How to Create Effective Website Specifications

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Tim Mudd
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June 14, 2023
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Design specifications give web developers a clear understanding of your priorities and provide guidelines for the web development process. Whether you opt for prototypes or Word documents, specifications play a crucial role in shaping the outcome of your website.

In this article, I detail information that a web developer needs to architect a unique and effective website that wins customers. Finally, I conclude by sharing some tips on how to pull it all together, and begin a productive partnership with your developer.

Conducting market research

My first step as a web developer is to understand your business. More specifically, I need to know your target audience, how you present yourself to that audience, and the competitive landscape in which you operate.

Audience research

In your specifications, include the local, national, or international markets you operate in. Describe demographics or consumer behaviors relevant to your services. Share brands, stores, influencers, YouTube channels, or other platforms where your potential customers are active.

Your website is one segment in the user's journey. The better I understand how your users begin and end, the better I can position your business' website to win them over.

Audit online presence

How do you engage your audience? Share links to your existing website, social media channels, business listings, and any authoritative sites linking to your website. If you rank for specific keywords in search engines, list them with their ranking positions.

Mention any advertising or PR channels that you currently use or plan to engage with. Do you list your products or services on Etsy, Google Merchant, Upwork, or other marketplace? Include those too.

In your specifications, be comprehensive about where your business operates and engages users. If you're a new business, document the channels where you know you want to be and list essential information like your phone number, operating hours, and customer support email.

Competitors analysis

Who is your competition? Identify your primary competitors for each market you operate in, and include links to their websites with contextual information, such as their position in the market, unique selling points, or any other relevant details that distinguish them.

Understanding the competitive landscape allows developers to gain insights into industry trends, benchmark against existing solutions, and identify opportunities for differentiation.

By sharing information about your competition, businesses provide developers with a deeper understanding of the market dynamics, target audience preferences, and successful strategies implemented by competitors.

Audit your content

In the vast digital landscape, where attention spans are fleeting and competition is fierce, the importance of website content cannot be overstated.

Well-crafted and engaging website content is the key to capturing attention, conveying your brand message effectively, and ultimately driving conversions.

List your products

In your specifications, give your developer information about your products and services, and describe what you sell and how you sell it. Include features, benefits, disclaimers, and any other essential consumer information.

Provide relevant metadata, such as categories or keywords that accurately describe your product. To enhance presentation, give your developer high-quality images showcasing your product or service.

You can include this information directly in your specifications document, or give your developer access to spreadsheets, a CMS, a design mockup, or another cloud-sharing platform where these assets may exist.

List social proof

Social proof refers to the psychological phenomenon where people look to others' actions and behaviors to determine the correct course of action in a given situation. It is a powerful influence that shapes human behavior, as individuals tend to conform to the actions and opinions of others, especially in ambiguous or unfamiliar situations.

Social proof operates on the premise that if many others engage in a particular behavior or endorse a specific product, it must be correct or desirable. This concept can manifest in various forms, such as testimonials, online reviews, or celebrity endorsements.

In your specifications, link to reviews, case studies, customer logos, or other forms of social proof you plan to publish on your new website. If you don't have social proof, consider asking existing customers to provide a review, as a little proof is better than none.

List content marketing

Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach that involves creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and engage a target audience. The primary goal of content marketing is to build trust, establish thought leadership, and drive profitable customer actions.

The content can take various forms, such as blog posts, videos, infographics, e-books, and podcasts. In your specifications, link to your companies' content marketing, and provide details for any content marketing you plan to produce before the launch of your new site.

List your "about" content

"About Us" content is a crucial component of a website, providing information about your business, its history, mission, values, team members, and policies.

Meta content serves as a way to introduce and humanize your business, allowing visitors to gain insights into your background, culture, and unique selling proposition, while also introducing greater transparency.

In your specifications, link to existing company information and list any new about us content you want on your new site.

Describe your brand

A well-defined and compelling brand sets the foundation for a successful online presence, shaping the user experience, communicating identity, and fostering trust.

Describe your style

Style involves various elements, including color, typography, layout, graphics, and interactive elements.

In your specifications, stipulate preferred font pairings, color schemes, shapes, or other visual style preferences. If you have an established style of writing, provide guidelines for that.

In addition, provide access to any brand assets, such as a brand logo. If you have preferred iconography, illustrations, or stock photo libraries, link to those as well.

List your inspirations

If you're a new business, or simply looking for a brand refresh, and don't have established style preferences or design mockups, provide your developer with your inspirations. Have you seen websites, dribbble shots, or works of art that you want your brand to imitate?

Inspiration serves as a guiding force that helps communicate your vision, preferences and desired aesthetic. By sharing inspiration, you can effectively convey your expectations, style preferences, and overall goals for the project.

This allows developers to understand your taste, gather insights into your brand identity, and make informed design and development decisions that align with your vision.

Final thoughts

If you find a gifted developer who can create unique user experiences, then clear, comprehensive specifications will put them in the best position to do what they do best. 

If you're working on design mockups in Figma or Sketch, consider supplementing your designs with comments or annotations to give your developer a fuller picture of the end product. 

If you need your developer to both design and develop your site, consider using a Google Doc or Notion project to host your specifications.

These specifications ensure that your website accurately represents your brand, resonates with your target audience, and helps you achieve your business goals. Investing time in creating comprehensive and well-defined specifications will result in a website that stands out from the competition and delivers a seamless user experience.

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Tim Mudd

I specialize in crafting distinctive and outstanding user experiences with Webflow.