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The Discovery Phase

So you decided you want to have a web presence. Just like any project you would ask someone to build, you should go through the pains of developing a proper project specification.

If you decided it was time to build a new house, you would want to investigate your requirements before you asked a builder to build it for you. A 2 bedroom house would be much cheaper than a 4 bedroom house. A carport would cost less than a garage. The cost in developing a software project is very similar. By identifying your projects requirements, you will get a clearer picture of the cost involved, and the results you should expect.

Define Your Goals

Upon making the decision to move forward with a new internet project, the first thing you should do is to sit down and explore your goals. It is important not only for you to know what you are asking a development team to build for you, but also so you can better convey your thoughts to the team. If all you want to do is to provide pictures to your friends, then you will not need to build a complete portal online.

Think about the benefits you require by having your site built.

  1. Are there financial benefits I am after?
    • How will I obtain those benefits?
    • Do I need E-Commerce Capabilities?
    • Will I want to sell Ad space on my site?
    • Do I have a marketing Plan?
      1. How will I bring people to the site?
      2. Will I market both on and off the internet?
      3. Do I need to be found on the Search Engines?
  2. Do I want to provide online services to a select group?
    • How will I change the information?
    • Contact Information?
    • Document Management?
    • Discussion Groups?
    • Calendars?
    • Scheduling?
    • Group Email?
  3. Do I want to provide educational information for people?
    • How will they find it?
    • How often will I edit it?
    • Do I want to be able to change the content often?
    • Do I want to add to the site often?

Define your Users

Once the system is in place, have you provided for all your users needs? Users can include the visitors to the site, your administrators of the site, your content developers, and your support personel. By identifying which of your users you are wanting to provide for, you can better enhance their experience while on the site. If it is easy for your content providers to make their changes, they will keep it updated more often. If you will require regular administration on your site, how can you ease their work? Although more work would be required up front, you can reduce the ongoing administrative costs and mitigate any unscheduled down time.

Define your Business Processes

Do you know what business processes are required for your site? From your goals, and your user definition, you should be able to identify what processes you will need to put in place. Are there form flow processes which need to be considered? E-Commerce check-out? Newsletters that need to be reviewed? Discussions that need to be moderated? Who can make changes and how? All of these things need to be considered in the definition of your Business Processes.

Identify Your System Requirements

Once you have identified your Goals, Users, and Business Processes you should have a better understanding of the requirements you want for your project. This will be very important for any Development Group to provide you with an accurate proposal for your project. Gather up these requirements to use them in your project specification.

It would be nice to have...

This is the alter ego to your requirements. Keep your budget in mind, but identify those things that would be nice to have but you can live without. Developers may move faster than anticipated or they may be able to drop some pre-written code into your system to provide some extra functionality. On the flip side, a nice to have item could eat up much of the development cost. A clear separation of Requirements and those things that Would Be Nice will help you get the most for your money.

Developing your Specification

Your specification will be the collection of all the above gathered information. While being as specific as possible in the definition of your specification, you should leave room for the developers to make technology decisions you don't understand or are not sure of. If you specify a particular technology requirement you may be ruling out any existing tools which could provide the same service you are wanting, at a considerable less cost. You should provide any requirements for your requested proposals, including methods of implementation, technology issues, interfaces, users requirements, etc...

The better you provide at this initial phase of your project, the smoother your project will go. Many groups (Including Digital Mason LLC) will offer services to help you develop a clean and understandable project specification. Spending a little extra time and money up front for this purpose can save you much time, money, and headaches in the future. Your development team will appreciate it!

The Proposals

Proposals come in many forms. Quite often it will be a reflection of the provided Specification. If you give a detailed specification, you will more than likely recieve detailed proposals. If you give a unclear request for services, you will more than likely recieve an unclear proposal. Any questions you identified in your specification should be answered.

Good Luck with your Project....

Going through the pains of a full project specification can be a real asset in the success of your online presence. It mitigates any disputes between parties and jump starts the design and development processes.

I hope this helps you in your preparation of your Internet Project.

Next -> The Gathering

Mike Pass
Digital Mason LLC.
Developer Resource
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