Creating a design brief for a website is extremely useful, but also quite difficult to do.
However, by focussing on some of these key points, you’ll learn how to write a detailed brief that designers and agencies will be able to understand.
There are many different ways to write a brief and it can depend on the designer or agency you are working with. Overall, a clear website project brief will help the designer to produce great results within budget and timeframe.
In no particular order, here are nine crucial tips that any relative novice to a web project ought never to exclude from a brief.
1. What does your company do?
One of the key phrases I’ve found so true in business (and life!) is: don’t assume anything. Don’t assume that the agency you’re working with will know exactly what your product is or what service you provide. Take time to give them a short description of what your business is about, and what it does. Focus on key points such as what sets you apart from competitors as they can help to show this in the site design. Once they understand exactly what your business does and how it works, you can benefit from their experience.
2. Price Range
Budget can significantly vary for small businesses investing into a web design project. One piece of advice is to tell the web designer the price range you want to work with. It doesn’t have to be exact and you can tell the designer a price bracket if you are unsure (e.g. £2,000 – £4,000). Designers want to see a budget because it will allow them to be realistic with expectations on the amount of work you would like done for the price. It may be that you want an extra feature included on your site (such as a store), but it doesn’t fit the price range, so it cannot be included in the project. Can you see why it’s so important to be honest with the price range? It will reduce the chance of any confusion or issues down the road on features.
3. If you have an existing site, what do your current users want to see on the new site?
The majority of the time, websites are built based on what the client wants to see. However, you may want to think about how a new site design will help some customers and potential leads to get what they need. This approach will give you much better results in real terms. Usually this can be discovered by applying simple market research, such as sending out a survey to your email list, speaking with existing customers on social media, and looking at existing analytical data. Perhaps the payment process isn’t smooth enough on the site (too many steps involved), or perhaps the navigation isn’t clear and people can’t find what they’re after with ease.
You might have several types of customers, each with different goals they might wish to achieve on the website. You should plan to answer the needs of your main customer types, and their main goals.
4. What does your team want
Not only can a new website help customers, but it can also help your staff and team around you. From my experience, I’ve seen many tasks that are typically mundane and repetitive which can easily be automated and save everyone time and money in the organisation.
For this part of the design brief, I’d encourage you to set up a meeting with team members to see what pain points they have with the current website. These might involve backend processing issues such as how orders are taken, or perhaps issues with managing the social media aspect of the business. Could social media posts be automated to save time? Note these down, pitch them to the designer/developer, and see if there is a way to solve these problems.
5. Pick out designs of current websites that you like
Figure out what sites you currently like. Take time to research into what site might be beneficial to show your designer.
Here are some helpful bullet points. Find:
- Competitors and their websites
- How is the site navigation (Do you agree with it? do you think your customers would find it easy to navigate around?)
- Certain design aspects you like, and why you think they are good (this could be the sidebar, header, pop-ups, etc.)
Be as detailed as you can on what exactly appeals to you about the sites you list. Always keep in the back of your mind how these features might help your customers, as this is the priority. Consult with your marketing team beforehand as they may have thoughts on the website style and overall branding. Everyone in the team should feel comfortable with the site design.
6. Content Management Systems
What are Content Management Systems? In short, it’s a computer application that allows creating, editing and publishing content from a central platform. It’s where you manage the content for your website.
It’s important to know what amount of control you want over the sites’ content. Is it just over text? Do you need to update images? If so, on which pages? Do you need to add files for downloading, create links, create new pages, restructure pages order, display news or provide a facility for customers to comment or get in touch? These are all common features in good content management systems, but you should provide clear instructions to a design agency in order to avoid misunderstandings, so think about what you want in advance and you’ll be more likely to get what you need.
7. The Project Schedule
When building literally anything, one needs to have a clear understanding of what will be involved, who will be involved, and when things will be needed.
Be absolutely clear form the beginning about who makes up the website team at your company, what the process of approval is, and who is sourcing the necessary content for the project.
One of the most common delays in web projects come from underestimation of how much time it’s going to take to source images, text, and quotes for the whole site. From the ‘about us’ section, to coming up with new taglines for the brand and even migrating old pages – this is a lot of work.
To ensure this isn’t the downfall of the project, make sure you allow plenty of time for sourcing these materials and approving them, and help the whole project move forward smoothly. The designer and developers are in charge of delivering the system, but usually you are in control of the content – so make sure you really are in control!
8. How will you know if the new site has been successfull?
What metrics will you use to measure success? Has the new site solved a problem you had before?
This should be the main part of the brief, addressing the current problem and how success will be measured. Example for a few metrics you can measure:
- Newsletter signups
- Increase in traffic
Either way, be clear about what to measure so you can put in place a method to record this data. You can use a web analytics package such as Google Analytics to do this. Communicate your goals to the design agency so they fully understand all factors they need to consider to help you achieve it, and then provide clear evidence of that.
9. Future plans for the website
How is your site going to progress over the next few years? If you have a vision for the future of the site then communicate this to your design agency, as they can not only make recommendations as to how this might be achieved, but they can also factor some of it into their initial designs.
Do you already have plans on how to promote the launch of the new site? Are you using a PR Agency, spending money on Facebook or Google Ads, etc.? Let your design agency know these details as it can help them work to your timeframe and prepare all necessary features.
When your site is finally finished, this isn’t the end of the process. In fact, it’s just the beginning. Now you have to focus on how to improve web results over time. We will be expanding more on this subject in the coming weeks and months. So stay tuned!