How To Write A Website Specification
What is a Website Specification?
Website specifications outline the creative, strategic and technical goals, objectives and action plan for a website. It should also cover the project details, the team involved, and any constraints or limitations applied.
How long should a Website Specification document be?
There is no one correct length for a website specifications document, just as there is no one correct size for a website. Your final document should strike a balance between giving all teams enough information to work smoothly, while providing them enough freedom to propose their own optimal solutions for your final website.
What’s the content inside a Website Specification document?
Different websites will require different levels of detail. For example, a local grocery store will need a very different website compared to an international cosmetics company! But a fairly comprehensive Website Specification document should contain the following:
The overview should give the reader a summarized understanding of the project. You can use this section to describe the background of the project and the purpose of the website.
The overview should answer:
- What is this project?
- What is the overarching goal of the project?
- What is the expected final result of the project?
Under goals, describe the problems that this website should address, and the desired results.
You will also want to describe your target audience: who they are, what they want to do on the website, and what you want them to do on the website. These can be two different things! As an example, the average user may come to a news website to read articles, but the website may want them to sign up for a paid subscription.
This section should include the people in charge of the project, with a brief biography and contact information. This can help to ease communication later in the process and give clarity as to who should be contacted about specific issues.
Here you should describe the kind of design strategy you are looking for, which may include:
- a redesign of an existing website
- integrating new systems in an existing website
- a complete overhaul of the website and its backend
- an entirely new website built from scratch
This is also the section where you lay out your other design/aesthetic requirements. If you have a style guide, corporate identity or assets to share, share them here. If you don’t, you can still point out websites that you like or don’t like, to guide the design process.
A website can consist of any number of content types, which should be listed here. Depending on your project, these can include:
- static pages
- blog posts
- product descriptions
The sitemap shows the basic structure of the website and how its pages are arranged. It most commonly takes the form of an organizational chart, with the home/index page at the top, main sections below it, and subsections and pages below that. This map helps to clarify the hierarchy and relationships between different pages in the website.
This section describes key parts and functions you want to include in the website. Some key considerations are:
- Taxonomy - how content is classified (in a hierarchy e.g. Recipes > Asia > East Asia > Japan) or tagged (without hierarchy e.g. #asia #japan #rice)
- Requirements for visitor interactions - Comment capabilities, review capabilities, add to cart etc.
- Requirements for website edits, updates, or admin action. For example, you may want a system to moderate comments or reviews before they appear on the site, or a system to let you upload new products.
- Content management - how new content gets onto the site
- Editor interface/content management system - the interface that lets client-side users manage content.
This describes the technology your current website supports, or technology you want it to support.
In this section, list down the Internet browsers your audience currently use. Common ones include Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Safari and so on.
Hosting & Domain Purchase
From a non-technical standpoint, the domain is the address of your online presence, and the hosting is the developer allowing you to build that presence within their space This section should cover the domain/URL of your website, and whether you have secured your hosting and domain name, you are planning to do so, or you would like the website project team to handle it for you.
Tracking and Analytics
It’s helpful to know how many visitors come to your website every day. It’s also helpful to know where they’re from, which pages they’re visiting, the journey they take through your website, or if they leave before doing anything. This section should describe the kind of tracking and analytics you want to include on your website, or any systems you currently have in place and want to integrate into the new project.
Search Engine Optimization is a technique that makes it easier for search engines to pick up your website when potential visitors are searching for certain keywords. There are plugins such as Yoast that can help to gauge how well-optimized a particular page is for specific keywords. You can include the plugins or systems you use, or the keywords you want your site to show up for (for example, best plumbing services in X city or ABC town 24 hour cafe). While some very popular searches may be difficult to break into, your creative and web team can offer alternatives that will still direct traffic to the site.
Support & Maintenance
Lay out the amount of support you expect from the other parties. You might want them to conduct training sessions, handle all troubleshooting and tech support, or update the site on your behalf.
Exclusions and Assumptions
Just as important as the things you do want are the things you don’t.
Exclusions are things that are explicitly not handled by either party: for example transportation charges, hosting renewal fees, or tech setup.
Assumptions are the things you assume are in place for smooth progress. These might be there, or they might be not - but it is best to confirm this with your creative partners. For example, your budget and timeline may assume a 5-day, 40-hour work week.
The project timeline should include
- Phases of the project from design and coding to testing and launch
- Milestones for design and coding
The revision log tracks changes to the document and its contents, so you know who to contact for any questions or changes that need to be rolled back.
* Illustration by Natasha Remarchuk from Icons8