Web Project Considerations
This document is intended as a guide to the issues that need to be considered when
undertaking a redesign of a website (or indeed creating a website from scratch.)
When undertaking a website project, there is a tendency to concentrate on the
technical development aspect of the project. Certainly the actual development of a
website is the most significant aspect of any such project, however the overall
success of the project will also depend on other factors such as a clear definition of
the aims and objectives of the project, careful testing of the developed system and
adequate provision for the maintenance and sustainability of the site.
This checklist is a framework for ensuring that all aspects of the project have been
considered. This checklist can also be used as a basis for writing a project
1 - Background
Briefly describe the current situation of your website (technology used, personnel
involved, content present/absent, functionality, etc.) and indicate the motivations
behind the redesign.
2 - Description
Features and Functionality
What features and functionality will the site require?
Scope and Structure
How much content will the site need to accommodate?
How will the site be structured?
Look and Feel
Do you have a particular style in mind for the look of the site?
Goals and Outcomes
What are the desired outcomes of the project?
Are there any particular goals that the website needs to achieve?
3- Project Plan
Who will design the look of the website?
Who will be responsible for approving the design?
Who will build the website?
What level of programming development does the site require?
Does the website require existing software to be installed/configured/extended?
What testing will the site undergo before its launch?
How will testing feedback and revisions to the site be managed?
Who will decide when the site is ready to be launched?
When do you expect a functional test site?
Where will the website be hosted?
Who will be in charge of overseeing the process of putting the website live?
Who will be responsible for the technical maintenance of the site once it is up and
Who is going to ensure that the website stays up-to-date and relevant? This can
mean updating the content and possibly the scope and structure, over time.
4 - Timetable
Give a rough idea of the timescale for the project. Indicate key milestones in the
process, as well as any dependencies within the process. Take into consideration not
only time taken for action, but also for decisions and approving work. The approval
of the design and signing off the site as ‘ready to launch’ are two points where
decisions can take time.
5 - Budget and Funding
What is the budget for the project?
Is long-term technical maintenance and sustainability of the site taken into
consideration in the budget?
Who is funding the project?
How will it be funded in the future?
6 - Site Plan
Drawing out a site plan can be helpful to gain an idea of the scope of the site and
therefore the project. This can be as simple as a structured list of sections and
pages, or perhaps a diagram (lists are quick and easy to produce but diagrams are
useful for quickly giving stakeholders and developers an idea of the scope and
structure of the site).
The following is a more in-depth look at the range of technical issues that may be
relevant to your project. There are several key technology decisions to be taken
when producing a website: whether to build a system from scratch, or to utilise an
existing system; which programming languages to use; how to ensure security, what
type of server to use, all of which impact on each other.
A key consideration will be what technology to employ in the development of the site.
Will the website be built using an existing technology (a Content Management
System for example), or will it be written from scratch?
If an existing programme is being used will it be open source or proprietary? Will
such a system be configurable (i.e. modified by users) or customisable (i.e. modified
Conversely, if the site is built from scratch, what techniques will be used? Which
programming language will be used and which version (php 5 for example)?
Will the site make use of databases? If so, which database platform will be used (e.g.
The issue of where a website will be hosted needs to be given some consideration at
an early stage, as the server platform (Linux/Windows/Apple may have an impact on
which systems and technologies can be used.
. You also need to consider who will be providing hosting services for you - will the
website be hosted on an in-house server, with NSMS at OUCS, an external hosting
provider? It is also worth noting that depending on the nature of your site, University
regulations may require that it hosted on an Oxford University owned server.
Security is a very important consideration with any website. What steps will be taken
to ensure that the server is secure? Who will be responsible for ensuring the server
software is kept up-to-date with security patches?
In addition to server security, there may be security issues regarding the site’s
content. Are there areas of the site that need to have access restrictions? On what
basis would such restrictions be implemented (by domain, by IP address, Oxford
login, bespoke login)?
There are several technical areas to consider with regard to a site’s interface.
Obviously the site’s visual appearance is important. It is also important that
information is presented in a logical manner. As such it is vital that web pages are
produced using valid HTML mark-up, and that the HTML code accurately describes
the content. It is also vital that a website provides information in an accessible
manner, as this is a legal requirement. Will the website meet the University’s rules for
Web accessibility (http://www.ox.ac.uk/web/rules/accessibility.shtml)?
It is important that some consideration is given to the type of HTML mark-up to be
used to render the site. What version of HTML will the site be using (HTML 4, xhtml
transitional, xhtml strict, etc.)? What processes will be in place to ensure that all of
the site’s pages are validated according to the version of HTML specified?
As well as being valid, the site’s HTML needs to be descriptive. Descriptive mark-up
is recommended by the W3C (descriptive or ‘semantic’ mark-up is an important factor
in making your site accessible – semantic mark up describes your site in terms that
computers can understand, enabling the end-user’s computer to describe it to them,
whether they are using a browser, speech-reader, etc.).
It is recommended that Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) are used to control the styling
of your site. This enables presentation to be separated from content, and also allows
you to have control over the presentation of all pages within your site from one
central point. You also need to ensure that the site is intelligible and usable when
viewed without CSS (some users may wish to disable Style Sheets, or apply their
own). This largely depends on your site being marked up with valid mark-up in a
logical and descriptive manner
It is important that a site is designed to function correctly in range of browsers across
all platforms. What range of browsers will the site be built to be compatible with (IE6
and above? Safari? Firefox? Netscape Navigator 4?)
You also need to consider what range of screen sizes the site’s design will cater for.
What is the minimum screen size at which the site will be usable? What is the
minimum size at which the site will appear at its best?
Many sites will feature a search facility. Will the site require a search facility? If so,
will it search the whole site or only specific parts? Will the search facility be able to
search uploaded files such as pdf and Word documents?
Support and Maintenance
Once the site has been developed and is up and running, it will still require a certain
level of technical support. This may include making adjustments to the system,
dealing with bugs in the system, training users how to use the system, etc. When
considering support, you may like to keep in mind the following questions:
• What support will be available for the site once it is running?
• If the site is run using an existing system, what ongoing support is available?
• Is support charged as a recurring fee or one-off payment?
• How long is this support guaranteed to be available?
• If the site has been built from scratch, will the system be documented? Who
will maintain the system in the future?
• If the site has been built from scratch, will the system be easily intelligible to
those other than the developers of the system?
• What is the expected lifespan if the hardware on which the system will be
As well as technical maintenance, the site’s content will also need maintaining. It is
likely that several individuals will have responsibility for maintaining the content of the
site, some of whom may not be that technical. As such, the site may require some
sort of content management system that enables content owners to add edit and
remove content. Such a system may also need to be able to allocate different
access rights and editing privileges to different users. Additionally, there also needs
to be a mechanism for administrating the users of such a system.
Some sites may also require mechanisms for consuming dynamic content from
external sources such as rss news feeds or databases.