How To Write Website Brief – Everything You Need To Know About the Briefing Process
A good web design brief makes for a strong foundation – and a vital tool – for a successful website design project: It allows you to communicate ideas and business goals, outline the necessary elements of your new website, and agree upon the project’s expected outcomes with the digital agency. Furthermore, it can help you stay organised, keep the project on track, and stick to a budget.
In short, a well-crafted website brief ensures that you start the website design project on the right foot and presents a clear plan of action for your team.
This article will explore what a web design brief is, why it’s essential for creating a new site, and how to write website brief yourself. Let’s get to it!
What Is a Website Design Brief?
A website brief is a written document that thoroughly defines project objectives, considerations and constraints of designing and developing a website. It explains the “what” and “how” of web design and manages expectations of both parties. It also outlines – and, more often than not, accelerates and streamlines – the actual web design process, provides time and budgetary estimates and helps avoid potential roadblocks.
A well-written brief can help get everyone on the same page and act as an easy-to-follow vision of what you’re doing; simple as that.
And when you load it with the right information, it has the potential to become a powerful project management tool, guiding the overall workflow from conception to completion.
It would help if you had the website brief to define the core details of the upcoming project before you start any actual web design work.
Benefits of a Great Website Brief
Kicking things off with a website brief can help make the whole process a lot smoother for everyone involved. Take a look at a few benefits outlined below, and you’ll see why it’s such a good idea to have one:
- Provides a detailed vision of your expectations and important project goals
- Helps you work through strategic questions
- Offers valuable insights and foundations for creating stunning visual designs
- Gives a comprehensive understanding of who you are, what you want to achieve, and how the agency can help
- Keeps all the contributors on track
- Makes sure the project as a whole stays on budget and on time
- Prevents scope-creep and misunderstandings about deliverables
Example Points You Want To Include in a Website Design Brief
I’ll go into the details of putting together a great web design brief as promised. But first, take a look at these questions to get the feel of the important information you want to include:
- Why are you creating this website?
- What are your company’s values?
- Who is your target audience?
- What are you hoping to achieve?
- Who are your main competitors?
- Are there any specific requirements or functionalities you want?
- Do you want the website available in different languages?
- What will be the website’s call to action?
- What are your web hosting requirements?
- When do you plan to launch the website?
- What is your budget?
- Who will be responsible for and approve the final solution?
It’s a long list, but it does help outline your expectations and requirements for creating a website and organise your ideas a bit better. And ultimately, it makes the briefing process a lot faster.
Oh, and one more thing:
Don’t get too hung up on the length of the web design brief. Your top priority is to make the goals clear and easy to understand and that you provide the instructions needed to take the project to the finish line.
Who’s In Charge Of Writing A Website Brief?
All relevant stakeholders can partake in writing the website brief, although the client is often the one to create it.
The web design brief should get everyone on the same page and eliminate any “you didn’t tell us you want that.” It’s also a way to avoid scope creep or unintentional expansions of the project’s goals beyond what was initially planned and agreed upon by both parties. Everything’s written down and communicated beforehand.
So, to cut to the chase:
Approaching a web design agency with a simple “I need a new website for my business” won’t cut it. You need a web design brief – and no, you can’t just pass the buck this time. Most of the input has to come directly from you. You’re the one who’s got the ideas – even loose ones – and answers, and the one who knows the lie of the land.
Who’s more competent to write a project brief and point the design agency in the right direction than you?
And sure, a good website is usually a result of a partnership between the client and the design company – but:
You’re still the one who should put your ideas on paper, expand on them, and write up the initial website brief.
Writing a Website Brief 101: How To Write a Great Website Brief
The success of the website design relies on everyone – from the business owners to the design agencies – to have a crystal clear understanding of the project’s goals, expectations, and challenges. And sure, briefs can vary in length and the amount of information they include. But the more information you can provide in the website brief, the higher the chances that the project will be a success – simple as that. With that in mind, here’s a list of 10+ things you might want to consider adding to your website design brief!
1. Background & Overview of Your Business
Assume that the web design agency doesn’t have the first clue about your business – and start your website brief from there.
Introduce yourself – and your company – to the design agency; explain what you do, which services or products you offer, and what your values, missions, and visions are. You also want to include any plans for future growth that might be relevant for the project. Insider information about your brand is invaluable at this stage of the web design project and will lay the foundational bricks for everything else in the website brief.
Including the following information would be a great starting point:
- A few paragraphs about the company’s background and business overview
- Name, email address, and other contact details
- The size of your company and, if possible, annual turnover
- When your business was founded
- The services you provide and the products you sell
- Is your company international and in which countries, besides the UK, it operates
- State your brand mission, vision and values
- Short and long-term goals of your business
- Describe your company in up to ten words
Remember; the web design agency is trying to represent your brand here – and to do this properly, they need to understand who you are as a business.
2. Identifying Your Target Audience
Being aware of your target audience, who the people using your site will be, and why they’ll be visiting the site are all essential parts of a website project.
The most critical question you want to answer here is:
Who will be the typical user of your website?
Letting the web design agency know who they’re tailoring the website to will help them make informed decisions during the design and development process. Here are some other points you should include in the website brief:
- Have you got an existing customer base?
- Where are your customers located geographically?
- Are you targeting a local, UK-wide, or global market?
- Are your customers more likely to access the website through mobile or desktop?
- How would you describe your ideal customer base?
- What audiences are you hoping to attract?
- What should be your website’s call to action?
Creating Buyer Personas
Please identify the ideal end-user and provide specific demographic data and psychographic characteristics based on case studies. Take your perfect customer, create the buyer persona around them, and include this in your brief.
When creating buyer personas – semi-fictional representations of your ideal customers – make sure to cover demographic data like:
- Age range
- Geographic location
- Lifestyle, values, and related interests
- Media consumption habits
- Education and job title
3. All About Your Existing Website
You can skip this bit if you’re starting from scratch. But if there’s an outdated website collecting dust somewhere on the web, you want to let your design agency know about it in your brief.
Outlining the elements, functionalities, and features of your current website – both good and bad – will point the agency in the right direction. Moreover, it will indicate where you want to go with the new site.
Share the URL of the existing website with the web design agency and, more importantly, provide some insights by answering the following questions:
- Are there things you like about your current website?
- What would you like to change about it?
- How much traffic is the existing website currently receiving?
- How many conversions does it generate?
- Where are your visitors from and what web browsers and platforms they use to access the website?
- Why do you feel it’s no longer suitable for your business?
4. Project Goals & Objectives of Your New Website
The chances are that your decision to make a new website didn’t come out of the blue. There must be something that inspired such action – and now’s a good time to explain what. This step will serve as the backbone of your website brief, digging deeper into the “why” behind the project. Defining your website’s goals and communicating them with the digital agency can help you get everyone on the same page.
Your goals and objectives can include things like:
- Increasing brand awareness
- Improve your online presence
- Boosting customer engagement
- Generating sales
- Becoming a trustworthy source of information
- Adding e-commerce offering
- Targeting a specific audience
- Generating leads and inquiries
What Makes the Web Design Project a Success?
Clearly defined project goals can also provide a way to measure the website’s success. Think about how you are going to judge the outcome of the project and make sure the digital agency knows what the criteria are. If you have a set of “success factors,” be it an increase in website traffic or driving more revenue, it’s only fair to share it. You might also want to set up performance tracking, like Google Analytics, to measure all relevant metrics and assess your marketing strategy.
5. Competitors & Websites You Like
Competitors will be a significant influence; there’s no point in denying it. So, analyse your competition, take a look at their websites, see what works for them – and what doesn’t – and make the first decision:
Is your goal to play it safe and fit in or to stand out from the bunch?
You know your market better than the design agencies ever will; your website project brief is the perfect time to show it and share your opinions and insights with the agency. But feel free to go outside the limits of your industry and do some general research if needed, too. Include five examples of websites you like the feel, look, and functionality of in your web design brief. Making sure your web design agency understands your main competitors will help guide the decision-making process at the earlier stages of the project.
6. Look & Feel of Your New Website
Following on from analysing your competitors, you want to share any relevant details about how you’d like your site to look and feel and the impression you want to make. Your website is an online extension of your brand, after all. Treat it as such in your brief and make sure you communicate important brand values through the website’s design.
Would you like a more traditional-looking website or a contemporary one? Should it have a personal or professional vibe? Do you want to create a friendly, inclusive environment, or do you need it to feel exclusive?
Is there’s anything developers and designers need to know about your “taste” and preferences?
Are there any branding guidelines that need to be met? Have you thought about your logo? What colour scheme, font and icons would you like to include? What about user interface features?
You need to include these things in your brief to make sure the branding stays consistent across the entire site. Moreover, discussing such details upfront will also reduce the risk of any revisions – and sometimes, complete redesigns – down the line.
7. Content for the New Website
It’s never too early to talk about how you’d like to populate the new website. Content isn’t something you should treat as an afterthought, as it might end up delaying the website launch. You want to answer the following questions:
- Do you plan on using the existing content?
- Have you got the skills and resources needed for generating content?
- Can you carry out a content audit of your current website?
- Can you provide any brand-related guidelines, like the tone of voice and phraseology?
- Can you provide a logo?
- Have you got any corporate photography, illustrations, or videos?
Your content-related needs can impact the project as a whole; it’s important to talk things over with the agency.
You also want to provide a rough sitemap in your web design brief. No one expects a fully developed plan for every single page – but a general idea of how much content you wish to have will be more than useful. Think about the content structure and write down the pages and sections you want to be included on the site. Specify the type of content each page will consist of – think text, images, contact form, and the like – and whether the page will be static or dynamic wherever possible, too.
8. Technical Requirements & Features
Being clear about specific technical requirements and functionalities you’d like to see on your website is crucial in writing a web design brief. It can help avoid delays in the development process, prevent scope creep and additional costs, and outline foundational features that your website must have to serve its purpose. No one expects you to be an expert on web development and know all the technical stuff; horses for courses, as they say. But you should be able to explain how your website will function. On that note, you need to consider the following:
- Have you got a preferred content management system (CMS) picked out already?
- Will the website allow user logins via email address and password?
- How will you manage registrations?
- What will the user dashboard show?
- Will the website have a subscription model?
- Is it an e-commerce site that will need payment and checkout methods, product categories and variations, discount codes and shipping-related functionalities?
- Will you need API integration?
- Are there any particular web accessibility elements?
Be as thorough as you can in this section and feel free to include everything you think your website might need in terms of functionality.
9. Digital Marketing Strategy
Okay, yes, this ventures into the digital marketing territory more than it does web design, but hear me out:
There’s no point in creating a killer website if you’re not going to consider how it will reach your target audience. Potential customers need to know that you’re there – otherwise, you can’t expect much, if any, traffic.
Digital marketing is important – no, crucial – to the success of your new website.
There are several things you might want to take into consideration as part of your marketing efforts, including:
- Search engine optimisation (SEO)
- Social media campaigns
- Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising
- Email marketing
- Content marketing
- Affiliate marketing
What about offline promotion, like brochures and flyers, direct mail and PR activities? Is that something you want to look into, as well? Whatever your marketing plans are – both online and offline – it’s generally a good idea to talk things over with the design company.
10. Website Hosting & Support
Despite being a crucial aspect of running a website, maintenance and support often get overlooked. Including a bit about your expectations after launching the website is every bit as important, though.
It’s not uncommon for the client to leave the hosting and maintenance of the website to the design agency. Does that sound good, or have you got other hosting arrangements? What about on-going maintenance? Is that something you would like the design agency to cover moving forward?
It’s important to provide this information to the agency, either way.
On that note, it would be a good idea to include the following:
- Have you already acquired a domain?
- Does your site need web hosting?
- How do you plan on keeping the website up-to-date?
- How much support will be required for the website?
- Have you got an in-house content marketing team?
11. Web Design Budget & Deadline
Your budget will be another important piece of information you need to include; budget-related guidelines can save time and energy on both sides. Even a rough idea of how much you’re willing to spend can help the digital agency understand your expectations. You have to be transparent – and realistic – about what you want and what you can afford.
So, what is your budget for the website’s design and development?
You could argue that an isolated number doesn’t mean much – and you’d be right. But all the information and requirements you provided so far should help put that number in perspective.
While you’re at it, think about the deadline – again, something realistic that accounts for delays and eventualities – and be open to negotiations with the agency. Maybe your website project won’t have a specific timeline, but that’s more of an exception than the norm. As a rule, though, you will have some initial launch plans – or even a specific go-live date – when creating a website. If you need the new website to be finished in time for a product launch, make sure to include that in your web design brief.
Writing a Website Brief – The Complete Picture
Nothing’s set in stone; outside interferences can throw the cat among the pigeons, and your goals and objectives can change. Still, there’s no point in barrelling into a project without a proper plan in place. And now that you know how to write website brief, you’re off to a strategic start.
View this as an opportunity to arrange your thoughts and ideas – and evaluate expectations – before consulting with the agency. And the more info you can provide, the better. But remember – this should be a two-way street:
You’ve got the initial vision and outline, but suggestions and recommendations from the agency are more than welcome.
You’ll be working on this project as a team – and that’s when the best websites are created!