One of my tasks when performing web site usability audits is understanding the goals and objectives its owner has in mind for it. Typically I can tell from some designs this wasn’t out from the beginning, so here is a quick review.
When you first sat down to consider your plans, did you think about your business requirements? Why do you want a web site? What do you hope to accomplish? How will you do this?
Some example business requirements may be:
- Increase the amount of qualified Search Engine traffic.
- Increase the number of new visitors (and perhaps pre-qualify new customers).
- Increase the number of return visitors.
- Increase the number of page views per visit.
Some business goals may be:
- Provide information
- Enable online sales
- Provide career information for prospective employees
- Provide news (blog, newsletter, etc.)
- Create community
- Generate sales leads
- Find new partners
- Provide information for investors, media, press
- Showcase proprietary software application(s)
- Create a popular brand
Goals are things you’re shooting for. What do you want to do? What do you want to get? Requirements are must-have’s and must-do’s. Web site goals help support business requirements. I go so far as to suggest that Goals can include fuzzy items like “contributing positive energy to [whatever]” or “creating a comfort zone for [user type]“. The later one would then branch off into the mental model and even user personas your site is going to target.
When evaluating these ideas, you’ll begin to take notes on how you will reach these goals and meet your requirements. Some goals, such as “provide forums”, will require functional requirements. You’ll need to visit hardware, hosting and performance issues. There are search engine marketing requirements. Other site requirements that need functional requirements and testing include:
- Accessibility – standards, or to meet USA and UK legal requirements
- Different search engines
- Directory requirements
- User Interface requirements
- User testing
To name a few, but you get the idea. Be sure to write everything down and prepare a Requirements Document. Consider investing in hiring a professional who gathers your information and writes up the documentation. They can create test plans and test cases to be sure each requirement is traced to your site goals and that each requirement is met. Test plans include heuristics and steps to prove things like user tasks have been met.
The beauty of being this well organized is that for large projects, sometimes a team needs to be involved. They’ll want to be included on decisions and perhaps “sign off” that certain items have been tested or met. When you roll out your web site, you stand a better chance of making it perfect and customer friendly from the start simply by making sure you proved to yourself first that it’s indeed ready for show time!
Suggested resource: How Web Site Requirements Keep Your Project From Exploding