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How to establish your Web Requirements


How to establish your Web Requirements

To have a website built that has no specific purpose is an utter waste of money. It will attract no readers, nobody will be looking for it, it will do nothing for your business, it will merely cost you money. In fact, it would be like standing alone in the desert talking to an imaginary audience and having to pay for the privilege on top of it...! You must have a specific purpose for that website! So what is your reason to have a website?
Let's find out:

In order to establish your web requirements you first need to specify the Purpose of the website and the People you need to reach (your Target Audience).

The Purpose of the Website
What is your reason for having a website in the first place? Why do you want one? Look at a website as a multi-function tool that can be used for many things and thus can serve many purposes. It can therefore have a single or numerous reasons for its existence. Here are some examples of purpose:

to provide contact information
to show something (Showroom, product specifications, etc)
to promote or sell something (products, service, events, ideas)
to tell people about yourself, your business, your product (branding, PR, information)
to provide news, collect reader opinions, etc (communication)
to look things up (details, lists, product specifications, etc)
to save time (e.g. answer common questions online to save having to spend time on the phone, etc)
to provide details (e.g. all your services, catalogues, product specs)
to reach certain audiences (local, in other states, overseas)
to teach / learn
to impress
to aid something or someone (e.g. sales, information, etc)
to test something (client feedback, how will the book that I wrote, or the my new product be received?)
to say / influence something (your opinion, sell, give third-party reference)
etc, etc, …

Whatever the purpose, every purpose is linked to a Target Audience that in turn will then dictate your web requirements! It doesn't really matter what you like. Your target audience must like like it! So it is crucial to correctly define your target audience.

What is a "Target Audience"?
There are 'Audiences' and there are 'Target Audiences'.

• Audiences are all those who visit your website (on purpose or by accident).
• Target Audiences are those among them who you aim to reach. They are the ones that are of particular importance to you, whom you want/need to use your site and respond to it, preferably in a way that you want them to.

Here are three examples to make the term "Target Audience" a bit clearer.

Example 1:

If you sell toys, you may find your audience to be children, provided the website offers something there that gets their attention and keeps their interest. However, your actual Target Audience, the audience that you need to appeal to and which you need to address are not they, but in fact their parents, who are the ones that actually purchase those toys for their children!

Having said that, children could be a Target Audience too, if your intent was to enthuse the children about a toy, for instance, so that they in turn end up pestering your prime target audience, their parents, to buy it for them…!


Example 2:

Or, let's say, you provide answers to something on your site. Then those who would ask the question that is answered there, would be your Target Audience.


Example 3:

The key to the hotel kitchen, for instance, is a tool that serves a purpose.
That purpose is to lock/unlock the doors to the kitchen to give access to those who need to be there. Those who have an interest or a need to get into the kitchen, become an "audience".

Everybody in the hotel may have an interest in getting their hands on that key to get to the goodies in the pantry, but as the hotel owner you only want a handful of people, such as the head chef, the sous chef, the manager and the cleaning staff, to have access to the key to it. They are your "Target Audience".
The requirements of that target audience are to be able to get to the key, know what it is and know how to use it.



It is the same with your website.
It has a purpose, therefore a certain group of relevant people (the target audience) needs to be addressed (in a way that they can understand), and that group needs to be able to see the site (e.g. have computers, online access, the know-how and the means to use the Internet, etc) and they need to have the necessary knowledge and background to know what you are talking about! (You would achieve little with your website, if your target audience can't read, doesn't understand your language, or doesn't use computers...). So you must research and specify your Target Audience(s) carefully!


Example of how to establish your Web Requirements:

Hypothetical Scenario:
You are manufacturing and selling hospital beds and relevant accessories to hospitals, and bed parts to hospital bed repair companies throughout Oceania.

Your purpose: You want a website to replace regular printing and posting of expensive catalogues to relevant clients and to hopefully gain new clients whom you currently have no access to.

So let's start by establishing our likely Audiences:

Let's see, who would visit your web site and why?
What's the purpose of the website again? Oh, yes. Show the catalogue and find customers.

So who would need hospital beds? Well, those who are sick comes to mind, but they are definitley the last ones who would rush out to buy them...Who then would look at hospital beds? Or hospital bed wheels, for instance? And who would buy them?

Well, there are hospitals, retirement facilities, shipping companies, the military, rescue services, and, in fact, all places and institutions where hospital beds are being used.

The people involved would therefore be administration, doctors, nurses, patients, and most of those who use or work with hospital beds in some way. They may wish they had this or that feature, but – are they your target audience? They are still not the ones who actually buy any beds from you!

The people who do the research, the comparing of prices and features, those who do the actual ordering of the beds are far more likely to look at a website about hospital beds! In other words, not necessarily the ones who do the paying, or the ones who give the orders, but those who actually do the shopping and the placing of orders.

So your first Target Audience would be the purchase officers of these places. They are the ones your website needs to appeal to!

You also have a second target audience:
Those who repair those beds and whom you want to buy parts from you. They may need to look up which parts to use for certain beds, etc.

And finally, there is a third target audience:
Your own staff and sales people! They need to be able to check what's in stock, look up the prices of parts, check on shipping details, etc. And although your sales people may travel with laptops, they also need to look things up via a handheld device such as an iPad, a BlackBerry, an iPhone or even a normal mobile phone. They are the people that sell and promote your wares.

Now that we have a start, lets examine our Target Audiences. We need to understand them in order to be able to offer them what they need:

Target Audience 1, Buyers:

Who are they? What do they know?
Purchase officers are not necessarily technically trained people.
They want to see what you have to offer.
They look at costs and at value.
They may or may not understand industry jargon and are unlikely to be familiar with technical terms.
They also may need to report their findings to someone else before placing an order.
They "live" on the Internet.

What would they be looking for / expect to find on the website?
They want to see pictures, maybe online demos and they want to know why they should buy from you and not your competition!
They are used to the Internet and are thus likely to expect online order and payment facilities.
They'll be looking for contact details.

Therefore – what is required to give them what they want/need?
They need to be addressed without using any technical jargon.
They need to be shown the range of beds, and their benefits.
A way to print out pictures of individual models and specifications may be a good idea (in case they need to report their findings).
You not only need to give them a way to place orders online, but preferably a way to pay online as well (=make it easy for them).
They need your contact details.


Target Audience 2, Repairers:

Who are they? What do they know?
They are "Techies" who look for parts and who occasionally need to check a diagram. They understand electrics, mechanics and hydraulics and know "tech-speak" (Complex technical manuals could therefore be made available online).
They are not in front of a computer all day, and thus some may not be all that computer literate.
It is most likely the boss who will decide what to buy and when.
They are repair staff who need manuals and specification info.

What would they be looking for / expect to find on the website?
They want to see, and possibly be able to compare parts.
They'll want manuals (of all models, including new and discontinued ones).
They will want to look up and (most likely) print out specifications and diagrams that they can take to their work stations.
They'll be looking up part numbers for ordering purposes.
They'll want price lists (either online or downloadable, or both).
They will be looking for contact details to query things in person.

Therefore – what is required to give them what they want/need?
Repairers need to see how parts fit together, which parts are unique to which type of bed and what criteria need to be taken into account when fixing these things.
They need manuals and detailed product specifications (text? images? both?)
A way to print out diagrams and lists straight from the website would be ideal.
A price list (possibly one that is exclusively accessible to repairers?)
A downloadable price list.
They need your contact details and they need contact details of your technical experts.

Target Audience 3, Staff:

Who are they? What do they know?
They are your own people. In-house staff as well as your sales people on the road.
They will almost all be staff that deals directly with clients.
They will also be some "techies" from the factory floor.
They all know your products well.

What would they be looking for / expect to find on the website?
Part numbers.
Product Information (pictures, specifications of individual units and accessories).
They'll look up product availability.
Factory staff and also sales staff will look for (material) specifications (measurements, etc)

Therefore – what is required to give them what they want/need?
Staff needs to be able to quickly look up a unit / part number and it's cost.
Staff needs to be able to calculate prices and sales staff needs to be able to preferably create and print out / email invoices on the spot.
They also need to be able to show potential buyers what parts and whole beds look like.
Your salespeople need access to classified, behind-the-scenes product information, such as product availability and shipping costs (information that is only accessible to them).
It may be a good idea to give staff a way to give you pertaining feedback as they come across it, so you can tweak site content over time and as necessary.
Select factory staff needs to be able to access all material specs.


What do YOU want?
One of your short-term goals may be to establish a branch in a nearby country where you don't manufacture, but only assemble, despatch and repair hospital beds. You need staff for that.
You also are short of reps and need more.

That would give you an added site purpose:
Finding and interviewing potential staff that is located abroad !

It also gives you Target Audience 4, Potential new Staff:

Who are they? What do they know?
They are job seekers who would have come to your site through your offline advertising.
They also could be working within the Industry and found out that you have job openings.

What would they be looking for / expect to find on the website?
What jobs are available.
What these jobs entail, what the hours are and how much these jobs pay.
They'll want to know who you are and what your company does.
They want to contact you if you have a job opening that interests them.

Therefore – what is required to give them what they want/need?
You need to make it known that you are looking for staff.
You need to tell about your business.
You need to show the list of available jobs, job descriptions and provide a way for potential new staff to apply for the job.
And if you prefer to interview potential staff yourself, as opposed to using an agency overseas, then you also need a way to do this remotely over the Internet.

Well, there you are! You have established your Web Requirements! You may have to consider a lot more or a lot less for your particular purpose, but in essence it will follow much the same thinking process. As long as you define your target audience(s) and their needs correctly, you won't go wrong.

Don't worry about the details of how all these requirements for your web presence are best executed. To come up with the right site architecture and the right features for these purposes to make it all work seamlessly and smoothly, is the job of your web designer and web developer. As long as you know what your needs are, your web designer will be able to do magic for you! :)

And best of all: By doing your homework, you'll get exactly what you need, you'll get it faster, and it will be cheaper!


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