How to write a website brief

Websitebrief Awe
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When it comes to creating a new website or redesigning an existing offering, the most important aspect – one that will affect every element of the final site – is the website brief.

Before you can even get a quote for the work, you’ll need a brief that explains your business, your audience, what you hope to achieve with the new site, and more. This can be tricky, however. There’s no standard template to use and what you want from your site can vary significantly between customers, industries and even team members

About your business

The starting point for any design brief will be to find out more about the company itself. This should include a couple of paragraphs about the business – and don’t just include factual information here, your company ethos and mission are just as important in getting to know who you are.

Next up, highlight the products or services you supply, who you supply them to, whether you operate globally – and if so in which regions – company size and an estimate of turnover.

A good final step can be to describe the company in a few words. Are you young, vibrant and transformative, or transparent, diverse and nurturing. Really thinking about this will provide great insight into the business that can feed into the design of the site.

Use existing resources

An existing website can be a valuable tool in informing the design brief – even if you don’t like anything about it! Alongside the URL, the brief should also include information such as anything you like or dislike about the site, the traffic levels it’s receiving and where this is coming from, both in terms of devices and geographical location of users. Information on how often people contact you through the site and the number of sales leads it generates is also useful.

In order to meet your requirements, the design agency will also need to know why you’re looking to update the site and why the current offering no longer works for your business.

New site goals

Now you’ve analysed your existing offering its time to think about what you need from the new site. Common aims include to increase traffic and grow product or brand awareness, but the design brief should go into more detail than this. For example, you may want to include information on your target audience and if this has changed from who you were aiming to reach with the old site. Buyer personas can be useful here, offering information on demographics, behaviour and goals.

Now is also the time to consider how the website will sit in your wider brand offering. Is it part of a wider rebrand or do you need pillar pages to support a specific product launch or event. Are you also embarking on a wider advertising campaign that will tie in with the launch?

Highlighting a selection of competitor websites can also be useful as it gives the agency an idea of what else is out there. Make a note of any elements you like from these sites – whether that’s functionality or design – but make sure you also clearly communicate your company’s USP.

For e-commerce websites, you should detail who you bank with – this will be important for deciding on which payment gateway you should use.

Before panic sets in and you give up on the whole idea of getting a new site, we’ve put together a few steps you can follow to make sure you get the best possible website for your budget.

At the bottom of the article, you’ll also find a link to a website design template that you can download and use to inform your website design choices.

Top five goals for a new website

  • To increase brand awareness
  • To offer an improved online experience
  • To generate leads and enquiries
  • To increase conversions
  • To showcase expertise and thought leadership

Budget and timescales

It can be difficult to know how much your ideal website will cost so don’t be afraid to share your budget at this stage. Agencies can provide much more accurate – and realistic – quotes if they have a rough idea of the budget available. And, by supplying a detailed brief, you can be sure that the quotes you get back will include clear, accurate costings, timescales and schedules that will help your project run smoothly.

As well as initial design costs, it’s also worth thinking about what you’ll need in terms of ongoing support and maintenance and if you’ll also require hosting services – again, detailing this will result in a much more accurate picture of the total cost of the project.

If the project needs to run to a specific deadline, make sure that’s clear too. Letting an agency know your timescales will help them better plan resources.

Look and feel

Once you’ve covered the more general aspects of the design, it’s time to start thinking about the detail. If you have any physical media such as brochures or branding that you intend to keep using, do include these with the brief as it’s important to ensure consistency across products. In addition to this, consider supplying links to three or four websites along with a few lines explaining what you like about each – whether that’s colour palettes, fonts, navigation or design elements such as interactivity. These don’t have to be related to what your company does, the idea here is simply to share something that’s caught your eye.

Website content

Next up, start thinking about how you want to populate your new site and who’ll be supplying any new content. Do you have the resources or skills to create and supply the text to go on the website or is this something you’d be looking for the agency to supply? If the agency will responsible for this, share any brand guidelines and style guides available to ensure the tone of voice and phraseology is consistent.

One thing we often see is clients who redesign their sites but make very few changes to the content, something we’d very much advise against. If your existing site is no longer meeting your needs, it’s likely that the content is part of the problem so take the time to consider what will truly attract your desired audience, meet their needs and encourage engagement.

Of course, content doesn’t just mean words you’ll also need images, including corporate shots, project and/or product images and your logo – all of which need to be high quality. In addition, consider the addition of video, infographics, ebooks, reviews and numerous other content types that have been shown to drive interactions.

Technical requirements

Your brief should also highlight any specific technical requirements that your company might have. Be thorough here as missing detail could have an impact on budget further down the line.

Key questions to answer include:

  • Do you already own the domain?
  • Will you require hosting?
  • Does the site feature user logins and if so how will registrations be handled, authorised and managed?
  • Is the site e-commerce? If so supply detail on product categories and variations, payment/checkout methods required, shipping cost calculations, shipping tracking, discount codes, any referral discounts, etc.
  • Will the site need to integrate with any external feeds or APIs – if so, supply thorough detail and ideally examples of these.
  • Is your site likely to be targeting people with special needs or requirements? I.e. limited mobility, colour blind, deaf, learning difficulties etc.

If you have an idea of general areas of the site you’d like included – such as about us, products, services, blog, social media feeds, map and contact details, it’s also worth including these here.

Maintenance and management

As mentioned, the ongoing maintenance of a website is often overlooked but it’s crucial to consider it even at this early stage. Do you have the skills and resource to maintain the site in house or would you like the agency to manage this? It’s also worth considering how the site will be managed on a daily basis; how regularly will it be updated and by who, what data would you like to receive from the site on an ongoing basis?

Promotion

Another often overlooked aspect of the website brief is how you’re going to promote the site. Investing in a new online presence is great, but if no one sees it, the return on that investment is going to be minimal so summarise any promotion plans you have in place.

Digital Marketing

Digital marketing is vital to the success of your new website in terms of increasing visibility in search engines and generating a sense of engagement in order to ensure the continued success of the site.

Tried and tested digital marketing campaigns include:

Offline promotion

Also don’t forget traditional forms of offline advertising such as print, direct mail, sponsorship and even word of mouth. By creating a consistent approach across digital and offline you’ll generate even more brand awareness, reach a wider audience and encourage conversions. The decision-making process is complex and people view products and services across a variety of devices and channels, at different times of the day. You need to ensure you capture their interest and engage with them at the right time, on the right channel.

Conclusion

Your website design brief should end with a short conclusion outlining what you would like to receive back from the design agency. Expect a thorough proposal detailing the design and build process, costs, timescales and any assumptions and conditions that we have made. This can take time to put together properly but if you have specific timescales be sure to include them.

A free template brief is available to download below. And don’t forget to include us when you’re looking for website design and development services.

If we can help with any other aspects of your web design project, or if you’d like to discuss your design brief in more detail contact….

Website Brief Template

Take a seat and prepare to get creative

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