Web Design & Digital Marketing Services for Artists & Small Businesses
How to Write a Website Brief
November 29th, 2020
It seems to be a common belief that purchasing web services is a complex endeavor, but with proper planning it doesn’t need to be. It’s critical to identify obstacles as early as possible to provide extra time to find solutions. You’ll also want to identify the site objectives and the expected outcomes for the website to be a success. The best way to do this is to begin by creating a website brief.
Table of Contents
- What is a Website Brief
- How to Create a Website Brief
What is a Website Brief?
A website brief is a document created by the person/business after signing a web contract, though some agencies may expect to see one before they even consider the project. It’s designed to help you and your team understand the roles for each member and the work that needs to be done, so that everyone understands what’s expected in terms of deliverables and workflow.
The brief will then serve as a project management tool, which you can use to keep work on track and manage expectations. It can also be used to provide an estimate for expenses and billable hours. This is all achievable by taking the time early in the process to identify the key requirements.
How to Create a Website Brief
An effective website brief is one that is thorough and clear. You don’t want to leave any room for misinterpretation, or this could lead to revisions that will cost more time and money down the line. Below we will start to dissect the important information to provide the web designer so that they can create the website that you envision.
Provide a Description of the Person/Business/Company
While this one should go without saying, you’ll need to provide a description about the person/business/company that the website is for. The idea here is to highlight the brand, values, mission, and vision, which will help to shape the direction and goals for the website. If your venture is brand new, try to at least include some keywords or some screenshots of other websites you’ve seen that have elements that you think could work on your site.
You will also want to include a list of the key stakeholders, and the login information where needed. It’s important to know who to contact for specific deliverables to keep communications efficient and tasks on track.
If already established, you could also include any plans for future growth. Designing a site meant to stand the test of time, and designing a foundation that is scalable to significant changes in the future are certainly two different things, and should be treated as such.
Create a Project Overview
Once you’ve established the site’s identity and direction, you’ll want to define the scope of the project and all of the deliverables. Providing a foundation for the final product will ensure that everyone involved is fully aware of their role in its success. Some examples of a what a project overview will contain include:
- Is the site a rebuild, or a new website?
- All expected deliverables, including the website and any additional assets (logo, custom email address, copy, etc)
- Potential obstacles that may arise and how they will be addressed
- The amount of involvement you expect to have in the design process
- The tone or voice of the content (text, visuals)
- Specific items related to branding
Finally, you’ll want to provide any key functionalities that are required to make the site a success. This includes things like Call to Action buttons, social media integration, contact forms, analytics, or database requirements.
Define the Project’s Goals
Once you’ve established the foundation for the project, you’ll need to decide on the goals of the website or the problems it’s expected to solve. This will ensure that the design is effective and focuses on what is most important to you.
Examples of what you may want your site to achieve include:
- Increase brand awareness
- Improve online presence
- Increase subscriptions or sales
- Generate leads and inquiries
Become a source of key information
- Via blog, documentation, e-learning, etc
If you had an existing website, you should include information about what worked and what didn’t, so that the next design can improve upon the old one.
Audience & Competitors
Identify the Target Audience
Try your best to describe the ideal type of people that the website is targeted towards. This may include things like age, gender, beliefs, job titles, interests, and other relevant information about those interested in your services.
It’s a good idea to spend your time doing some research on all of the above and more, however, if you don’t currently have this information you can speak with your web designer and ask them if they include these services, likely for an additional charge.
Research the Competition
The importance of this one can’t be understated. As the expert about your industry, the onus is on you to relay the information about your competitors. This includes information about who they are, what separates you from them, areas where they’re better or worse, etc. Noting down customer problems that you feel they’ve failed to address is a great opportunity to help you stand out.
This information doesn’t need to be exclusively about your industry either. You can also use other businesses as examples of what you’re trying to achieve. You could use Netflix as an example of how you want the website to be revolutionary in the way that it uses the technology to provide a great experience for clients. Or, you could use Lego as an example of a company that was able to regain its dominance through successful rebranding by investing in what worked and eliminating what didn’t.
The Site Build
Requirements & Features
If you’ve already completed everything above then you should already have a much clearer mental image of what to expect from the website. Now you’ll want to start listing the design and technical features that are required.
The reason we include this information again here is to emphasize the importance of knowing what the site is intended for. It’s easy for a person who doesn’t build websites to miss something critical the first time you make your list of requirements, so we recommend taking the time now to make any necessary revisions.
An important requirement to consider is how often you’ll need to interact with the website after completion. Are you a blogger who is posting constantly and needs multiple templates in order to suit your needs? Do you have a store with a flow of new items or does your pricing fluctuate frequently? The more specific you are will lead to better results.
A timeline is difficult to set without prior knowledge or consulting your web designer, but at least try to include a date that the site must be completed by. If a timeline isn’t that important to you and the build can take as long as it needs, then you probably have one happy designer! However, this often isn’t the case. Establishing a realistic timeline with your designer will allow your team to better plan on how to use available resources.
Budget is another important factor that will influence decisions made over the course of the build. For example, if you have a low budget and a short timeline, your designer may decide to rely more heavily on a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress and templates. On the opposite end, if you have the money to spend and more time available, you can acquire more complex designs or custom-built solutions.
Once again we revisit a point from earlier to ensure that everything has been covered. Anything that is missed by this point will either have to be omitted or will likely lead to additional negotiating and costs.
The following are examples that pretty much standard to a site build and should at least be considered:
- The completed site
- Blog/social media posts, copy, case studies, photos/videos, logo/graphics, etc
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- What type of SEO is expected and by who?
- Pay Per Click (PPC) or other type of advertising campaigns
Hosting & Maintenance
Typically the hosting and maintenance is done by the web designer, as they have better knowledge about what resources will work best. If you already have a domain name and hosting, then it’s important to list who the provider is and how much time (if any) is remaining in your contract.
Maintenance is also important to discuss in detail. Web technology is advancing by the minute and updates will have to be made over time. You’ll want to discuss the frequency of maintenance, as well as what is considered above and beyond normal updates.
Now that you know what goes into making a web brief, we hope you’ll begin to take the time to create your own. Regardless of your situation it’s wise to take any steps available to cut costs, to stay on track, and to ensure the project is completed to the highest standard with the given resources.
There isn’t one gold standard template that will work for every project, but there are tons available online for you to browse. If you can’t find one or don’t want to create one of your own, you can download our editable PDF anytime you need.
If you're still overwhelmed, feel free to contact us with any questions that you may have. You can also hire us to do the research and create the entire document for you, for a small fee.
Thanks for reading!