This is a follow-up to yesterday’s How to write a spec doc, and is for those on the consumer side of web development, and also for those web developers who are thinking “is a spec doc really necessary?”
“Specifications Document.” “Information Architecture.” What they mean and why your website quote isn't complete without them
So you’ve called a few website companies and they may have told you it’s necessary to complete a specifications document, information architecture, research or discovery phase, but what exactly is that, and why is it necessary before giving a quote for the work?
Would you start building a house before drafting a blue print?
Where would the windows go, how many bed rooms would you have, how high are the ceilings? Similar questions need to be answered before starting an e-commerce or Web 2.0 website. The website company should walk you through a number of questions, much like an architect would, in order to draw up a blueprint for your website. Everything from the number of pages, how your users log in, whether user comments need admin approval, the purchase process, etc. For the majority of websites, this process should take a professional company about 40-50 hours and produce a document of 20-30 pages. It’s a back and forth, collaborative process with about 8-10 hours of feedback required from the client, but no technical knowledge on their part.
What should you expect?
Depending on the size of your website project, you might get 15-20 pages, or over 300. Either way, it should include the following:
- Detailed sitemap of main pages and subpages
- List of all front-end and back-end features and how each works
- Exactly how many hours each feature is going to take to design and develop
- How the user makes a purchase and how the admin collects, if the site is e-commerce
- How comments, rating, or other interactive features work, for sites with Web 2.0 tools
- Wireframes for homepage and a few other main pages to determine layout and structure
What does this document mean for my site?
Now that the site has been appropriately planned out, you and the website company know exactly how many hours the website will take to complete. The company can now give you the most accurate quote for the work. The document is so detailed you could hand it to a web developer you’ve never met and they would be able to complete the project with almost no questions asked. With everything on paper, it’s also much easier to decide which features are essential to the launch of the site, and which features you may want to put on hold for a Phase II.
When can we actually start the website?
Now the fun part starts, picking colors, images and nailing down the look and feel of the website to lay on top of the wire frames already completed. For a professional website company the rest of the website is easy to complete because everything has been detailed out for all the members of the website team from the designers to the developers. It’s now a streamlined process to getting your website up and running. Most websites from this point take about 6-10 weeks to complete the site. While the website is finishing the development phase it’s now time to give the online marketing team a call to figure out the best steps to help users find your website. The website is built to convert users into leads, members and repeat traffic; now it’s time to start driving qualified users to the site through online marketing tactics like Search Engine Optimization (SEO).