Planning and defining business requirements is crucial to the success of any business endeavor and the designing and building of a website is no different. This means communicating with clients early on, prior to the developments stage, and clearly understanding their needs and the goals they want the website to achieve. Determining time, budget, and technical constraints as well as defining in detail project objectives and guidelines are also important steps that must be documented (Harbour). The purpose of the website should be apparent to all parties involved, including developers, designers, managers, and stakeholders.
Certainly, fulfilling these requirements is easier said than done considering how many people can be involved in a project, each with their own perspectives. In the long run, however, the effort expended early on can determine the overall success of a project.
Sufficient planning serves several important roles. It helps developers and clients narrow down and agree upon project expectations, which initially could be unclear or unrealistic in regard to available resources. It also saves money because the project will be delivered on schedule without delays, which limits expensive revisions caused by inaccurate design and miscommunication; with clearly defined objectives, the overall quality of the project will be improved and the chance for disagreement will be reduced (The Importance of Planning & Preproduction). The significance of the initial planning stage is so important to a project’s success that some agencies spend roughly half of their time and budget within this development phase (The Importance of Planning & Preproduction).
Managing scope creeps, in particular, is an issue that commonly affects web development projects and is largely caused by insufficient communication between a company and its clients (Harbour). Scope creep occurs when new requirements are added to a project that was not part of its original objectives. Several features that clients commonly request web developers implement that may creep into a project include additional web pages; image slideshows; blogging services; additional images and content; periodic updates; and search engine optimizations (Harbour).
Senior project analyst Tim Clark offers several pieces of advice to limit scope creep. Be vigilant right from the beginning, examining and responding to client requests as soon as possible; some requested features may simply be too ambitious, unreasonable, or not clearly defined (Clark). Clarify any misunderstandings immediately and if new features must be implemented, be up front with the client in regards to any added costs and time restrictions this might cause (Clark).
While proper planning can indeed be considered the most important stage of a project, ample communication must occur throughout the website’s development, including when it goes live, in order to encourage successful iteration and feedback.