Hey there, Linkshape fan. Today, we continue our series on the Art of Linkshaping – our website design and Internet marketing service processes. The topic of the day is the project description and although I’d say all of the topics I listed in The Art of Linkshaping intro are important for both a website design company and a client alike, if I had to nominate one for “Most Important”, this would be it.
Project description – what is it?
Let’s say you’re choosing a website design and development company to assist you in building your new online business. It goes without saying that you’re considering getting Linkshaped . Perhaps you have a vision of what your online business should look like, what some of the pages should be, if you plan to offer an eCommerce experience, and if you’re really on the ball, you know what sort of marketing functions the online business will attempt to perform.
You convey this vision as best you can to your Linkshaper, be it Chris, Ted, or even myself and we’re going to write all of it down. We’re also going to ask you questions and generally seek to expand your vision to cover other aspects that perhaps you haven’t considered yet. A good portion of our questions will focus on marketing functions, largely due to Linkshape’s tenet of purpose-driven websites, the hallmark of successful online businesses.
The result of this activity is a shared, refined vision of your online business which guides us in the assembly of your project description.
The project description is the blueprint for your project. It describes what is being built as completely and in as much detail as possible.
Remember last week we spoke about the importance of approval in the Art of Linkshaping? Well, the project description is the first thing you’ll be approving as you’re getting Linkshaped. That’s because your project description is a critical component of your project agreement and is the basis for providing and maintaining your project’s cost.
The dimensions of project description
There are a lot of ways to describe a project and, of course, every project is unique. However, in your Linkshape project agreement under “Project Description”, you’ll see at least three common dimensions, and if you’re considering other website designers, you’ll probably see something similar from them:
Online business consulting, website design and development, and Internet marketing services consist of more specific activities that take place during the course of a project build. The Services description is a broad, but comprehensive listing of these activities. Again, the specific activities included in any given project will vary, but here are a few examples you could see:
- Project type – Generally speaking, what’s being built? Is it a full website or just a design? Is it an online business or just a website? Some other website design companies use this information as the project description, and separate out other services involved.
- Design type – This is where we’ll talk about the various design services we’ll use for your project. Is it a new design, from the ground up? Are we customizing a premium template for your unique brand? If so, what customization is included? Are we including an email template design for email marketing?
- Page build-out – Does the project include full-page build-outs including page copy and accompanying images? Some website design companies will only build you an empty shell of a website and you’re expected to fill it in yourself.
- Modules set-up – Does building the online business include building out web forms, a blog or forum, email marketing, or eCommerce? If there are peripheral sections of the online business, sometimes called add-ons or modules, this is where you’ll find them. Again, some website design companies will build you a site that will allow you to add a shopping cart to your site, but don’t actually do it for you.
- Consulting, testing, & training – A lot of website design companies don’t include these vital services for online businesses, but Linkshape does and you’ll find them listed in your project description.
2. Pages and Features
This section goes hand-in-hand with the Page build-out in the Services description. Some website design companies list this as the “site map”, which is accurate because it maps out the various pages and sections of a website. We take it a step further and list out any important page sections and features, so you’ll know if it includes a web form or a listing of upcoming events.
3. Platform / Technologies
It’s important to know what type of platform your online business will be using for an infrastructure. There are several popular CMS technologies which are used, including WordPress and Joomla. In fact, you may be familiar with these technologies and specifically request we use one.
For online businesses, Linkshape utilizes the powerful Adobe Business Catalyst platform, which integrates several Internet technologies all from a single interface. If you’ve decided to stick with one of our standard online business plans, the details of that plan will be listed here for your convenience.
The importance of understanding the project description
Although most website design and development companies include detailed project descriptions, we’ve found that a large percentage of them will submit the agreement to you and expect you to go through it on your own. I have a suspicion that some of these companies just hope you don’t bother to read it and will just sign it and send out your payment. I think this occurs a lot, because the client is usually in a hurry so they just take a look at the pricing, the project schedule and just assume that the project description matches that vision they had at the beginning.
Frankly, I understand this type of activity, because if I try to think like a non-web type person, a lot of this stuff is either boring to read or simply incomprehensible.
However, we feel this is a bad practice, both for the website designer and the client because it sets the stage for disappointment down the waterway. For this reason, your Linkshaper actually takes the time to go through the agreement, including the project description with you before you sign the agreement. So if you don’t understand what “Flash menu customization, limited to replacing button text” means, you can ask your Linkshaper right then and there.
Recall from last week, we used the metaphor of traveling down the canal to describe building an online business and that, sometimes breaks in the canal will occur. In the website design industry, this is known as “project creep” – the alteration (read: “expansion”) of the project scope – and if left unmanaged, it will result in additional cost for both the designer and the client.
This is why understanding the project description at the time of agreement is so very important. It plots the course of the canal, so that everyone understands there’ll be happy sailing within the parameters of that course.
If you’d like to ask questions or want to discuss project descriptions further, be sure to submit your comments below. Until next week, happy Linkshaping!