Planning a holiday for one or two people is a relatively straight-forward affair. In contrast, identifying the requirements of the audience of a huge website can be substantially more daunting! Indeed, the range of applications and information that may be requested is often so wide, it can be hard to see the wood for the trees. That is, building a picture of the type of site that is required can be quite difficult.
To overcome this problem, I have devised a simple means for categorising website development requirements. What I do is to divide all needs into one or two groups, based on what customers have said they want 'To Do' or 'To View' during their visit. By allocating all ideas between these categories, I am able to arrive at a much clearer picture of the type of website I have to build.
Requirements that correspond with 'To Do', are used to identify key tasks or transactions that visitors want to complete online. For example:
- To submit expenses over an intranet
- To reserve a flight on the internet
- To refresh an order via an extranet
- To chat with friends over the internet
These can be used to detect ideas for online applications. If any such content is required, it typically means a Transactional website is needed. A transactional website is one that uses the internet (or an intranet or extranet) as a platform for delivering functionality in support of business operations or revenue generation.
Ideas that correspond with 'To View', may be used to identify needs regarding informational content. This could include:
- To read a bus timetable
- To watch the news
- To explore new movie releases
- To listen to music
Items in this category can be used to identify text, video and other informational content that does not facilitate any form of transaction. Content of this type is typically delivered from Basic and Dynamic sites.
A Basic Site is one that contains information in plain text (HTML/XHTML) format, with perhaps a few supporting images and downloads. A Dynamic Site is one in which content is stored in a database and published according to the requirements of visitors. For example, a small bus operator could decide to use a Basic site to list his timetables.
In contrast, a transportation company with hundreds of services would be better off with a Dynamic site. indeed, such sites can often include quite complex interactivity—particularly those that adopt the techniques of Web 2.0, e.g. Google Maps mashups, etc.
In summary therefore, (although some subtleties of development may be missing) the categories of 'To Do' and 'To View' provide a useful means for identifying the type of site that is required from a development project.
In the next article we will explore the techniques by which audience requirements themselves are identified and prioritised. This includes ideas such as surveys, feedback and applying weighting to ideas.
Read more practical advice....
About Shane Diffily
I am an experienced commentator on web operations. In 2015, I released the web's first online training course in website management and governance. Back in 2006 I published the Website Manager's Handbook, the original guide to online operations.