What is the terms of reference for website development?

The concept that we will deal with in this article is familiar to both clients who order their personal resource from trusted companies and studios, and directly to the people working on its formation and the further fulfillment of set goals and stages. Terms of reference (technical specifications) for the development of a website are a specific form of document without strict design rules, which outlines the fundamental visual and operational aspects of the future website. Among them it is necessary to highlight those that are aimed at:
  1. technology;
  2. functional;
  3. content - content.
The step-by-step detailing of the technical specification, a detailed, understandable and accurate description determines how satisfied the customer will be with the final result, and how the contractor will fulfill his obligations accurately and on time. Plus, this is an excellent moment of sustainable reputation growth.

Why is it needed and is it possible to do without it?
This question quite often arises both from clients who are applying for such a service for the first time, and from certain professionals who are just starting to work in this field. The answer to it should be presented from two positions - directly from the customer and the contractor. It is advisable to do the technical specifications for the first group from the following positions:

Opens up the opportunity to bring in everything you want to bring to life.
Allows you to create the most detailed estimate in advance.
It details what the site will look like, what functional and content features it will have.
Optimizes the process of clarifying basic questions and those that arise during work.
Structures wishes and requirements in one document to simplify their further implementation.
At the same time, the technical specification performs another important function - it allows you to see how the preliminary stages have been completed and, if necessary, make changes and additions directly to them.

For the performer, such a document opens up the following advantages:
A clear, detailed and step-by-step understanding of the final goal and the paths that arise at the stage of its implementation.
Accelerating project development due to clearly defined stages, wishes and reducing the time for making adjustments when necessary and justified.
At the same time, it should also be noted that technical specifications are insurance against the implementation of previously uncoordinated tasks; can potentially negate the possibility of a claim. For example, when delivering a finished product, the client realized that he did not like the chosen control system, and, therefore, he might want to redo it, but this is an extremely complex process; in fact, the project is being done again from scratch. To prevent such situations from arising, technical specifications are drawn up. It is also worth understanding that the technical specification and the contract are two different documents: if the first is a step-by-step plan, clarification of all the details, then the contract specifies the terms, cost, force majeure circumstances, and states the rights and obligations of each party.

How to correctly draw up technical specifications for website development?

Examples of terms of reference for website creation
Typical examples of developing specifications for creating a website are traditionally presented in the form of a table or multi-tiered list. They include several sections, which we will introduce you to in more detail.

Organizational matters
The section specifies the time frame for site delivery. As a rule, they are average and there is a margin of several weeks for final revisions and adjustments. The timing directly depends on the type of site: landing is done much faster than a corporate resource. The type of work also affects the timing: individual or using a template.

This section also includes the following aspects:

The volume of tasks and work, the complexity of their implementation. You can’t argue that it’s faster and easier to create a corporate resource of a couple of pages than an online store with support for technical nuances, for example, payment services.
A detailed description of certain points regarding the management system, main sections of the site, content, design, domain name.
Site requirements
The second section of the technical specifications is directly related to the technical parameters that are priority for the site. So, here the requirements for such positions should be described by the contractor:
Scenarios for using the resource.
Design, usability of the site.
Implemented technologies, for example, payment through third-party payment services for the client, and for the business owner – connection to the accounting system
This is a basic set of positions in the technical specifications section, which can always be supplemented if necessary.

In some examples, in addition to the phased implementation, a completion date for this project may be added.
It is mandatory for the customer to indicate the preferred engine in the brief. If you have no idea which one is better, then you should consult with the company’s specialists. Among the most frequently used are the following:
CMS, in particular Drupal, Wordpress and OpenCart.
SaaS platforms, namely Tilda and Wix.

When choosing a suitable engine as part of the development of technical specifications, the contractor needs to clarify several fundamental questions with the client:

The content will then be published independently or with the involvement of a specialist.
On whose shoulders does the maintenance of the resource fall: persons from the client’s side or directly from the developer.
Who will perform the administrator functions in the future: the webmaster or the person representing the client.
When you have a small business and do not have developers on staff, then a boxed CMS is exactly what you need. But the varieties of SaaS are more complex; they are used to create and further use limited varieties of sites.

The difficulty is that in a written technical specification it is almost impossible to describe in words alone what general concept of color, shape, design should be chosen. Here it is worth using as much specificity as possible, and not subjectivity, so we recommend abandoning the words “recognizable”, “modern”, “branded”, and clearly stating the shades, concept, other effects used in the design, as well as prototyping the site. If the customer company has a brand book, thanks to it you can build on the priority color and thematic concept.

In the terms of reference for creating a website, if there is no brand book or is only in development, you need to specify specific wishes, including the following:
Which fonts do you want to see as primary and which as secondary?
Thematic direction, size and format (strict contours, streamlined lines) of photographs and illustrations.
Basic and additional shades.
Permitted and unacceptable combinations of shades and textures in design.
Design of space and setting of visual accents.

But it is better to refuse to go deeper into the description of chiaroscuro, figures, lines, forms. This should be entrusted directly to the designers and their drawing up of technical specifications of a narrow focus.

Main sections of the site
It is practical when, voicing the requirements, the customer prescribes what, in his opinion, the ideal site structure looks like. It is also important to clarify the characteristics of landing pages for pages within sections of the site. It is important to take into account in advance what navigation methods will be used, but traditionally, in order not to make the site too “overcomplicated,” they use standard ones.

Next, we will demonstrate useful tips that we have developed over time:
Consider a clear and strict hierarchy of sections.
Do not overload the user with abundance, complex navigation paths.
Avoid long links by replacing them with simple ones.
The link leading to the main page must be active from every other page of the site.
All documents must have a unique URL.
It is recommended that this component of the terms of reference for website development be written out block by block, so that the customer can quickly assess what his site will look like, and also understand whether it is convenient for him, as a potential client, to work with it. Sometimes the task is additionally formed in the form of a multi-tier table or list.

Contents of pages and description of their elements
Here, an important task for the executing company is to prepare and present the layout of landing pages and direct content pages, both blog and product cards. For ease of perception and quick clarification with the customer, together with the descriptive text, use a graphic protocol in this section of the technical specification, which significantly expands visual perception. All used and provided additional elements will be conveniently visible on it, including:
  1. a cap;
  2. footer;
  3. sidebar;
  4. active buttons.
Filters are extremely important and necessary, in particular for selling projects.

Pay attention to details in the description: the footer and header must be identical on all pages, whether or not they should stretch to the width of the screen. But it is better to offer fonts and sizes to choose from.

Page generation
A developer will help in compiling this part of the technical specifications, drawing up a checklist regarding page generation, but taking into account the site’s features. Traditionally, filters are the most capricious. Indicate in the paragraph exactly what factors form the service pages.

It is these pages that are at risk due to overload, which is difficult to control. In addition, they are poorly indexed and react negatively to resetting previously selected values. To minimize problems, it is better to consult with specialists at the starting stage, and based on their recommendations, write a solution to the problems into the technical specifications, which will help to avoid problems in the future.

Among the basic requirements for filter pages are the following:
When creating URL filters, carefully consider and monitor the order, since errors and broken parameters are inevitable.
It is practical when you can customize the Title, Description, level headings from the first to the sixth level, and keywords yourself.
In the case of H1 level filter pages and the intersection of more than two parameters, it is necessary to use exclusively static links; mandatory and semantic URL.
Proper linking, as well as professionally configured indexing, will have a significant impact on the number of visits and retention on the page.
Availability of content
In a competent technical specification for the development of a corporate website and an online store, every word, like a landing page, should be weighed. When drawing up a task in this aspect, you initially need to understand: the content will be provided by the customer and only needs to be published, or this task falls on the shoulders of the performer. In the case of the latter, indicate how clarification will be carried out before publication.

Another aspect is the indication of the technical parameters of the texts: water content, nausea, indicators for specialized services, for example, Glavred, the number and type of keys entered. Additionally, this section of the technical specifications specifies the requirements for photographs, videos, animations, infographics and other parts of the content.

Supported technologies
For a typical sample of technical specifications, this position is mandatory. To make it convenient for specialists to work, it is better to arrange all technical nuances for the future site in a separate list, so that later I can monitor the implementation of all points. For several years now, the “supporting pillars” in this section of the technical specifications have been the following requirements:
Cross-browser layout.
Adaptive template for mobile gadgets.
Main content should load no slower than 2.5 seconds, or faster.
The element displacement indicator does not exceed 0.1 points.
The waiting period before the first interaction with the content is 100 milliseconds.
It is also important to perform the following operations:

Optimize basic, then secondary pages in the resource hierarchy.
Check the correctness of the server response code.
Implement semantic
Configure the exclusion standard for robots in the robots.txt file.
Provide access via FTP.
Create a sitemap in two varieties: custom and XML.
Additionally, the contractor, taking into account the type of site, audience, position of competitors, can make other points to improve search results.

Domain name and domain zone
As a rule, the customer gives several types of name options so that you can choose the most successful one. To ensure that the task is as detailed as possible for the contractor, it is advisable to create a checklist with the requirements for the domain name. Among them are the following:

A certain narrow topic.
The use of selling words that correlate with the assortment.
Ability to insert company name.
Using keywords.
Specific domain zone.
The contractor, based on wishes, provides a choice of options from which the client chooses the appropriate one.

Hosting requirements
Not only the smooth operation of the site, but also its availability on the network directly depends on the hosting. When compiling the technical specifications, we recommend that you write down specific priority parameters:

What technologies are important to support: protection against DDoS attacks, SSH access, backup capabilities.
Is there a quick installation of the CMS?
Indicators of the planned load in the account and user traffic for 24 hours.
Low disk quota.
Suitable hosting type: virtual, servers, VPS.
Is there a built-in file manager?
Is it possible to transfer a site without financial investment?

Ordering technical specifications for website development from CASTCOM is a smart and correct idea, since you can then entrust this company with the practical part of its implementation. Customer reviews indicate the advantages of delegating the preparation of technical specifications to specialists:
Operational approach without loss of quality.
Detailed compilation with an understanding of the essence of each aspect.
Consultations if necessary, complete detailed answers to any questions you may have
The performers take on the task of creating a new website, as well as an existing one with transfer and changes.
Clear for the client with the possibility of further control at all stages.
A competent technical specification is a step towards a productive sales website with high traffic and search results!
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