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Building a website can often mean an immensely complex task.

For the success of the effort, the designers and developers need a wide array of facts to base their work upon.

Below is a question-answer session that is the essential part of the website-planning phase.

These are generic questions: most of them may be applicable in a number of different website-building projects.

Some of these questions:

  • need the answers before commencing work,
  • may already have been answered by your initial introduction,
  • may be postponed answering for some time,
  • open some more new questions that I haven't detailed here.

You don't need to be able to come up with the answers for all of them by yourself. The agency itself is not only able to give suggestions, but actually is meant to do so.

Since both designing and building is their job, they can help you to fill in some gaps in the plans, and - thanks to their experience - advice you against committing possible mistakes.

Questions

  • Project mission and scope

    • Who is the website being made for? (Who should be the audience?)
    • What problems of the audience does the website aim to solve?
    • Through what means can the site solve those problems?
    • What is it that you would like the visitors to do on the website?
    • What is going to make you feel that the website will have accomplished its goal?

      About "solving the audience's problems"

      Visitor engagement: this is what has to happen for any website that wants to achieve its goals.

      With a web swarming with armies of other websites hunting your audience's attention, you can count on the visitors' attention only if you offer solving some of their problems in some way.

      As a result, good websites need to be built around the needs of their audience.

  • Project environment

    • Are we creating a website that will have to compete on a given market?
      • If yes: name your primary competitors.
      • If not: it's still likely that someone else is doing something alike on the web: can you name some of them?
      • From the aspect of the project, what important things are they doing? Can we learn anything from them, before we start our planning?
    • Do you already have website(s)? If yes, then:
      • The project manager(s) should be introduced to them.
      • You should name the other site(s) such aspects that you are satisfied with and the ones with you are not.
      • How does the current project integrate into the (array of the) other site(s)? Is there anything on the other site(s) that the designers/developers will have to adapt to in their work on this project, and in what means?
      • With the arrival of the new site, do you plan any changes in the operation of the existing one(s)?
  • Technical parameters

    • Have you chosen domain-name(s) yet? Do you already own it (them)?
    • What is the expected/desired number of visitors for the website for a given interval of time?
    • Should the site serve log-in based exclusive content to some specific user groups?
    • Will the site host such transactions that call for extra security measures?
    • Cross-device- (mobile-) enabled presentation should be default nowadays. Is that the way to go for this project too, or is there any reason for which you wish to drop that (and go only for desktop-optimized presentation)?
    • Using website traffic monitoring tools is quite the basic thing to do these days. Will Google Analitycs' services match your needs, or do you need any different means of analyzing site traffic?
  • Content

    • On how many languages do you plan the site to serve content? Which languages are these?
    • Do you have any preliminary ideas on the website's content? Have you appointed a person to be responsible for its management?
    • What is the content that you are capable to provide, and is there anything that you need help with?
    • Assuming we want people to revisit the site from time to time, what will be there on the site that will be able to trigger that?
  • Design

    • Do you already have a brand, a logo, a full visual corporate identity? If yes:
      • The agency's designer should be introduced to the existing graphical identity of your brand.
    • Either supplementary or alternative to the above, name the few most important attributes (expressed in one-or-two words) that you think the website's audience should percieve as identical to your brand. Those attributes could be expressed (or at least, should not be contradicted) by the website's design.
  • Marketing

    • What means of marketing activity is planned to introduce the new site to the audience?
    • What depth of social media integration is desired?
    • What measures of Search Engine Optimization is desired for the project?
    • Have you appointed a SEO specialist yet? If yes:
      • Does the SEO specialist have any project-specific need/instruction that the designers/developers should be aware of while planning and developing?
  • Samples

    • It could help if you could name a few websites, or a few features on those websites that you like, and some that you don't. That helps the team to understand your vision better, and to aim the creativity to the right direction.
  • Organizational orientation

    • Who is the representative of your organization, who can make the decisions during development? Occassionally the agency may need your organization's representative to make decisions in both technical aspects and content strategy aspects.
    • Who will be the administrators and content-editors of the working site? What sort of hierarchy will describe the admin staff?
  • Planning efforts and workflow

    • What scale of budget is available for the project?
    • What is the desired date for the publication of the website?
    • Will doing the development the agile way get your approval?
    • Do you have any - so far undiscussed - specific needs concerning the development?