The Ultimate Website Project Documentation List: 20+ must-have documents

A Comprehensive Guide to Web Design & Development Documentation

 

When embarking on a major website redesign or new web build for a large organisation, robust documentation practices are critical to ensure project success. This becomes especially important for large, public organisations such as website designs for universities, or for large corporate companies.

Proper documentation begins long before your project, with strong internal requirements gathering and briefing for your teams. When the project is running, documentation helps to align stakeholder expectations, guides web development efforts, enables knowledge transfer, and facilitates long-term website maintenance and support.

 

This checklist lays out the key documentation components that you should either prepare or request from your digital agency partner across the project lifecycle. Requesting this documentation from your digital agency or preparing it with them allows transparency, accountability, and a seamless experience from requirements-gathering through launch and ongoing operations.

  1. Project Requirements and Scope Documentation
  2. Technical Documentation
  3. Testing Strategy & Plans
  4. Information Architecture & UX Artifacts
  5. Deployment & Operations
  6. Training & Knowledge Transfer
  7. Project Management Assets
  8. Document Management & Access

 

Whether for developers, project managers or marketers, Kamil Mateusiak of Swing Dev warns “documentation is essential for effective knowledge transfer”, and that it “improves project scalability and maintainability”. If it’s not already clear which documents you should be keeping, read on.

 

 


The Complete Website Documentation List

 

1. Project Requirements and Scope Documentation

 

Before any web development begins, it’s important to document the functional and non-functional requirements that will define the project scope and website deliverables. This serves as the foundation for all subsequent work.

 

Requirements documentation should capture detailed user stories, use cases, business rules, and acceptance criteria gathered from stakeholder workshops and discovery sessions. Techniques like job story mapping can construct a cohesive, prioritized backlog of features to be implemented.

 

2. Technical Documentation

 

To facilitate a smooth development process, teams should establish clear technical documentation outlining the underlying architecture approach:

 

Tech Stack Diagram

This is a visual mapping of all structural components – CMS, frameworks, databases, hosting environments, integrations etc. It should also document the extent to which these platforms integrate and the data that flows between them. Where different areas of this diagram are managed by different teams, the delineation of responsibility should be clear.

 

System Documentation

Notes on your code repository, automated build/deployment procedures, dependency management and update processes. Keeping this up to date is important so that new developers can quickly onboard to the project effectively.

 

Job Stories/Developer Stories

This helps to break down user-facing requirements into granular technical implementation details for features. By using these job stories, project management teams can accurate produce tickets for designers and developers to follow during their work on the project.

 

This documentation provides a central source of truth for the design and engineering decisions made. It streamlines comprehension for new team members and sets guidelines for consistent coding practices.

 

3. Testing Strategy and Plans

 

Comprehensive testing is paramount for ensuring website quality, security, and performance. To coordinate this critical aspect, projects should have:

 

Testing Plan and Methodology

This plan will outline and frameworks for different tests – functional, usability, accessibility, load/stress. It will also document the acceptable pass criteria for these tests, who will carry out the testing, and when this will take place during the project.

 

Test Case Repository

This is a documented library of test scenarios mapped to requirements. It ensures that you are closing the loop between your job stories and your website testing.

 

Environments Test Plan

Your environments test plan gives step-by-step procedures for validating across each pre-production environment. It helps to ensure that changes to the environment will not negatively impact the project’s functionality – for example, when transitioning from staging to live.

 

UAT (User Acceptance Testing) Plan

This is a vital document, which gives detail of testing plans with key stakeholders before they provide feedback and sign off.

 

“A well-designed test plan is important in enabling effective planning, coordination, and execution of testing activities,” recommends Kristaps Mudurs at TestDevLab. “Insufficient planning can lead to multiple issues, including inadequate allocation of resources such as time, engineers, and testing environments.” It’s important you plan your website testing early to ensure maximum effectiveness.

 

Don’t know where to start with website project documentation?

At Crucible, we are specialists in website design for large organisations. From our smallest to our largest design and build website projects, we always ensure we prepare comprehensive documentation from start to finish. This website for CCDC is a prime example of a project which required substantial technical documentation to enable successful project outcomes. Get in touch today for a quotation or a no-obligation discussion of your project.

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Man using tablet with a stylus, showing icons suggesting completed documentation for a project


4. Information Architecture (IA) and UX Project Assets

 

The structures that document a website’s user experience should be carefully planned and workshopped to create the required IA and UX deliverables, including:

 

  • Site Maps and Navigation flows
    • Documenting each and every page on the website, but also the key navigational journeys between them.
  • Taxonomies and content modelling
    • Keeping track of what types of content belong under which headings, to enable careful and considered planning of the website’s URL structure.
  • Wireframes and prototypes
    • Enabling thorough UX testing prior to UI design and front-end development taking place.
  • UI design systems and pattern libraries
    • Particularly for larger projects, enabling efficient management of design changes and updates across the project.

 

These documents enable all project stakeholders – from business users to designers and developers – to validate the proposed architecture, interactions, and visual identity before implementation.

 

“The passage of time is a formidable foe capable of wreaking havoc on the continuity of digital products,” notes Micah Bowers over at Toptal. “UI Style Guides are a design and development tool that brings cohesion to a digital product’s user interface and experience.” Keeping one up to date can help to ensure that long-term visual cohesion and guardianship that help projects thrive.

 

5. Deployment and Operations

 

To coordinate and de-risk the eventual launch, it’s important to create clear procedural documentation around deployment activities. This means documenting each step in the proposed plan and process, who is responsible for executing it and in what order it will take place.

 

Launch Strategy and Rollout Plan

Mapping communication timelines, responsible parties, any required involvement from external providers, DNS updates and redirection management.

Content Migration Plan

Ensuring that you have planned how you intend to audit, map, rewrite, reproduce and deploy your website content. It’s especially important to consider this early on into your project, so that you can accommodate demanding requirements on your stakeholder’s schedules for content production.

Backup and Recovery Procedures

Your agency should have these procedures as boilerplate for most of their projects, but ensuring you have sight of them will allow you the strongest knowledge in case of issues, delays, or the need to roll-back. Protocols for scheduling backups and restoring from failure states should also be kept.

Monitoring and Incident Response

Before a website is live, it is important to have clear sight of how incidents will be tracked, tickets raised, and support requests submitted to your agency. Tracking performance metrics and defining escalation paths and requirements will help to maximise the site’s effectiveness once launched.

Measuring website content success


6. Training and Knowledge Transfer

Arranging comprehensive workshops with your agency to allow robust internal self-sufficiency in managing your website is very important. This will allow your team to manage and optimize the website post-launch and develop comprehensive training assets.

 

CMS Usage Documentation

This should contain step-by-step admin manuals for using the website’s content management system, complete with screenshots, troubleshooting and video recordings where applicable.

End-User Guides

Depending upon the breadth of your team, different team members may not need training in every function of the site. If you are running a media website, for example, you might have 50 editors using one website. Providing instructions for these end-users on functions such content publishing and workflow approvals will allow straightforward website management and solve many headaches for web administrators.

Training Materials

Whatever training sessions take place, record them. This creates a long-term resource and helps to guard against personnel change and other risk factors in website management. Video tutorials, webinar recordings, and slide decks can all be useful.

 

Formal knowledge transfer sessions ensure no institutional knowledge is trapped with external partners or previous team members. Website documentation should have an ‘open book’ mindset, with everything about a site being easily found and searchable.

 

7. Project Management Assets

 

Finally, to facilitate clear communication and accountability, generate thorough project management documentation throughout the project. This helps to manage risk, encourage accountability, and ensure accurate reporting.

 

RACI Matrices

Mapping roles, responsibilities and broad project involvement across workstreams can help avoid unforeseen consequences of key stakeholders not being involved at crucial moments. By having a RACI matrix in place (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed) you can ensure that everyone from the project team to C-suite has the correct involvement in the website project.

RAID Logs

Tracking Risks, Assumptions, Issues, and Dependencies throughout your project is key. By keeping a RAID Log throughout your project and updating it regularly, you mitigate many different potential negative impactors on your project.

Decision Log

Documenting discussion paths and rationale for key decisions can help future stakeholders understand why important actions and decisions were taken in the course of your project.

 

These project artefacts provide an auditable trail and chronicle the journey from project kick-off through completion.

 

8. Document Management and Access

 

Of course, diligently creating all of this documentation is futile if the stakeholders who need access now and in the future don’t have it. Make sure you establish key protocols around the following principles.

 

Central Document Repository

Use a cloud-based file sharing solution such as Google Drive for dispersed access to the latest versions. Also, where possible, take care of version control in order to ensure that people refer to the correct document versions.

Defined Permissions

Delineating who can view, annotate, or edit each type of document is important on large projects where different levels of confidentiality and seniority are important. It’s also important for tracking actions and changes on key documents, such as contracts and statements of works.

Folder Structures/Naming Conventions

Standardized organizational practices for file and folder naming conventions can save so many headaches in managing document access. Additionally, creating a Master Document Register (MDR) will help keep track of all of these files, and is vital if either you or your agency is an ISO9001 Accredited Organisation.

 

It’s important to think about the full documentation lifecycle – creation, review, versioning, publication. By doing this you can ensure your documentation is well-considered, planned, structured and cohesive across your project.

 

While this extensive documentation guidance may seem daunting, it provides a robust framework for successful large website projects. Many formats and templates can be adapted from your initial boilerplate standard documents and reused across initiatives within and outside of website design. If you are client side, assess with your agency which of these documents feels most relevant to your project and aim to keep these as up to date as possible across your project.


Importance of Documentation  

 

There are many compelling benefits of adopting rigorous documentation practices for large website initiatives:

 

  • Stakeholder Alignment: Ensuring all participants share a cohesive understanding of scope, plans, responsibilities.
  • Accountability and Transparency: Creating an auditable decision trail and visibility into project health.
  • Quality Assurance: Facilitating thorough testing and validation to catch issues early.  
  • Knowledge Preservation: No institutional knowledge is lost – new team members can get up to speed rapidly.
  • Long-Term Maintainability: Architecture and deployment documentation enables efficient future updates.

 

As projects grow in scale and complexity, the documentation in this article becomes absolutely vital. Broad details and intricate interdependencies amplify risks considerable when things aren’t fully documented.

 

“With large-scale website builds, you can have dozens of designers, developers, strategists collaborating across time zones,” says Julia Morgan of Propel PMO. “Structured documentation is what holds it all together.”

 

Scalable for Any Size Project

 

While the examples above are likely to be excessive for small website projects, the underlying documentation principles and rigor still apply. Lightweight alternatives like lean requirements documentation or succinct style guides can support good results across smaller projects.

 

For enterprise websites spanning multiple platforms, channels, and integration systems, documentation efforts should scale accordingly. More working documents and formalized controls should be introduced – from extensive IA deliverables to change management procedures. You will also find that your organisation has specific requirements depending upon the preferences of key stakeholders.

 

At every level, the key is assessing scope and complexity, then matching the appropriate documentation methods to facilitate quality and knowledge sharing.

 

The most effective agencies make documentation an ingrained competency. They define templates and reusable document frameworks that accelerate document creation and management while promoting consistency. By taking a intentional and structured approach to their documentation practices, agencies like ours elevate successful website projects from one-off achievements to extensible business capabilities.

Ready to start on your project documentation?

At Crucible, we’re passionate about projects. We make sure to always prepare comprehensive documentation from start to finish. Get in touch today for a quotation or a no-obligation discussion of your project.

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