If you go direct to a builder and asked them to build a house, you’d be in for a big surprise.

Builders build.

They’ll pop in some windows here, a door there, some plumbing and perhaps a few Grecian pillars by the bathroom!

They’ll build and build. It’s what they do best.

But when will it be finished? How do we keep an eye on budgets? And what is it you are actually building?

That’s where the problems arise, so that’s not how we build a house. We wouldn’t do that. We would give the builders specific guidelines. We wouldn’t risk any other way.

In fact we wouldn’t talk to the builders at the start. Step 1 is working with an architect to create some blueprints. Succesful web projects also go through this process at the start. Successful web projects have great blueprints.

But first, let’s look at our house. When we’re creating blueprints we need ask ourself:

  • What kind of house do we need?
  • Who is the house for?
  • What kind of needs is the house fulfilling?

If it’s a house in the Artic we’ll need to make sure it’s heated. If you’ve got five children then we’ll certainly need a few bedrooms. Perhaps it needs to be on the ground floor for your elderly mother-in-law?

Different houses will have different needs. Houses come in all shapes and sizes. Before we start building we need to identify our needs and set goals. We need to determine what we are aiming to achieve.

And so it is with your website.

Before we goto our designers and developers we need to do two things:

  • Identify our needs
  • Put together a blueprint

I often see this responsibility given away. We know we need a website, but haven’t identified why. We goto the builders and ask them if they can build. Often they will, but they will build what they know. They might even create the blueprints for you, but did you make sure they identified what kind of site you need? Did they learn about your business objectives?

If you give away this responsibility you might end up with a smashing site, but it also might not do what you need it to do.

We need to write up a specification of requirements, of business requirements. Outlining these needs is primary. Once we have these business needs we can examine the logistics of fulfilling these needs.

This is often done in a separate document by your suppliers. They may well describe this as a functional specification. This is not what we are creating here.

A functional specification will outline in granular detail how the build will take place. What systems, tools, methods and process will be combined to complete the project.

First we want to build our specification of needs. If we second-guess the experts we increase the risk of missing our goals. We’re going to be creating a more general specification. An enhanced brief. A detailed blueprint of our business requirements from which a functional specification can be created.

So it’s really important to start at square one. Let’s look at the reasons you are starting this project and what you are aiming to achieve.