Requirements Gathering for Web Sites: Do People Want What You’re Building?

In my guest post at Search Engine People on requirements gathering for web sites, I gently attempted to show the importance of business, user interface, functional and search engine marketing requirements to their SEO/M readership.

One area not covered in that piece is considering the question, “Do people want what you’re about to build?” So many times a web site’s purpose is to do something for you. For example, when “flipping sites”, the entire reason for making the web site is to sell it later to make a profit for yourself. There is no investment in the target market for it or if so, a small one with no intention to remain committed to them for the long haul.

Do People Want What You’re Selling?

SEO people do poo poo me for bringing up the topic of requirements. For them, it’s considered none of their concern. I think they’re mistaken in this belief. How do you truly know who to market to if you have no idea what the core requirements are for the web site you’re hired to promote?

A good search engine marketing company offers target market analysis as part of their service, as well as site usability reviews. Do your homework when investing in expert marketing for your web site. Ask if these services are part of the package. If not, you get what you pay for.

A company like High Rankings brings in a team to work on your web site and they tackle marketing from all the angles mentioned above. They built their reputation on this solid, proven method and have proven the extra investment in a well rounded approach works best for the long term success of their clients.

What the hell do we call it?

Stop calling it usability testing.

The term “usability testing” often gets misconstrued by technical types, project managers and business analysts. It gets turned into a stale, rigid, bureaucratic affair. The old “unit, integration, system” mantra. It’s done as a matter of course, at the end of the gantt chart, to tick a box. That’s pointless.

Again, in theory, test driven design is not a bad thing. Software, websites and anything technically complex should be checked to make sure it has been built as was required. That assumes a lot though, for example are the requirements valid? do users actually want or need what is being built? But let’s leave that one alone.

Patrick Kennedy’s opinion piece made my morning by getting to the core of what personally frustrates me with my work. I offer a variety of usability services and in promoting it with keyword oriented optimization, never know what to call what I do because it’s called so many things. Is it testing? Usability audits? Functional testing? Software QA testing? Usability engineer? Consulting? Usability reviews? User testing? Heuristic reviews?

Who the heck knows?

What is important for you to know is that a usability practitioner will make sure your web site meets design, usability and accessibility standards. Some will make sure the site design is SEO-friendly, if they’re trained in search engine optimization. They check under hood to make sure all the working parts are functioning properly. They validate and offer feedback, as Patrick says in his article. I call myself a “user advocate”.

But, unless you know for sure that your web site is something people want, no amount of SEO or usability input is going to make it successful for years to come.  Make every dollar and minute of your time on your project  productive, and be honest about who your project is really for.

2 thoughts on “Requirements Gathering for Web Sites: Do People Want What You’re Building?”

  1. I feel your pain on the “usability testing” issue. Even in usability, we get confused, not that we’ve got in-person AND on-site (A/B, etc.) testing. Now, try to communicate what we do for clients in a couple of words, and it gets even worse. Being ROI focused is great, but calling it “conversion” doesn’t help anyone. I’ve started telling people I do “online sales improvement” or “help make sites user-friendly” depending on the audience.

  2. Understanding the market space is very important. A well established company typically knows their customers so it’s good to ask them to tell you what they know as well. The newer the company or if they’re interested in newer markets, the more heavily we rely on market research.

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