Planning your website

Consider the following issues before you write the brief or specification for your site.

Assessing the need for the website


Is a new website necessary

  • Will it duplicate information already provided elsewhere, for example, on or NHS Direct Online?
  • Would your content be better placed on another site in the NHS health community?


Purpose of the website

  • How does it fit in with your overall communications strategy?
  • What other functions, systems and processes will be affected?



  • Who is the target audience(s) for the site?
  • What do they need from the site?
  • What do you want the audience(s) to do, know or think about when they are using the site or after they have left it?
  • What will the users be able to do or see on the site?


Content and functionality

  • What content and functionality do you plan to provide?
  • What content or functionality must be available at launch and what could be developed at a later stage?
  • Is the content for the site 'web ready'?
  • Who is providing the content?
  • How often will it need to be updated?
  • How will the updates be managed?


Managing and evaluating the site

  • Who will manage the site on a day-to-day basis?
  • What maintenance arrangements need to be put in place?
  • How will the success of the site be evaluated?
  • What measurements need to be put in place to get an accurate picture of the site's performance?

Assigning roles and responsibilities

There are four broad areas of responsibility that need to be allocated when setting up and managing a website. An external supplier may take on some of the operational responsibilities. Clear ownership of the roles and responsibilities will help the site to stay focused on the needs of your target audiences.

  • Site strategy: ensuring they fit with your overall communications strategy. It includes making information publicly available, control mechanisms for sensitive information, budgets and other resources.
  • Editorial strategy: ensuring the site content is appropriate for the audience.
  • Web management: ensuring effective day-to-day site operation, as well as measuring achievement against objectives.
  • Content provision: ensuring all content on the site is current and that it is published or archived in a timely fashion.


Commissioning the work

You can commission external suppliers to design and build your website or you may prefer to use your in-house IT team. If the in-house team is building the site, it may be worth buying in some design expertise to ensure the site follows the NHS identity.


Brief for the work

  • Make sure that the brief is clear and understood by all parties.
  • Any changes to the brief should be agreed in writing.
  • Whatever you decide, compliance with these guidelines must be part of the brief.


Maintenance and hosting

Maintenance and hosting are important issues to consider. Even if you are commissioning external suppliers, your in-house team may be able to maintain the site on an ongoing basis. If not, maintenance will be an ongoing cost.

If you are contracting out the website build, ask the supplier to make suitable hosting arrangements as part of the brief. Hosting is usually charged on a yearly basis.

Getting started checklist

  • Is the brief clear and agreed by all parties?
  • Is the purpose of your website clear to users and to the management team?
  • Is the site integrated into your overall communications strategy?
  • Will the site duplicate information available on existing sites or would the content be more appropriate on another site?
  • Is there a clear management structure in place? Is everyone clear on their roles and responsibilities?
  • Are measurement systems included in the brief?
  • Is the hosting service fit-for-purpose?

Last updated: 29/04/08