What the heck are technical requirements and how do I get some?

So, you want to build a website or an application, and some tech/geek is at your door asking for technical requirements. What do you do?

Don’t panic.

A project manager with strong technical skills could help you navigate the task, but just in case you find yourself in a new found project manager role, here are four tips:

1technical-requirements21. Keep an eye on the prize
The key to getting the technical requirements right is to focus on your project goals first.

Clearly identify what your outcomes should be and get feedback from your stakeholders. If you don’t know what your goals or outcomes should be, your project will be all over the place and it will have a hard time getting off the ground.

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What the heck is a Wiki?

Part of the problem here is that people are jumping into online marketing and having to deal with new terminology. Here is a quick rundown of what’s what and how to use it.

Blogs: Formally Web Logs are online journals. Items are posted and displayed in the sequence written. Popular free platforms include Google Blog Spot and WordPress. Blogs are powerful tools for website updating and management allowing the owner to login and post, bypassing a dependence on developers. Blogs appeared in the 1990s and have continued to grow in popularity ever since. Twitter is a type of blog called a Micro-blog working much like any other blog but only allowing users to post 140 characters.

Forums: Online communities or discussion boards. Users who share similar interest congregate online to discuss targeted topics. Forums are an important part of any online marketing program. Because the subjects are niche oriented a business can communicate with users about issues related to topics the business deals with. Word of caution, do not hard sell anything in forums they are often moderated and users will reject that approach. Start by simply participating in the conversation and encouraging two-way communication.

Wikis: A website powered by a database of information updated by online users. These systems allow the easy creation and editing of topical information — off topic information may be removed. Don’t try to post online advertisements about your businesses, but do write about things you are an expert on. According to Wikipeda, wiki sites first appeared in the mid 1990s.

Video and photo sharing: Sites like YouTube and Flickr allow the free and easy viral sharing of videos and photos. These files tend to be quite large and can eat storage space. When information “goes viral” it means it has gained widespread popularity through the process of Internet sharing.

Social news: Sites like Digg, launched in 2004, allow users to submit and vote on links or news stories. Votes from the community determine the placement or visibility of content submitted, those with higher ratings receiving higher placement. The social news phenomenon has led to the emergence of news aggregator sites where stories are collected and presented based on interest or topic. Marketers are free to share articles they write or articles found on other sites.

Mobile applications: These are little computer programs for your phone. iPhone is perhaps the most well know device using applications. Many of these programs are the quick, on the go link to social networking platforms. A site like Urbanspoon allows users to find a restaurant on the go. It is important, epically for businesses like attractions and restaurants, that the information on these apps is checked for accuracy. There is also an opportunity to react to bad comments and businesses are free to do so on some but should avoid nasty debates. Remember the Internet allows two-way communication, use it.

Who is the web site manager and what do they do?

Prior to developing a new website it’s important for leadership to devote adequate, professional resources to the project. “The Internet is by far the most important medium in the lives of consumers, but companies continue to under invest in their online marketing efforts (Digital influence Study, 2008).

In Production: During the development of a site a skilled manager will act as liaison to the IT department as the team develops the site architecture and physically constructs the site.

To supervise this aspect of the project the site manager must have a strong understanding of the technical aspects of web development, site usability and search engine optimization practices.

Content Management: Once site construction is complete the site manager’s role may change to content manager. Much like a managing editor in a newspaper newsroom, the site manager will decide what stories should be featured and promoted.

To perform this function the site manager will need to have strong writing and editing skills, and a good sense for what stories are timely and newsworthy.

Site monitoring:  The site manager will also shoulder the responsibility for monitoring the success of the site using metrics. Mmetrics will indicate the amount of traffic on a site or a particular page of a site, and the flow of users as they use the site. Monitoring site metrics will assist the manager in identifying areas needing process improvements. Low metrics can indicate that the site has poor usability, bad content or is being inadequately marketed.

The site manager will need to have a strong understanding of web analytics, what the numbers indicate and how to make technical or content adjustments as necessary.