An experienced architect will tell you: only a foolish person would build a house without first putting some specs down on paper.
The process of building a website is no different. It takes careful planning and precise information architecture before you can hammer down that first nail, or in this case… punch up that first string of code. And because search engine marketing success is so critically dependent on having a website with a solid underlying foundation, future efforts to optimize are riding high on your ability to deliver a cohesive plan from the start.
- Time is of the essence..
Evaluate the amount of time that is being put into the overall project, and then determine what portion of that should be focused on the spec sheet. For a brief document, 15 to 30 hours might be enough (15 pages and 3 to 4 wireframes), but a more detailed sheet takes no less than 50 hours. The time spent on the document should be proportional to the budget. There needs to be a conversation about how much time you can realistically devote to the specifications so that the rest of project can proceed in a smooth and prompt manner. If the project has only 400 hours allocated, it doesn’t make sense to spend 100 hours writing the specs.
- Home is where the start is.
The homepage will be the first thing most of your audience sees upon visiting your site. So when working on wireframes, this is the logical place to start. It should include links to all important sections of the website. Once the wireframe of the home page is completed, the process of working on the other sections becomes much easier.
- Understanding is in the details.
Let’s say you are outlining a redesign for an existing website. Make sure you take the time to learn how all sections of the old website work first. In the long run, you’ll be very happy you did. If old sections are cut or left out, the corresponding or replacement sections on the new site should be addressed accordingly. This is also important when redirecting old URLs that may be linked to from outside sources.
- Make the possible, possible.
Empty promises lead to hard feelings. You won’t feel good about them, and neither will the client. During the planning process, make sure the site functionality options described on the spec document are actually feasible. Having to go back to the client with any issues later on can leave them incredibly disappointed.
- Keep it simple.
A well-crafted specification document allows designers and developers to move forward with a project while avoiding any surprises for the client down the line. It should give a precise estimation for a timeline of the project, and a completion deadline. You can hold you and your team accountable, while keeping the client at bay with an indication of what tasks you’re working on and when. This helps to control the scope of the work, and keep costs from increasing throughout development. It is important to keep these details in mind while building a strong foundation for your overall project. In the end, it will lead to smooth communication between you and your client, and a clear picture for the project ahead.