Website Requirements

Posted by Donna Rouviere Anderson July 23, 2015

After you have researched a website, the next step in designing and building it is to define its requirements. Requirements are what the website must do to succeed. They enables you to define the product and bridge the gap between your research and design. 

Keep in mind the following general points as you define the requirements:

  • Determine the strategy behind the website first, then the website itself.
  •  Consider the first impression the website must make. After that, think about how it will work, calls to action on it and how it will interact with social media.
  • Consider what means you'll use to sell and tell the website’s story – videos, testimonials, tag lines, photos.
  • Think about  how the website will scale up well as it grows and plan for future phases.

Be careful about the following issues that can occur in defining requirements:

  •  Many are based on executive opinion, technology preferences or customers' stated desires, which can pull them off their central task. Make sure that you depend on your research and personas instead to help define, filter and prioritize the requriements.
  • Don’t jump to obvious solutions too early or you will eliminate opportunities. Instead, define the needs, then work on seeing the opportunities to come up with innovative solutions. Stick to high-level needs early on to help your stakeholders make appropriate business decisions. Keep the requirements succinct and to the point. They are not long, boring specifications documents. They can be confined to a few pages or presentation slides. Then develop additional requirements iteratively throughout the design process.
  • Balance competing factors – those that will help make the initial sale, ensure long-term loyalty and be within the project’s budget. Get consensus on these key points.

To generate effective requirements, use these sources:

  • Personas and scenarios derived from them
  • The website’s business objectives
  • Customers’ goals
  • External factors such as regulatory agencies and competitors
  • Good design principles and best web practices
  • Other solutions that you brainstorm

  Types of requirements you need to define:

  • What kinds of data the website must handle – text, photos, video, e-mail messages and other forms. Identify the entire list early on. These are nouns.
  • What users must be able to do with the data. These are verbs that describe what people need to do with the types of data. Describe them in terms of what kind of result people need to get, not the technology solution. Get as thorough a list as you can and add to it during the design process.
  • Qualities the website’s product or service must possess
  • Attributes related to brand, persona skills, environments, speed with which the system must process a file. The look, tone, behavior and terminology of the website should reinforce the client company’s overall brand values in terms of function, quality, ease of use, emotional values and trustworthiness. Emphasize those qualities at customer points of contact on the website. The website should be sharply focused on the brand’s personality.
  • Constraints on the solution – deadlines, cost and regulations or policies.


Write scenarios – descriptions of a persona’s interaction with the website and its products or services. Begin with a specific situation or triggering event and then describe how the persona interacts with the system from the start of a task to its completion. Explain their motivation and the actions they take and what they achieve. Describe the ideal situation. Describe the persona’s point of view and emotions about the different tasks on the website. Answer the questions of who, what, where, when and how the website will be used. You can include other people who are involved in helping the persona complete a task. Define what data is exchanged, the setting where the website will be used, how long the activity lasts and how frequently it is done and the setting in which the product or service will be used. Define the reason and motivation for doing the task.

Diagram the narrative or use storyboards if necessary to illustrate how it will work.

Consider people’s need to feel confident and professional and to accomplish a variety of tasks.

Business and other requirements

  •  Consider the ease of deploying and maintaining the website.
  •  Training time for your client and their employees to master uploading content on the site.
  • The website's reliability.
  • Its compatibility with other systems.
  • The support level the client will provide.
  • The ability to customize parts of the website.
  • Consider requirements for different audiences using various device formats.                       
  • Consider what the product or service should accomplish for the business.
  • Consider much time and money the client is willing to spend.
  • Regulations that users must read and accept before installing software, ordering a product or using it on the site.
  • Feature parity – this is requirements that are included to achieve pariety with competitors.
  • Accessibility features for people with disabilities.  
  • The sustainability of the website – can an existing website be upgraded rather than starting over? How can we build in an ability to upgrade over time? How can we minimize printing and use the website to keep people off the road?

When you have made a list of each of these requirements, you will need to present them to the stakeholders and get their approval. When presenting the requirements to stakeholders, your point is to bring the audience through your thought process to make the case for your requirements list.

Put the requirements in pdf format so that they can be used as a presentation, printed or used throughout the design process.


  • An introduction that includes the project’s parameters.
  • A description of your research methods and why you chose them, as well as all credible sources you used.
  • A summary of your findings that describes general issues and patterns. A description of what personas are, how they are derived from the patterns that your research uncovered, and why they’re useful.
  • An overview of your personas.
  • The roles of the primary, secondary and other personas. Make the point that you are optimizing for the primary persona but are not excluding the others.
  • Describe the scenarios you created, providing rough storyboards. Explain that these are idealized descriptions of typical interactions with the website. Engage the audience's imagination with storytelling.
  • Include a list of the requirements implied by the scenarios and your other research.
  • Discuss what you will do next to move the website forward.
  • Include what you need – stakeholder decisions, answers to questions. State the assumptions you will make on unresolved issues.   


Present the requirements to your stakeholders in an hour or less. Provide an agenda upfront and show an agenda slide at the start of every section to indicate where you are.

Keep the text on the slides minimal with phrases and bullet lists. 

Answer all questions by referring to your research. 

Try to get approval from stakeholders to proceed to the design stage. 

Future blogs will consider the design process.