People often talk about the beginning of the web design process as “starting with a blank sheet of paper” but the paper is rarely blank. The customer has an idea of what the site should look like. It may be a vague outline or it may be extremely detailed, but it exists. We, the designers, also have our ideas and they are based on what we’ve done in the past, what we’ve seen other people do, what new features and facilities have become available and where, knowing what this customer’s business is, we think we should take it.
The planning stage involves both customer and designer. It may be a face-to-face meeting, a telephone conversation, Skype, a series of emails or a combination of all of those things but what we agree in the planning stage will define the project for the rest of its life.
We need from the customer the clearest possible description of:
- What they want the website to achieve, and how they will measure and define success. Think of this as setting out the customer’s goals
- Who the target visitor is, how – typically – they will arrive at the site (in other words, by what hyperlinks and from what sources they will be led to it) and what the customer wants them to do while they are there
- Whether anything is going to be sold off the site (i.e. will there be an e-commerce function?)
- Ideas the customer has for features that need to be present (product carousels, videos, PDF files, a blog – whatever the customer can think of)
All of this will be gathered together in a document describing the site as it has been planned. This document will act as a guide to completion.
Now we are ready to go to the contract stage.