Commissioning a new website for your organisation

screens on different size devices

Does your website work well on different devices?

At the Jisc Regional Support Centre London, we often get asked to advise education providers on website procurement. Specifying, tendering and procuring a website is a task that does not come up too often and so can seem quite daunting at first.

Here we suggest, based upon our own and others experience, some points to bear in mind if you are tasked with procuring a website for your organisation.

Getting started

Set up a project team with complementary skills and knowledge
Consider two key questions:-
What you want the website to do? (purpose)
Who is the website for? (audiences)

To get a feel for the task ahead look at other sites, identifying what you feel works and what wouldn’t work for you.

Internal consultation

If your organisation does not have web design/development skills in-house then you will need to undertake a procurement process for the work, with a web development company/designer to create the site for you. Before doing this it is essential that you consult with colleagues across the organisation to clarify what functionality the website will need, what it will look like and where the content for the site will come from. Different people across the organisation will have different needs and expectations for the site. Ideally you will also consult with some potential users of the site to see what they need/expect.

Characteristics of a good website

  • Accessibility – Your new website should be designed to allow people with different needs full access to the site’s content and features. For more information see http://www.jisctechdis.ac.uk/techdis/resources/web-accessibility
  • Usability – Making your website easy to use benefits everyone
  • Easily updateable content – the site may be developed externally but the content will be managed internally. This means the content management system (CMS) should also be easy to use.
  • The site should work well on phones and tablets as well as larger screens
  • It should integrate well with social media so that it provides a two-way communication channel rather than an online brochure
  • The site should integrate with your other teaching and business systems

Selecting a partner

You could approach this task in a similar way to recruitment of staff:

  • draw up a specification of what you want the website to do (person specification);
  • create a selection checklist (selection criteria);
  • put the specification out to tender (advertise);
  • shortlist the respondents and invite them in to present their offer to you (interview).
  • select a preferred option.

The selection criteria might include things like:-

  • the status of the company producing the site, its size, how long has it been around, financial stability
  • who will actually develop the site? Is there a named project lead?
  • is there a list of other sites that the company has delivered that could be used for customer references
  • do they have previous experience of working in your sector?

When selecting a web development company be clear about what they will do and what you need to do. It is after all a partnership.

Maintaining your site over time

You will also need to have a person(s) to administer the site over time. A static website is no longer an option these days. Many organisations use Twitter, blogs and other forms of social media to engage with their customers/users. This requires daily input.

To explore further

Here are some tips gathered from the team responsible for the Jisc website redesign project http://www.jisc.ac.uk/inform/inform3/TopTips.html#.U2kPElfRZSk  with an emphasis on designing for usability through user testing

And these are the design principles followed by the Jisc team: http://jiscdigicomms.jiscinvolve.org/wp/2012/10/03/design-principles-for-the-new-jisc-site/
Of course, you do not have to follow these, you could develop your own.

Lastly, if you are from a Jisc supported post 16 UK learning provider and would like to explore this topic more fully contact your local Jisc Regional Support Centre http://www.jiscrsc.ac.uk/#

Good luck with your website project