“The real effectiveness of a website is backed with critical analysis!”
‘Website Requirement analysis‘ is a process that assists in analyzing challenges and opportunities with respect to the business model of the website. This task is accomplished by Web Analysts and the outcome is detailed documents, which plays pivotal role in laying the technology foundation, deployment, maintenance and upgrading of the portals and feature rich web applications.
The process may sound easy, but crafting a requirement analysis document is a task that needs exposure, experience, understanding of web-technologies and a dynamic mind to map needs of the business model into a functional solution. The end result of this process is detailed documents depicting all necessary requisites for deploying a web-platform. Some call these documents ‘SRS’ while some address these as ‘Scope of Work’. Knowing the importance of these document, through this article I am listing few essential elements/heads these documents should include to serve their purpose!
Before I proceed any further, let’s just divert our discussion a bit and consider the primary reason behind the existence of a website or any other software program of your choice! Of course, these would be serving needs of customers or create a platform for marketing, knowledge sharing, promotion etc. Websites are of heterogeneous nature catering multiple audiences, for instance we have portfolio websites to showcase talent and service websites for internet promotions and marketing etc. If a website fails the expectations of a firm to bring business and promote the same at a global level then whatever the reason may be, the website will be termed as a bad investment! This is why we have analysts who assert requirements of a website to make it efficient to function & run while adhering standards defined for web & search engines and at the same time keeping management an easy task for the webmasters.
Documenting the report that a ‘Website Analyst’ prepares usually starts with the analysis and design of the document itself, which will be addressing the user requirements. This document will also contain a plan that seeks to offer a perfect solution so as to improve the website.
Why should you go for a proper documentation process, when you can do the same by just a team meet?
“E-paper based reality that we call as ‘Proof’”
Well, this is a question that must be tampering many especially after knowing what actually a website analysis process means. To shoot a quick answer, anything that is written is better understood and grasped by a human mind rather than remembering verbal communication. A well-written and strategically done requirement analysis is the best way you can know what your website actually needs or lacks, besides that these documents can be referred at any point of time to make amendments or upgrades to the system.
A typical requirement analysis in any firm is performed by the production team itself as all they do is gather around in a conference hall, wherein they would be having a white board to jot down major business requisites. This would include questions regarding the type of website, technology deployment, functions and many more that the website should perform. However, this will prove to be wastage of essential production time and manpower because the right person to perform this job in a professional and effective manner will be a ‘website requirement analyst’ and until it is document it is of no good.
Let me clarify that this documented information will play a vital role throughout the development cycle as information like roles and responsibilities are also mentioned in the RA (requirement analysis) document, like person who will be creating the information architecture, QA testing and many more. In this way, one can easily make out whether all the requirements are cordially met or not. Now, after getting you accustomed with importance of documentation in requirement analysis process, I would now revert back to our discussion and list down some prominent elements that should figure in this document.
Key elements that should be included in the document
“More perfect the document is, more perfect the website would be!”
To begin with I would like to specify that depending on the complexity of website, the documents generally are of two types: High level and Low level. High level document deals with information in a precise form whereas a Low level document presents the same in much more details. The key elements or rather I should call it heads that these documents should include are as listed below: –
This section of the document briefly talks about purpose of having the website or you may call it as business model the website will be creating, who all will be users of website and based on it what difference will be there on the tools & pages they will get the access to.
By overall flow of the application means who the process or task will be initiated, what all will be the steps, what role the user privileges will play, at what levels the inputs will be taken from the users, what processing will be done to the inputs and what will be the output etc. All these listed together defines the overall flow of the website / application.
User Interface Design
Depending upon the nature of the application developed will define what all interactions & inputs from the users will be required and based on it this document will define how the Use Interface of the application should be. While creating any UI the most important things to be considered are the ease of understanding, feeding the system with the data by the user should not be tedious & lengthy task and the interface should be a like a wizard which keeps guiding the users through various steps.
Subscriptions & Registration Processes
Many websites only allow access to the subscribed members, plus the level of access varies by the type of subscription. This section of the document becomes important if it the website is going to offer subscriptions to its members. This section will describe various different subscriptions the website will offer, what will be registrations process and if the subscriptions are paid then which all payment gateways the website will be integrated with allow users to pay online.
User Specific tools & Pages
Having well documented analysis document are more important for websites, which cater different users playing different roles in completing the process, for such applications this section of the document becomes very important as it described the tools & pages that will be developed for different type of users of the website playing different roles respective to the domain of their operations.
Tools for webmaster
Every website is backed with consoles for the webmaster to manage & operate the website. This section of the document describes what all tools are developed for the webmaster to accomplish management, moderation and monitoring of the website. Plus many times it happens that an action taken by the user has to be approved by the webmaster to let user proceed with the next step, in such cases this section of the document should talk about such notifications to ensure less waiting time for the users.
Dependencies when you develop a software application
Whenever you develop a software application, there are certain dependencies that you must consider. For example there are website pages that are integrated with the APIs or RSS of different websites to show contents & information then this document should talk about how the website will render these pages of incase these third party websites are not accessible at any point of time. If there is a process that cannot be completed until a particular user involved in the process has not completed a step then in that case how the notifications should be sent or what tools the webmaster or some other role user should get so that the process can completed.
Each software has scope of getting new features, but there are some very obvious features, which hold a higher possibility of being added to the website. Such features should be listed under this section of the RA document. It ensures that the required scalability is already implanted in the core database structure and the architecture of the website so that adding these in future does not demand re-doing the whole application from scratch.
Decent sizes applications are never developed complete in one go, this section of the RA document describes the key milestones & stages that will be accomplished to complete the deployment of the application.
Testing Process & Plan
Testing the application before it is presented to the users for using is very important. This section of the document describes & lists the key aspects for which the website should be tested before it is delivered or deployed in the live environment.
What all I Needed from The Client
This section will mainly list the details & information that will be required from the client at the key stages and to get the work started. For e.g. if the business already has the logo it will be required to get the work started on the design, if the website is going to have option for paying online then the details of payment gateway will be required, etc.
Third Party Tools
If some sections of the website is to fetch the data & details from a third party website then how the integration will be done, what dependencies it will have and if any subscriptions are required from the third party websites. All these details should be included under this section.
This part of the document will contain the following information with respect to technology that will be used for design and development of the website :
- Which server side scripting language will be used for development – PHP, .NET, etc.
- Client side scripting like AJAX, jQuery, Java Script
- Database Server for website and user generated contents – MySQL, MS SQL Server, etc.
- Which Design Software will be used for design – PhotoShop, Flash, CorelDraw, etc.
- Which browses, resolutions and devices the website will be compatible
- Configuration and OS platform that will be required for hosting the website.
Fields & Formulas
Some websites are based on gathering the details from the users and then these are processed to give the required outcome. Now if this processing includes specific calculations of some fields then in this section these fields & formulas should be listed.
If some sections of the website are about processing the data and decision making then this document should include the flow charts and the algorithms of the same. These can be added in this section of the document and will prove to be very helpful for the production team while designing the UI, the database structure and logic that needs to be programmed.
This section of the document will describe the steps that will be followed to deploy the application in the Live Environment. If being hosted on a web data center compatible with the technology needs then it’s a simple task of uploading scripts, databases and making required configuration changes will make the website functional. But if the application is to be deployed in the local area network then in that case, it should list the steps that should be followed to setup the developed application on the local web server and make it accessible through the browsers of the users connected in the local area network.
Website requirement analysis has several unsung benefits for sure and moreover, success of the process depends on relevancy of the RA document. I’m sure I have been successful in imparting few essential and intriguing elements that should be included in a website analysis document. Improvisation from readers behalf are always welcome as I believe improvisation is the key to perfection!