I have just finished writing the fourth website requirements document for as many clients in just a few weeks and am amazed by how important these documents are to the success of the overall web development process for both the client and the developer. While some websites are quite straightforward and require little more than the ability to change the content, other sites can be quite complex. Whether you are a large company or SME, if the website you want falls into the complex category (i.e., e-commerce, customer back end access, multiple levels of content management), then you want to be sure that the web developer you hire creates a requirements document that you can review together before they start to build the site.
A requirements document is intended to ‘protect’ both you and the developer. The last thing you want is an invoice for work that you didn’t approve or a website that has features you didn’t request. A requirements document will help to avoid these ‘surprises’ by clearly articulating all of the elements you and the developer have agreed to for the website.
From the developer’s perspective, the document is intended to avoid what we call ‘mission creep’. Mission creep refers to additional requests made by clients after they have signed off on a project. The problem with mission creep is that it affects both the timeline to develop the site as well as the total development costs. At the end of the day, we want our clients to be satisfied on multiple levels: timeframe for a site to go live, cost and end result.
What should you look for in a requirements document?
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