers if they suggest an alternative presentation. They probably know what they are talking about.
11. Do you require to change the content on all or part the site yourself on a regular basis? If so it will require to be built on a content management system (CMS). Bear in mind that this adds complexity so it will probably increase the cost.
12. Do you require a maintenance or support agreement? If so provide details of the service level that you require.
13. Do you have deadlines to meet? Ensure that you specify when you require the website to be ready for launch.
14. Specify any search engine optimisation requirements or targets you may have.
15. Specify the level of conceptualising that you expect from the designers. Conceptualising is the process of looking at design concepts, commenting on these and then having them changed to your requirements. Creating concepts takes a lot of time so most low cost website designers will not be able to offer more than one or two concepts.
16. Ensure that your designers provide a formal website proposal and quotation that clearly defines what you are getting for your money.
17. Finally, listen to your designers and accept their advice where appropriate. Website Designers may suggest a few things for your website. It may seem that what they are doing is trying to increase the scope of the website specification and hence the cost, but this need not necessarily be true. Ethical website designers know what is happening in the web design world and they will be able to recommend what is best for your small business website.