Content audits and inventories

Auditing your website content can seem an interminable task, but it’s long been regarded as an essential part of pre-redesign planning and content inventories are increasingly recognised as vital long-term tools for the effective management of web content.

If you’re just beginning to grapple with a content audit, below are some articles, books and example spreadsheets which you should find helpful.

Articles

Doing a Content Inventory, (Or, a Mind-Numbingly Detailed Odyssey through your Web Site)
This short 2002 article by Jeffrey Veen is a good starting place for learning about content audits.

The Content Inventory: Roadmap to a Successful CMS Implementation
Article by Kassia Krozser which depicts content auditing as an essential part of a CMS implementation process. Helpfully points out that content inventories ‘almost always take longer than anticipated’.

Doing a Content Audit or Inventory
This blog post by Scott Baldwin includes some useful suggestions for applications which can speed up the auditing process by automating some of the listing process.

How to do a Content Audit
Hilary Marsh provides practical tips on content auditing, including advice to start at the highest levels of the site before working downwards and to be careful when ordering columns in Excel that you don’t just change the order of a single column.

A Map-Based Approach to a Content Inventory
Interesting article by Patrick C. Walsh, describing how he used Microsoft Access and Visio to create a maintainable site map and content inventory at the same time.

Why you shouldn’t start IA with a Content Inventory
A heretical article by Leisa Reichelt suggesting that starting redesign projects with a content inventory can be undesirable in that it immerses the designer in the existing way of doing things and constrains their ability to take a fresh approach. This provoked several responses, including an interesting rebuttal from Donna Spencer and The Rolling Content Inventory by Louis Rosenfeld, who champions content inventories as an ongoing process rather than a one-off exercise for redesign projects.

Books

Communicating Design: Developing Web Site Documentation for Design and Planning by Daniel M. Brown (Peachpit Press, 2007)
Contains a chapter on content inventories, with some helpful suggestions on formatting, linking an inventory into other website documentation and presenting the results of an inventory at meetings.

Content Strategy for the Web by Kristina Halvorson (New Riders, 2009)
Has detailed practical advice about auditing content and tying the findings into an effective content strategy for your site.

Managing Enterprise Content: A Unified Content Strategy by Ann Rockley (New Riders, 2003)
A thorough treatment of all aspects of content management. The chapter that covers Performing a Content Audit is available free online.

Sample spreadsheets for content inventories

I’ve already mentioned Jeffrey Veen’s article Doing a Content Inventory, which has includes an Excel template for an inventory. It lists Page ID, Page Name, Link, Document Type, Topics, Owner,  ROT (Redundant, Outdated or Trivial?) and Notes. It uses colour coding and indentation to reflect hierarchy.

Donna Spencer provides a simple content inventory spreadsheet on her blog. It includes fields for Navigation Title, Page Title, Files, Last Updated, Owner, Comments and whether the content needs to be deleted. Again, there’s use of indentation to indicate hierarchy and an example of freezing the Navigation Title column in Excel, so that it’s always visible as you scroll to the right – a nice technique to use for presenting large inventories.

Finally, the Seneb Consulting site has an example content inventory by Sarah A. Rice. It includes use of Excel’s Group and Outline features to allow the reader to expand and collapse groups of content, as well as instructions for using the Split Screen feature when dealing with larger inventories.

Website satisfaction surveys

When you start planning a website feedback survey you’re likely to have a lot of questions in mind about the most effective way to go about it.  How long should your survey be? What are the best questions to ask? When is the best time to promote a survey during a user visit to your site? How frequently to survey? What are the benefits of surveys compared to web stats analysis or usability testing?

The following resources provide some answers (and will probably also raise some more questions…)

Paul Boag provides some useful advice on website surveys on his Boagworld site. Creating a better survey summarises twelve ways you can make your surveys more effective, including avoiding distracting your users by the way you promote your survey and remembering to consider best practice for form design.  Improving your site with user feedback is also interesting. It looks at the role of questionnaires and surveys within a range of options for getting feedback, including face to face, web stats, search queries and third party applications. Importantly, it also discusses how to assess feedback once you’ve collected it so that you can decide which suggestions to implement.

Analytics Basics: Visitor Surveys and Mazimize Surveys’ Effectiveness are two pieces by Neil Mason on ClickZ. Advice here includes to be clear about your survey’s purpose and to keep it short and simple. Remember the need to test surveys before going live and make sure the survey complements your brand as “poorly executed online surveys can damage the brand whether they live on the site or are sent via e-mail”.

The Three Greatest Survey Questions Ever is a nice blog post by Avinash Kaushik advocating a simple approach to survey implementation. The “three greatest questions” are:

  • What is the purpose of your visit to our website today?
  • Were you able to complete your task today?
  • If you were not able to complete your task today, why not?

From the same blog, see also Got Surveys? Recommendations from the Trenches which includes discussions of  benchmarking for surveys, the usefulness of open-ended questions, targeting survey participants, integrating your survey analysis with clickstream data and the benefits of using surveys as a continuous and ongoing measurement system.

User satisfaction provides advice on website surveys from the UK guidance for government websites on Measuring Website Quality, including suggested core questions for surveys.

How to make an online survey work is an article from Webmaster-Now by Phil Blasco which provides general advice and some suggested questions.

How to build response rates for online surveys is one of several useful articles on the Demographix site. It considers a key issue with online surveys – how to increase response rates. Suggestions include using incentives if appropriate, thinking carefully about the wording of the survey invitation and best practice for promoting a survey on your web site.

10 Tips to Improve your Surveys is an article on the Zoomerang site. Among other suggestions, it emphasises keeping questions simple and rating scales consistent through your surveys. It also suggests sending reminders to people who have not completed the survey to boost your completion rate.

Once you’re ready to create your feedback survey, there are now plenty of online survey solutions available to choose from. If you want to trial one before you commit to spending money, then  SurveyMonkey, PollDaddy, Zoomerang and SurveyGizmo all have free basic services with paid-for professional versions

Free content management white papers

I came across a nice collection of free white papers on Alterian‘s website the other day, including several about content management: ‘The Seven Deadly Sins of Content Management’, ‘Best Practice Implementation of Content Management Systems’ and ‘Using a CMS for Search Engine Optimization’. Others that I found interesting include ‘Creating a Web Strategy’ and ‘Build or Buy – The Route to a Successful Intranet’.

All the papers are free, but require registration on the site.

65+ lists of jQuery plugins

No web design blog is complete nowadays without a post or two recommending particular jQuery plugins. However, it can sometimes be a pain trying to find a plugin you remember reading about months ago when you want to use it for a particular job. It’s also very useful to be able to compare what  plugins are available for a specific task and which come best recommended from other designers. Below is a “list of lists” of plugin recommendations I’ve put together which draws together resources to make locating and evaluating plugins easier.

Big categorised lists of jQuery plugins

These are probably the most useful lists for reference as they helpfully divide the plugins into categories.

The official jQuery plugins repository
http://plugins.jquery.com/

45+ new jQuery techniques for good user experience (Smashing Magazine)
http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/01/15/45-new-jquery-techniques-for-a-good-user-experience/

Noupe has several categorised lists:

jQueryPlugins.com – An entire site dedicated to jQuery plugins with categories for user interface, navigation, forms and extensions.
http://www.jqueryplugins.com/categories/

240 plugins jQuery (Sastgroup.com)
http://www.sastgroup.com/jquery/240-plugins-jquery

jQuery plugins (Chirill Trescencov)
http://www.chirill.com/archives/11-Jquery-Plugins.html

100 popular jQuery examples, plugins and tutorials (Template Lite)
http://www.templatelite.com/100-popular-jquery-plugins/

The ultimate jQuery plugin list (Kollermedia)
http://www.kollermedia.at/archive/2007/11/21/the-ultimate-jquery-plugin-list/

JQuery at its best (Spicy News)
http://www.spicyexpress.net/general/jquerry-at-it-best-downloadable-jquerry-plugins-and-widgets-for-you-2/

jQuery plugins for forms

25+ jQuery plugins that enhance and beautify HTML form elements (Queness)
http://www.queness.com/post/204/25-jquery-plugins-that-enhance-and-beautify-html-form-elements

10 top jQuery plugins for form usability (Steve Reynolds)
http://www.reynoldsftw.com/2009/01/top-10-jquery-plugins-for-form-usability/

7 jQuery plugins to manipulate TEXTAREAs (Steve Reynolds)
http://www.reynoldsftw.com/2009/03/7-jquery-plugins-to-manipulate-textareas/

10 best jQuery datepickers plugins (AjaxLine)
http://www.ajaxline.com/10-best-jquery-datepickers-plugins

How to make your forms better with jQuery (Cool Javascripts)
http://cool-javascripts.com/jquery/how-to-make-your-forms-better-with-jquery.html

jQuery plugins for images

14 jQuery plugins for working with images (Six Revisions)
http://sixrevisions.com/resources/14-jquery-plugins-for-working-with-images/

10 jQuery plugins for manipulating images (Cool Javascripts)
http://cool-javascripts.com/effects/10-jquery-plugins-for-manipulating-images.html

10 jQuery plugins for showing image gallery (Cool Javascripts)
http://cool-javascripts.com/galleries/10-jquery-plugins-for-showing-image-gallery.html

Top 14 jQuery photo slideshow / gallery plugins (Blueprint Design Studio)
http://blueprintds.com/2009/01/20/top-14-jquery-photo-slideshow-gallery-plugins/

6 image manipulation plugins for jQuery you should know about (Shiny Blog)
http://blog.shinylittlething.com/2009/02/20/image-manipulation-jquery-plugins/

10 best jQuery sliders (AjaxLine)
http://www.ajaxline.com/10-best-jquery-sliders

3 wonderful jQuery plugins to play with images (Baj Pakhi)
http://www.shahin.co.nr/3-wonderful-jquery-plugins-to-play-with-images/

jQuery plugins for menus

10 best jQuery menu plugins (AjaxLine)
http://www.ajaxline.com/10-best-jquery-menu-plugins

11 jQuery plugins to enhance HTML dropdowns (Steve Reynolds)
http://www.reynoldsftw.com/2009/03/11-jquery-plugins-to-enhance-html-dropdowns/

3 jQuery plugins to show context menu (Cool Javascripts)
http://cool-javascripts.com/jquery/3-jquery-plugins-to-show-context-menu.html

8 amazing jQuery accordions (Cats Who Code)
http://www.catswhocode.com/blog/8-amazing-jquery-accordions

jQuery plugins for tables/charts

jQuery plugins to show data in table format or chart format (Cool Javascripts)
http://cool-javascripts.com/jquery/jquery-plugins-to-show-data-in-table-format-or-chart-format.html

jQuery plugins for browser issue fixes

15 jQuery plugins to fix and beautify browser issues (DevSnippets)

http://devsnippets.com/reviews/15-jquery-plugins-to-fix-and-beautify-browser-issues.html

jQuery plugins for use with other stuff …

Power of WordPress and jQuery: 30+ great plugins (Noupe)
http://www.noupe.com/jquery/the-power-of-wordpress-and-jquery-30-useful-plugins-tutorials.html

jQuery plugins for SEO (Tim Nash)
http://www.timnash.co.uk/04/2008/jquery-seo/

8 jQuery plugins that utilize Google APIs (Steve Reynolds)
http://www.reynoldsftw.com/2009/03/8-jquery-plugins-that-utilize-google-apis/

7 of my favourite jQuery plugins for use with ASP.NET (Encosia)
http://encosia.com/2008/10/19/7-of-my-favorite-jquery-plugins-for-use-with-aspnet/

Great jQuery plugins for Drupal (DrupalSN)
http://drupalsn.com/learn-drupal/drupal-tutorials/great-jquery-plugins-drupal

6 jQuery plugins to use within your content in a Learning Management System (Random Syntax)
http://www.randomsyntax.com/2008/10/12/6-jquery-plugins-to-use-within-your-content-in-a-learning-management-system/

General listings of favourite or best jQuery plugins

Personal selections of the best plugins for web design and development. It’s quite fun to browse through these and compare & contrast people’s choices.

37 phenomenal jQuery plugins and demos for developers (Speckyboy)
http://speckyboy.com/2008/12/10/37-phenomenal-jquery-plugins-and-demos-for-developers/

30 awesome design enhancing jQuery plugins (Line 25)
http://line25.com/articles/30-awesome-design-enhancing-jquery-plugins

20 most interesting jQuery plugins – February 2009 (AjaxLine)
http://www.ajaxline.com/20-most-interesting-jquery-plugins-february-2009

20 jQuery plugins for unforgettable user experience (DevSnippets)
http://devsnippets.com/jquery-posts/20-jquery-plugins-for-unforgettable-user-experience.html

20 amazing jQuery plugins and 65 excellent jQuery resources (Speckyboy)
http://speckyboy.com/2008/07/21/20-amazing-jquery-plugins-and-65-excellent-jquery-resources/

Using jQuery to style design elements: 20 impressive plugins (DevSnippets)
http://devsnippets.com/reviews/using-jquery-to-style-design-elements-20-impressive-plugins.html

10 best jQuery plugins – March 2009 (AjaxLine)
http://www.ajaxline.com/10-best-jquery-plugins-march-2009

10+ most interesting and useful JQuery plugins – January 2009 (AjaxLine)
http://www.ajaxline.com/10-most-interesting-and-useful-jquery-plugins-january-2009

10+ useful jQuery plugins (AjaxLine)
http://www.ajaxline.com/10-useful-jquery-plugins

10 useful JQuery plugins (Enhance the User Experience)
http://enhance.qd-creative.co.uk/2008/06/11/10-useful-jquery-plugins/

Top 10 jQuery plugins and resources (LogicPool)
http://logicpool.com/archives/123

10 must have jQuery plugins and extensions (Front-End Book)
http://frontendbook.com/10-must-have-jquery-plugins-and-extensions

10 most useful and essential jQuery plugins (Microgeist)
http://microgeist.com/2009/02/10-most-useful-and-essential-jquery-plugins/

10 jQuery plugins every developer can’t live without (Refresh Events)
http://www.refresh-events.ca/blog/2009/03/16/10-jquery-plugins-every-developer-cant-live-without/

10 quick win jQuery plugins (Steve Reynolds)
http://www.reynoldsftw.com/2009/02/10-quick-win-jquery-plugins/

10 Über cool jQuery plugins (Invisible Window)
http://www.invisiblewindow.com/web-development/10-ber-cool-jquery-plugins

10 jQuery essentials (php four)
http://www.phpfour.com/blog/2007/06/jquery-essentials/

7 jQuery plugins to really enhance users experience (Shiny Blog)
http://blog.shinylittlething.com/2009/02/24/jquery-plugins-to-enhance-users-experience/

7 jQuery plugins that made our lives easier at ON Networks (Nick Lewis)
http://www.nicklewis.org/node/949

The 6 most useful jQuery plugins (Flexible Developments)
http://calisza.wordpress.com/2008/08/26/6-most-useful-jquery-plugins/

5 useful jQuery plugins which saved me a lot of work (Dev Blog)
http://nik.chankov.net/2009/03/17/5-useful-jquery-plugins-which-saved-me-a-lot-of-work/

Five jQuery plugins that are a joy to use (Pathfinder Development)
http://www.pathf.com/blogs/2008/07/five-jquery-plugins-that-are-a-joy-to-use/

4 cool jQuery plugins (DesignerFied)
http://designerfied.com/138/4-cool-jquery-plugins.html

4 jQuery plugins (Fresh)
http://welikeitfresh.com/2008/12/16/4-jquery-plugins/

Top 3 jQuery plugins for web designers and developers (Noam Web Design Blog)
http://www.noamdesign.com/Web-Design-Blog/top-3-jquery-plugins-for-web-designers/

List of useful jQuery plugins (Mark Grabanski)
http://marcgrabanski.com/article/list-of-useful-jquery-plugins

jQuery Plugins – Best for Web Designers (Hidden Pixels)
http://hiddenpixels.com/javascript/jquery-plugins-web-designers/

My favourite jQuery plugins (Simple.Friendly.Solutions.)
http://www.migliorisi.com/Blog/post/My-favorite-jQuery-Plugins.aspx

The best web 2.0 jQuery javascript plugins (Wiliam)
http://www.wiliam.com.au/wiliam-blog/the-best-web-2-jquery-javascript-plugins

Top jQuery plugins for web 2.0 effects (Website Ideas)
http://www.website-ideas.co.uk/2008/09/25/top-jquery-plugins-for-web-20-effects/

Must have jQuery plugins (SKFox)
http://skfox.com/2008/07/11/must-have-jquery-plugins-july-2008/

jQuery plugin favorites (Cody Lindley)
http://codylindley.com/Webdev/319/jquery-plugin

jQuery plugins (Caty’s Blog)
http://blogs.catydesign-studio.com/2009/03/12/jquery-plugins/

Free ebooks for web project management

I’ve noticed that Internet.com has some interesting ebooks on project management available which  just require free registration with their site to download.

One of the most useful of these from a web project perspective is Best Practices for Developing a Web Site by Paul Chin. This is written for business users, but has material which may be useful for designers to help them better present web development concepts to clients.

The book includes sections on developing a web site strategy, defining the concept for your site, the pros & cons of building in-house vs. outsourcing and guidance for finding a web site host. It also has useful checklists for defining web site anatomy and for evaluating web site designers, web site hosts and domain name registrars.

Developing a Content Management System Strategy is another free Internet.com ebook by the same author. It’s got a good emphasis on the cultural factors which impact on CMS deployment and a discussion of reasons you may consider open source or commercial CMS software. There’s also a simple checklist for evaluating CMS tools.

There are also some general project management books on Internet.com which may be of interest, including Becoming a Better Project Manager and In Search of the Holy Grail for Projects.

Related posts

I wrote a post last year which presented a selection of free resources for web project requirements gathering.

Learning Drupal

drupal logoDrupal is an open source content management system which you can use for free to build all kinds of sites. For an  introduction, see the About Drupal page on the drupal.org website. It scores highly among open source CMSs in terms of its flexibility and the large number of available modules offering bolt-on functionality. However,  this flexibility and vast choice of add-ons comes with a cost in terms of a steeper learning curve than some other systems. You will therefore probably need to do some reading before getting started.

I’ve recently been looking through some of the entry-level Drupal books to plan a project and this is what I thought about them:

Building Online Communities with Drupal, phpBB, and WordPress (Expert’s Voice in Open Source) by Robert T. Douglass, Mike Little and Jared W. Smith. (Apress, December 2005)

The oldest of the three books I looked at, this covers three web applications for the price of one – including a decent basic guide to the features of Drupal by Robert T. Douglass. If you’re using the latest version of Drupal (version 6) then you’ll need to hunt around the interface a bit for some functions which have been moved since this guide was written. However, I still found it usable and it’s an ok buy if you have a starter-level interest in all the three applications covered. An updated edition would be great though.

Building Powerful and Robust Websites with Drupal 6 by David Mercer (Packt Publishing, April 2008)

This is an ok choice if you want a straightforward manual-type run-through of Drupal’s functionality. It covers Drupal version 6, so is more up-to-date than the previous book. The declared audience is “people with little to now experience in website design, people who are not familiar with PHP, MySQL or HTML, and above all people with little to no experience in using Drupal.”  For such non-experts there’s a nice introduction to concepts like building a site in a development environment before deploying it and good advice on maintaining back-ups. However, if you’re not new to Drupal or content management systems, then you will probably not get as much out of this.

Using Drupal by Angela Byron, Addison Berry, Nathan Haug, Jeff Eaton, James Walker and Jeff Robbins (O’Reilly, December 2008)

This is a big book (464 pages) and I haven’t worked my way through the whole thing yet, but its already my definite favourite and the Drupal book I’d recommend you get if you only buy one. It goes beyond being a simple manual that explains Drupal’s functionality and looks at case studies of the types of site you may want to build and how you would go about using Drupal to construct them, including choosing and configuring modules. The case studies include a job posting board, product reviews, a wiki, a photo gallery, a multilingual site and an online store.

The fact that its examples involve the latest versions of dozens of modules means that this book will no doubt date quickly. However the authors have foreseen this and do provide a more generalized discussion of  principles for selecting modules which will stand readers in good stead in the long term. For the moment though, this book is an excellent snapshot of Drupal’s potential as well as having  immense practical usefulness if you need to develop the types of site covered.

These are the three books I’ve looked at, but there’s a full list of currently available books on the Drupal site at http://drupal.org/books, including more advanced texts on developing Drupal modules and themes if you want more than just guidance on using Drupal effectively to run sites.

If you don’t want to spend money on a book, there are plenty of free resources for learning about Drupal on the drupal.org site. These include the Drupal documentation (http://drupal.org/handbooks),  including case studies at http://drupal.org/cases. You can also browse the Drupal forums at: http://drupal.org/forum, especially the “Before you start” forum at http://drupal.org/forum/20. There’s also a listing of Drupal learning resources at http://groups.drupal.org/node/5674 (although it’s getting a bit long in the tooth and some of the links are dead).

Finally, Lullabot has a great selection of articles, videos and podcasts about Drupal at http://www.lullabot.com.

Related posts

Review of Drupal 6 Themes by Ric Shreves

Free hosted search solutions

If you want a free search engine for your website and don’t want too much technical hassle, then a remotely hosted search solution may be just the thing for you. Hosted search has a much easier set-up process than a search engine which requires installation on your server. All you generally need to do is a bit of simple configuration followed by cutting-and-pasting some supplied code into your pages.

However, there are definitely some potential downsides to consider with the free offerings from hosted search providers:

  • Free hosted search engines generally come with adverts on results pages. If you want to remove them, you will need to upgrade to the paid-for version of the service.
  • Free services may not give you any control over how often or how thoroughly your site is indexed
  • Search results pages may have little or no scope for customisation
  • Some solutions may have page limits on how many pages the free search will index
  • The supplied cut-and-paste code may include formatting you want to amend or code which won’t validate without a bit of work

If you want to explore free hosted search further, below are eight services currently offering a free solution:

Google Custom Search Engine
http://www.google.com/coop/cse/
As you’d expect from Google, CSE is a polished product with an extremely easy set-up procedure. It can also give you extra benefits if you combine its use with Google AdSense and Google Analytics. A major downside to CSE though is that it does not provide you with any control over the indexing of your site. Even with the paid-for version there is no guarantee that all your pages will ever get indexed and no way to schedule indexing. You essentially just get the results which Google serves up for your site on google.com. However, if you have a large site which is already well indexed by Google, the results produced can be better than those from other free search engines, since you benefit from Google’s ability to pull the most relevant results to the front of results sets. Also, a great benefit for not-for-profit organisations is that they don’t need to have ads on their results pages, even with the free version.

JRank

http://www.jrank.org/

Enables direct control over crawling schedule, customisation of results and the ability to divide your website search into “contexts”, groups which you can specify.

Freefind
http://www.freefind.com/
Offers almost all the features in its paid-for version in its free edition, including no fixed page limit (although the size of site supported is limited to 64MB of HTML).

SiteLevel Basic

http://sitelevel.whatuseek.com

Includes reporting features, the ability to configure how relevancy is determined and customisable results screens. You get weekly automated re-indexing with the free siteLevel Basic service. The (paid-for) Pro version has daily automated re-indexing. You can also specify categories within your site for more targeted searching.

Atomz
http://www.atomz.com
Includes customizable search results pages, control over indexing and search statistics. Indexes up to 10,000 pages and supports multiple languages.

Rollyo

http://rollyo.com

As with Google CSE, you can set this up to search across several sites. Unlike with CSE, or most other free solutions listed here, the results have to appear on Rollyo’s site rather than your own and you can’t customise the way they look. Includes neat social networking features which differentiate it from other solutions.

picosearch

http://www.picosearch.com

The free version offers some customisation of search results as against complete templating in the paid-for versions. The free version also has some control over indexing and indexes up to 250 pages – but only HTML and text, not PDF or Word.

FusionBot

http://www.fusionbot.com

FusionBot offers 5 different packages at different price points. The free package includes sitemap generation, search context control, the ability to create search regions/partitions and basic customisation of results pages. The free version does not index PDF or Word files or highlight key words.

Requirements gathering for web projects

The process of requirements gathering can be difficult at times, but is obviously essential if you want to build a solid foundation for your web project. Below are some free resources which will hopefully improve your ability to define requirements effectively, whether for your own sites or when helping clients to formulate their needs.

Articles and podcasts

A good article to start with is Requirements Gathering Essentials by Martin Bauer. It emphasises the need to think through a project properly before starting, but sensibly advises that there is no “right” method for all projects. “Instead, it prepares you to formulate your own, customised requirements gathering procedure by explaining the key issues you should consider.”

There are a couple of nice discussions about requirements available on Boagworld.com which are also great for newcomers to the topic. Show 23 has a segment on “scoping your web project” and Show 102 includes Marcus Lillington talking about requirements capture.

Identifying Website Requirements by Kathryn Summers & Michael Summers is a useful long article on getting requirements and understanding your clients’ perspective.

Content? Or Dis-content by Garth A. Buchholz looks at the important topic of properly planning content requirements.

Dealing with clients is an art unto itself. See 20 Ways to Keep Clients Coming Back For More by Akash Mehta for some ideas about this. Interviewing abilities and meeting management skills will also help. Amplifying your Effectiveness has an article on “Building a requirements foundation through customer interviews”, which isn’t specifically about website requirements but has a lot of good general advice about questioning clients. From a more focused designer perspective, Rookie Designer has a podcast segment on controlling a meeting which you may also find useful.

Checklists and standards

Hobo’s website design & development project checklist is a useful list of “what things a web designer should make clear to their client and get agreements on when developing any website”, including things which can be overlooked, like planning for training and updates for a CMS if one is being used.

Out-law.com’s web design checklist is written from a UK legal viewpoint for people commissioning a website, but could also be useful for designers.

Michael Cordova has written a comprehensive web design checklist which can be given to clients.

For scoping accessibility requirements, the PAS 78 standard is available for free. Obviously you should also refer to the WCAG accessibility checklist.

Examples of questions and forms for clients

You can download an example client survey for a website redesign from the site for the book “Web ReDesign 2.0: Workflow that works”, along with plenty of other useful stuff. The book itself is great, but obviously it’s aimed at redesigns rather than sites which are being build from scratch.

You can also look at web design agencies’ sites to get some ideas from how other people capture requirements from clients. Below are some companies who publish requirements-gathering material on their websites.

Anything else?

Obviously this isn’t an exhaustive list. Please comment if you want to add any links to resources which you’ve found particularly useful.

Related posts

Free ebooks for web project management

10 useful web-related podcasts

I get through a lot of podcasts to keep myself sane during my three hours a day of commuting time. These are some of the web-related ones which I’ve enjoyed and find myself coming back to:

1. Boagword

Boagworld is definitely one of my favourite podcasts. It’s marketed as being “for those who design, develop or run websites”. Paul Boag is the host and is excellent at communicating complicated concepts in a comprehensible way. Marcus Lillington’s stuff about dealing with clients and project management can be quite useful too. Between them they provide a nice rounded coverage of both the technical and business side of web design, all with decent production values and a reliably regular publication schedule.

2. The Rissington Podcast

The Rissington Podcast is a quirky British podcast for “web-geeks”. Its funny, often rude and occasionally useful. I particularly enjoyed the Papa Lazarou impression and the Doctor Who questions in the latest show.

3.Web Axe

Web Axe has “practical web accessibility tips” provided in a non-preachy way, with plenty of useful stuff in the accompanying blog.

4. Rookie Designer

Rookie Designer is the personal podcast of Adam Hay who provides “tips, techniques and discussion delivered in an easy-to-understand format”, served up with plentiful helpings of actual experience. The archive contains discussions of lots of useful topics for designers.

5. Photoshop User TV

Photoshop User TV is a video podcast which is a great free resource for improving your Photoshop skills.

6. Adobe Creative Suite video podcast

The Adobe Creative Suite video podcast is also useful as a free training resource. It goes into detail about using particular features in Adobe products, so can be used at the moment to get an introduction to new features in CS4.

7. WordPress podcast

The WordPress podcast provides “news, tips and information” and is especially useful for keeping up with news and discussion of software changes and updates.

8. SXSW podcasts

Conference sites can be a great source for interesting podcasts. SXSW 2008 has a huge variety of topics covered, and there is plenty of good stuff archived for 2007 and 2006. Some of the more technical presentations suffer a bit however from being separated from the accompanying screen demos.

9. The Web Hosting Show

For a bit of variety after all the web design material above, the Web Hosting Show is a fun inside look at the topic of hosting which is useful for hosting company clients as well as hosts themselves. Mitch Keeler is a lively host who explains hosting topics in a down-to-earth way which anyone should be able to follow. The shows are also nice and short, so you can quickly get up to speed on subjects which interest you if you want to pick and choose which to listen to.

10. IT conversations

Finally, there are plenty of interesting web-related podcasts available from IT conversations. These are professionally produced and include interviews exploring the latest ideas from all sorts of perspectives. There’s a massive archive available, so you can fill up your iPod with weeks worth of material here. Free registration is required.

Free images for web projects

zoom lens of camera

Alternatively you could take the pictures yourself ...

Finding the right picture for a particular project can be a pain when you have a limited budget available. Luckily, there are plenty of places on the web to find images which are available for free use. Most “free” images still have some sort of conditions attached to usage, so always check the terms associated with an individual picture before you publish it. Below is a list I’ve compiled of useful free image sites with some brief comments on each, so that you can get an idea of what they cover.

Easy Stock Photos
Public domain pictures in loads of categories. Subjects you may not find elsewhere include Attractions, Education, Events, Music and Tools & Machinery. Not as many pictures under each category as elsewhere, but generally good quality.

EveryStockPhoto.com
Search engine for stock photos over multiple collections. Registration is required and photos found will have individual licenses for use which you need to ensure you comply with. The “featured searches” section on the front page gives you a good idea of the search index’s depth.

Finally Creative
Public domain image gallery. Large number of nature pictures.

FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Good general selection, especially strong on UK-specific images.

Free Pictures
Extensive collection of animal pictures.

FreeImages.com
Nice selection of topics covered, especially strong on animals and travel.

free-images.org.uk
The usual section types, plus specialities including useful Christmas and Halloween sections, images of gemstones and hearts and a whole section on Bruges!

FreeImages.co.uk
Wide range of nicely categorised images. Good selection of backdrop images. Home, office, sports, seasonal, technology & transport, objects and nature are among the categories, with good numbers of images in each. Requires registration to see all pictures.

Freephotos.lu
‘Repository for free public domain photos’. Decent variety on offer. The selection of background images could be particularly useful.

Gimp Savvy
Lots of nature and space pictures.

Image*After
“Large online free photo collection”. Great for textures, as well as including a full range of other topics.

MorgueFile
“Public image reference archive” which “contains free high resolution digital stock photography for either corporate or public use”. Great selection, well organised into sections.

Photogen
Some nice photos with UK locations and transport well covered and a good range of objects, abstract & concept images and backgrounds & textures. Registration required to download images.

Public-domain-photos.com
Good selection, especially strong on USA location travel photos.

PublicDomainPictures.net
Royalty-free stock photos on a full range of categories. The “light effects” category has some nice ideas.

Stockvault
Large site – includes good balance of nature and industrial images & selections of textures and 3D renders.

Stock.XCHNG
Huge gallery of images. Requires registration.

Uncle Sam’s Photos
“A directory of the U.S. government’s free stock photo sites.” Lots of useful stuff on the environment, science, transportation, health and people. American history too.

Webcreationz
Free image gallery with some striking photos.

Wikimedia has a fantastic directory which has to be the list of free image resources currently available. Its designed to help people avoid naughtily posting copyrighted images on Wikipedia but is enormously helpful whatever your need for free pictures is. Another useful resource hosted on the Wikimedia toolserver is FIST – the Free Image Search Tool. Wikimedia Commons also has an enormous collection of freely usable media files.

Finally, you can search on Google or Flickr for free images. In Google, use advanced search and look for creative commons pictures by selecting “free to use, share or modify, even commercially” under Usage Rights. Flickr has a special section for pictures with a Creative Commons license.