Writing a website brief - tips to save you time

Writing a website brief - tips to save you time

A great website brief is a crucial part of the web design process. It will help you gather quotes, save you time and help to communicate your intentions internally.

So, what is a website brief?

A good web design brief clearly defines your website requirements and plans. It is a reference point for all parties and helps to build trust, minimise misunderstandings and gather a set of consistent proposals from interested web designers or agencies.

Taking the time to write a detailed brief will streamline the quote gathering process and will save time when discussing the project with potential suppliers. Your brief may also form part of the contract with the team you recruit to build your website.

If you are hoping for the website of your dreams, read on...

1. Introduction
2. Objectives and goals
3. The old website
4. The new website
5. Technical requirements
6. Budget and timescale
7. Maintenance
8. Marketing
9. Conclusion

1. Writing a website brief - introduction

Start with an introduction which then gives the web designer or agency a little bit of background about your company. This should focus on the type of products or services you provide and your key selling points. You may also wish to include other details such as how long you have been established and any particular achievements.

2. Objectives and goals of a website brief

Within this section discuss your organisational objectives or goals and the role of the website in achieving these goals.

3. The old website

If you have an existing website, make sure you provide the URL so that the designer can check it out and see what might be going wrong and what can be improved. Say what you liked about the old website (and why) as well as what you don't like so much. For example is the colour scheme not to your taste? Is the user experience poor? Perhaps the whole design is just out-dated and in need of a total makeover?

Where possible provide Google analytics data. This will tell interested designers what is working and what isn't. Include information about the amount of sales and/or leads you are receiving from your existing website.

4. The new website

Now you have discussed the pros and cons of your current website, it's time for the discussion of the changes and improvements. Here are some topics to include within this part of your brief:

The aims

Consider the aims of your website at a granular level, list the specific objectives of the website. For example:

  • raise awareness of your products or services
  • encourage store visits
  • drive telephone enquiries
  • email signups

Consider holding a workshop for all stakeholders of the website. If you can help end users to help you plan your website, you are far more likely to address the needs of your users. Check out this example of a website planning workshop for ideas.

Your target audience

Your website will need to resonate with your specific target audience. If you are gearing it towards a teenage market, for example, the design will need to look completely different to a site aimed towards the middle-aged. If you are aware of who your target market is, state the demographics such as - age, sex, ethnicity, social class and location. How will your target audience be accessing your website? (Through tablets, mobiles or laptops etc.)

If you are unsure about the exact figures and who your target audience are, have a think about who your ideal customer would be and go from there. If you haven't done it already, this could be a great time to create some customer personas. If you're not sure where to start, try using an online tool.

Competitor websites

If you are aware of any competitors with similar products or services, list their websites, so that web designers can see what is working for them. Stating your likes and dislikes about competitor sites can be very helpful to designers.

Content of your website

Once you have thought about a few general ideas, you will need to consider what the actual content of your website will look like. Rather than editing your current website content, it may be a good opportunity to restructure it and rewrite it from scratch. This forces you to consider how users will want to consume the information on your site.

We suggest noting down the structure as nested bullets. E.g.

  • Home
  • About
    • The team
    • Our story
  • Products
    • Widget 1
    • Widget 2
    • Widget 3
  • Contact

Think about who will be writing the content? Most agencies will offer a professional copywriter if required. Which images or videos which will be used? Do you need to commission a photographer or someone to shoot and cut video content? Again, when planning the content we recommend running a stakeholder workshop. Here is another example of a website panning workshop.

Design

If you have a vision in your mind about the overall website design; make sure you express the use of colours you are hoping for, the typography and particular styles of imagery which would tie in with your brand. Its always a good idea to provide examples of sites that you like. This is a very valuable reference point for designers.

5. Technical requirements

Within your brief, you should outline any technical requirements you have for your updated website. For example:

  • Do you own the domain?
  • Will you need hosting?
  • Will you be targeting your website more towards mobile users or website users?
  • Do you have a preffered technology platform in mind (E.g. WordPress, Shopify, etc.)

6. Budget and timescale

Outlining the project budget is an important aspect of the brief so that you can match yourself to web designers or agencies working in the right space. Even if this is just a ball-park figure, it allows you to compare like with like and is much simpler than having to reject offers which are too expensive.

Have a think about the most you can spend on the project to avoid disappointments; for example the initial costings and any on-going maintenance. You may also wish to state when you need to entire website finished by, to allow web designers to manage your expectations within reason.

7. Website maintenance

Maintenance is often a greatly overlooked aspect of the web design process. You will need to consider whether you have the relevant skills to manage the website yourself or you may prefer the web design team to handle on-going maintenance for you.

State these requirements in the brief and again consider specifying a budget.

8. Marketing

You may not have thought as far ahead as marketing your website, but simply building a site will do nothing if you have no users. Within your brief, discuss your planned marketing channels and how they will integrate with the website. For example:

Social media

Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are an effective way of promoting a new website launch. Do you have profiles setup, do you need someone to manage your social media or to train a member of your team to do it?

Search engine optimisation (SEO)

How important is SEO for you? If it is crucial, the project will need to ensure the website is well structured to enable you to create content going forward (a blog or news section for example) and that is allows editors to manage SEO-related content (meta titles, descriptions etc.).

Pay per click

A PPC campaign may be a cost-effective way to drive targeted traffic. Again, consider setting aside a monthly budget for PPC.

Email marketing

If you already have a good email list, plan to send out a newsletter announcing the launch of your new website.

As well as online methods to drive traffic, consider offline channels such as:

Direct mail

If you gain most of your custom from locals, it may be worth dropping leaflets or brochures through letterboxes to announce the launch of your new website.

Outdoor advertising

If there is a local event occurring, it may be worth setting up a stand to announce the launch of your new website and bring along a few samples of your products.

Vehicle wraps

It is always worth using vehicle wraps if your business involves travel; for example gardening, hairdressing or building companies.

9. Conclusion

Within your conclusion, you should give an outline with information you would like to receive back from the agency. In return, you should receive a set of full proposals, discussing how your website will be built, the overall costs and how long the whole project should take.

If you would like to send over a website brief to our expert team, please contact us here.

Topic: Project management

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