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I am trying to figure out what a programmers needs from a client to create a website. This is a complicated database driven site. How should the information look? Should I layout the pages in something like photoshop with annotations? Should it all just be written out. Is there a standard way to do this? I need to clearly explain to a programmer what i want my site to do. Help!

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3 Answers 3

I would completely agree with the "Get Help" assessment. Speaking from experience and working on many sites that I poured my heart and soul into just to have the customer explain they had changed their mind on a whim because they didn't put much thought into their original choices.

So to elaborate on just getting help here are some tips.

  • Educate your customer. They won't probably understand the analysis, requirements, specification, design, engineer, develop stages that you will go through.
  • For anything non-trivial estimate and make clear the cost of changes to different parts of the site AHEAD OF TIME. You WILL be asked with no warning.
  • Recruit another individuals skills. I have seen people that were masters with the customer. They could guide them and explain things in a way that I just couldn't. They had developed communication skills that I didn't yet posess.
  • In a site like this where you are the sole designer - break the problem down. Concentrate on building a WORKING MODEL as quickly as possible. What is the most important piece of functionality, and what can you accomplish in 1 week of solid programming? Use this methodology to gauge the difficulty and resources consumed by this project. If you don't do this you are taking on a much larger liability, and so is your client.
  • Set some expectations - I'm not sure if you are charging by the hour or for the project but make it clear to your client. Listen for me to pay myself this project needs to be accomplished in 3 weeks based on the price we've agreed on. This helps the client understand how important it is to get you the information you need to create the site properly.
  • I once had a client that confessed to me they wanted "A site like Yelp" after we were several weeks into a project. Keep in mind I was just told to work on the project from my superiors. If a client told me they wanted a Yelp clone written in 2-3 weeks I would have whittled their requirements and expectations down to something reasonable.
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This is a really big question. The programmer needs to know EVERYTHING you want in your site. Any details that are not explicitly stated in the requirements will either be omitted or left to the programmers discretion.

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Get Help

If the programmer doesn't have the skill set to help you formulate the requirements, choose a consultant or developer who does to help you both.

While you may have clarity on what you want the site to look like and why you want it to be built, there are multiple considerations, especially for a complicated database-driven site, that will need to be addressed in the course of analysis and design.

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