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29 February 2012

The truth about technical specifications

Does this scenario sound familiar to you? You have a great idea for your website or application and a list of things it will have to be able to do. You don't have a strong technical background but you've seen similar things on other websites, so you assume it is all possible. The only problem is you're not sure how to make it happen, or what the final product should look like. However, you feel your idea is worth pursuing and would like help defining costs, design and technology required to make your vision happen.

 You call the first five web development agencies on Google, ask for a quote for a new website and list your requirements. The agency will usually ask for a meeting, that leads to a fairly generic quote, which they feel should meet your requirements. You now have five quotes outlining what each agency will provide but they're all very different and differ widely in price. You feel as though you're no closer to realising your website and confused about your next step. You're not convinced that each agency understood your project in a one hour consultation, nor are you confident in committing to a costly long-term project without further research.

 It doesn't matter if you're building a website for your business or a large-scale online application, common sense dictates that you require a plan to ensure you achieve your desired outcomes. You could make a diagram outlining the types of pages your site will require and how they will relate to one another. You could then describe what each page will do and what information will sit on each.... or you could observe the structure of other websites and gradually design your own.

These are great first steps and may be all that is required for a site with 10 -15 pages. But what if your site will have 100's of pages, online payment capabilities or special functionality? What do you do then?

 

Using a professional

It might be time to hire a professional to guide you through the site planning process. At Zeroseven we describe this as creating a technical specification. It is simply a collaborative process where a client sits down with a Solution Architect to plan and write the blueprint of their project. This can either be a workshop, or simply a one on one conversation, depending on your needs.

The meetings result in a document outlining the following:

> Website structure -  a list of all pages detailing their specific functionality and purpose

> Technology - what technology and platforms will be used to build and host the site

> 3rd Party integration - how the site will integrate with other applications or data sources

> Administration - what can be managed and how it can be managed

> Site Map - a visual representation of all pages and navigation

> Wireframes - a visual representation of unique pages demonstrating their layout and functionality

 

Why?

Although you have a strong sense of what your site should do, there are probably many things you haven't thought of or aren't aware of. There might even be 3rd party solutions that can be incorporated into your project, saving valuable time and money in the development process. A Solution Architect will walk you through the many options available and diagnose the best approach for you.

In short, a Technical Specification is the blueprint for your project. You wouldn't build a house without having a set of plans and that is exactly what a technical specification is.

 

Who?

A Solution Architect is simply a senior developer, technical lead or user experience professional with a passion for everything web related. They enjoy the planning process of a website build and are keen to help you make the right decisions before any energy is spent on the build. They translate your vision into the technical language needed to realise it.

 

Small investment, low risk

Having a technical specification written may not be the right approach for all projects. However, if you're not sure whether you can commit to a large website project, you can commit to an inexpensive specification.

After capturing the project on paper, you may decide it isn't worth pursuing, or you may need more time to decide if it is what you really want. If you do decide to pursue the project, you can always take the specification (or your blueprint) to gather new quotes for the work described. You'll then be able to easily compare quotes, knowing they will meet your requirements exactly.

If you'd like to learn more about technical specifications at Zeroseven, please contact us here.


Elizabeth
AUTHOR

Elizabeth

Director of Client Services
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