You can't explain the web with print.
A good site should last 3-5 years. Beyond that, it's likely that some combination of changes in technology, the web aesthetic, and the basic truths of your business will have changed enough to warrant a rebuild, or at least a redesign.
In order to get the most out of your site's precious lifecycle, you ned to make sure that the foundation of the site is sound, highly usable, and flexible enough to deal with the unknown changes that will surely come up. The foundation of your site is its information design, which is comprised of your site's pages, the navigation systems which interlink those pages, and the elements which reside on each page. Discovering and implementing a great website information design is not something that happens by accident, and once the basic goals of the site are established, addressing the information design is the next crucial step.
During our first five years in business, from '95 to '00, we did what most everyone else still seems to do--we tried to explain a website's information design using print. We'd create site maps and wireframes using digital but inherently print-based platforms such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and PDF files. We'd spend weeks if not months painstakingly creating information design documents that were sometimes hundreds of pages deep in an effort to explain to our clients what we were going to build for them. No matter how hard we worked at it, by the time the site was done we were faced with the same dreaded client response more often than not: "It's not what we thought it would be."
We found that our clients weren't able to give us the feedback we needed until they were able to engage with the site's information design using a screen, keyboard, and mouse. So, the answer was simple: We had to build the site twice. The only catch was that we of course couldn't double the budget or timeframe.
Faced with this dilemma, we invented our Grayscreen Prototyping process. Starting in 2000, we began building clickable grayscreen versions of the site that focused solely on the site's information design. Our client satisfaction rate immediately soared upon adopting this new practice. To this day, Grayscreen Prototyping is one of the pillars of our business. It is how we ensure we get the site built the right way, the first time.Next: CMS >