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What to consider when planning a WordPress website project?

Words by Piers TincknellSeptember 22, 2016

As with every project the planning stage is arguably one of the most important aspects. WordPress website projects are particularly complicated pieces of work due to the number of different steps involved and as with everything technology related this process is constantly evolving. 

With a website project there are always a certain number of things to outline straight away to ensure that the project starts off on the right foot. I will outline these in this post.

As mentioned before we use Trello at Atomic Smash to manage our project planning. You can read more about how we use it in a different capacity here. For each project we split the project out into different sections. Planning / UX and Interface Design / Development / Handover and Training. For this post I will just be focussing on the elements you need to consider in the planning phase. We split the planning section out into different sections.

Important Documents

In this area it is good to store everything that is important to the project. For us in our important documents area we store.

Original Project Quote –

It is good to keep this document close to hand so that both parties can reflect on it as the project progresses. At Atomic Smash we are always happy to propose an initial quote but the client always knows that this may change once the full project has been scoped out.

Original Brief –

This usually is what the client has requested from the website design agency. Often this is a great starting point for the project and can shape the requirements gathering phase. At Atomic Smash like to tackle problems from a user centre design approach which can often uncover issues / requirements that the client didn’t know existed.

Statement of Work –

This document clearly outlines what we will be delivering for the client, it also states what responsibilities the client has throughout the project. We like to let our clients know as soon as possible what homework they will have throughout the project. We clearly explain why it is important for the clients to do research or speak to users as part of the design process.

Technical Specification –

This is an evolving document that is generated as the website design process happens. It is guided by what comes out of the requirements gathering piece of work. Often it will have included in it sitemaps, database suggestions, hosting specifications and page templates.
Important Information –
This is where we store things like:

Domain name login details

  • FTP details (server login details)
  • Current website login details (EG, WordPress Login)
  • Current hosting setup configuration (if needed)
  • Email setup configuration
  • Analytics login details

Questions based on specific project

There are always so many questions to ask when starting a new project, however the key to success is asking the right questions. After working on many projects we know what are the right questions to ask.

General Questions –

These questions help us to understand more about the client we are working with. They are questions such as.
Who are you?

Who are your typical users / customers?

Who will be managing your WordPress Website going forward? – What level of technical knowledge do they have?

Have you ever been involved in a website project before?

Do you have an existing website? If so does any content need to be moved across as part of this project?

How will you measure the success of this website?

What Social Networks are you using?

How often will you be updating the website?

Do you use email marketing?

Do you use a CRM (client relationship management) system?

The answers to these relatively straightforward questions can shape the whole approach to the project. For example if a client hasn’t been involved in a website project before then our programme of work / discovery is quite different compared to when working with an organisation who have been through many digital projects.

Research

At Atomic Smash we love having the opportunity to spend time researching around our clients and their needs. This can range from first hand user interviews to exploring previous Google Analytics data and insights. This is the part of the planning that can really help an organisation to create something that really adds value to themselves as well as ensuring that their users needs are being satisfied. With every project the more time that can be spent researching the better, but we know that in the fast paced digital world you can’t spend forever in the research phase. This is why we often blend research and prototyping together to help inform decisions further down the project. Particular areas that we like to look into are.

Current website visitor stats –

If you have had a website running in the past then hopefully there are some stats somewhere that can be dissected to help inform things like, who is visiting the website, how long do they spend there, what content is the most valuable?

Mapped Out User Journeys –

A user journey is like a flow diagram following a user’s journey through your website. As part of our process we create some user journeys based to ensure that the website will satisfy your visitors needs. A typical user journey might be.

Current Setup –

If you have a current website is it built on a custom CMS (content management system), is it built in WordPress or another open source CMS such as WordPress? In our experience it is very difficult to work on top of another person’s code and it is very very difficult to take an off the shelf theme and customise it to an organisation needs. Depending on the current setup of the website will dictate how the project progresses and if there is any scope to quickly migrate content from the old website onto the new website. We have managed to migrate many WordPress to WordPress projects in the past.

Existing User Persona’s

This is a really valuable asset for any design team to have. A user persona is essentially an accurate description of who will be using the website in the future. It ideally should include some kind of context about why they would be using the website, what they might be looking for and sometimes the descriptions can be as detailed as to say what technical level of skill the user may have. User persona’s are great if they are based on real people and are well considered, they can be a bit of a hindrance however if totally based on assumptions / what the organisation thinks their users are like.

Main Stakeholders

I always find this information very valuable again to have when planning a project. Knowing who the stakeholders are in the website essentially means know everyone who will be impacted in someway by how this website works. This ranges from internal staff to the users and sometimes can also include local authorities or external bodies that were not previously considered. We also always find out very early on in our projects who needs to be involved in getting designs / plans signed off further down the line. In our experience we always try and ensure that these people are keep involved with the website all the way through the process so that they know where certain ideas have come from.

Objectives

What are the objectives of the business / organisation who the website is for? We always explore this quite thoroughly and we never limit this list to just website objectives because a website now is so integral to the day to day running of so many charities / organisations or businesses. If we know what the overarching aims are for an organisation we can often help to build the online foundations to assist in those plans for the future.

Current Sitemap

Having a current sitemap of the website can help to uncover all the different areas that the client may of forgotten about. With our projects we always explore the architecture of the website thoroughly so that further down the line you don’t suddenly remember that the website needs a members login area or integrating with a certain system.

New Sitemap

As part of the process we look at drawing up a new sitemap together, this ensure that the old content from the previous website (if applicable) has a home on the new site and also any new content being created is organised in a logical format. All of our websites are flexible and editable by the client so often this sitemap is just a starting point and can evolve as the project goes through or once the website is live.

Summary

This list of things to know is an ever evolving process for us and what I have laid out here is just a small overview of everything that we like to know before we have even come up with any ideas let alone designed any pages. The website design process needs to be very thorough to ensure that what is designed and built fits the needs of the users as well as being seen as a beautiful piece of work from the client. Having all this information helps to ensure the smooth running of the project and forms the foundations for a great relationship going forward.

Profile picture of Piers Tincknell

Piers Tincknell

Piers is a co-founder of Atomic Smash and heads up the user experience design and project management in the studio. He is also the best contact for any new business enquiries.

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