The importance of good website scoping

The importance of good website scoping

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A website brief is all well and good but, a web project that has been properly scoped is much more likely to run smoothly and be delivered on time and on budget. 

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Content and digital strategy agency

The importance of good website scoping.
OK, so you’ve written the brief and shared it with the web agency. No doubt it has been a little tricky to write, but you believe you have explained what you want in terms of design & functionality. You may even have included more specific details regarding user experience, SEO, content management, hosting environment.
You’ve given the web agency all they need to know to deliver back what you want. Or have you?

But, what would happen if the agency did exactly as you have requested and the website still didn’t deliver. A lot of time, money & resources would have gone into the build and you are not getting the results you expected.
Would you blame the agency? Or the brief?

If only there was a ‘discovery phase’ or ‘website scoping stage’ in advance of the full build. Something to check that the site can deliver what is required of it.

Of course, few agencies will actually ‘dive in’ and undertake this development work unless they have been commissioned to do so. And, it is because of this, that clients never really know how the project will be defined until they have already made a ‘leap of faith’ in appointing the agency.

Design Inc is different and, for the larger, more complex sites, we apply the following four stages to our approach so as to ensure a successful scoping process.

1. Understanding the audiences

Everyone talks about taking a user-centred approach but what does that really mean? The answer to this is complicated because almost every site will have several distinct audiences. Therefore, the more work that can be put into defining them and understanding their goals, the better the outcome will be for the site.

Assuming that there is an existing website, a lot of information can be captured from its analytics. We also recommend gathering information by installing a heatmap on the site and performing some technical performance tests.
A website heatmap is a visual representation of how visitors interact with each element on your website. It shows which sections get more clicks and hold your visitor’s attention.
The test scores are particularly useful in setting some clear measures of success for the new site.

2. Testing the assumptions with workshops

This initial research should now be tested. There is no substitute for gathering input from real users. We recommend conducting these through a series of workshop sessions.

We generally aim for the session/s to be conducted with groups of 6 – 12 individuals. Ideally these will be mixed groups, reflecting the key audiences. Workshops work well around a table or via Teams or Zoom where we can share a series of wireframe options. These layouts indicate how the new site’s structure could work and it is an excellent way to gather feedback and test detailed ideas to optimise the user experience.

When we are clear as to the direction that the new site with will take, in terms of its information architecture and structure we prepare some early-stage design concepts which are presented to the stakeholders for feedback.

3. Specifying the functionality

From all the research work and input from the workshops it should now be possible to begin specifying the recommended technologies. A particularly important area to consider is how the new site will interact with any external, third-party software solutions such as the CRM, for example.

It is always worth being wary of agencies that only offer one CMS (Content Management Solution) as they will naturally aim to scope all projects to fit their solution. There is nothing wrong with WordPress but there may be a much more effective solution for your needs. Because of this, we prefer to scope the solution and then consider which technology is best-placed to deliver it.
Often there are a couple of viable CMS options and we are always happy to demo these systems, to help ensure that the client is actively engaged in this important decision.

4. Reaching the scoping conclusion – the Functional Specification

The scoping work usually involves the three initial steps mentioned and this all helps shape the Functional Specification document. This typically includes details regarding:
– Recommendations for the information architecture
  – Identifying and specifying the required functional elements, including any integration required with third-party systems
  – The approach that will be taken to meet accessibility requirements
– Wireframes – All the key wireframes to map out the user experience
– The recommended CMS solution
– Production schedule: This is usually in the form of a Gantt Chart. It is the schedule for each element of the project to meet the required deadline, with clear milestones, linked to progress review meetings.
– The post-launch KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to measure success
– Service level Agreements for: support, hosting and digital marketing (if required)

To conclude, to skimp on the website scoping process, perhaps because of a sense of project urgency, is to ‘marry in haste and repent at leisure’. A project that has been properly scoped is much more likely to run smoothly and be delivered on time and on budget.

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Design Inc is a full service creative & digital agency based in Surrey, UK. To discuss your own requirements, please contact us now.