How to write a website design brief
Writing a website design brief is an essential first step towards creating your new site.
Here we look at what your brief should cover, what your agency needs to know and the crucial questions to answer before you start.
A website design brief is simply a document that sets out what you want from your website design project.
It deals with areas including what the site will cover, how it will work, how you’ll update it and how people will find it.
A website design brief helps to focus your thinking on what you really need from your web design, so you don’t waste time and resources later on.
Your brief also helps your web design agency understand what you want, resolve any questions and give you an accurate cost.
The better the brief, the smoother the project – and the better the end result.
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These days, every firm is expected to have a website of some sort. But beyond that, why do you need a new one? What aims do you want to achieve?
Specifically, do you want to increase sales and leads, target new customers or promote new products and services? Do you want to build your brand’s profile or offer people a better source of information?
Or is it more about polishing up the design, improving performance, smoothing the user experience or making the site easier to update?
Take an honest look at your existing website – or ask your customers, if you can. What do you like and dislike about it? What is working well, and what needs to change?
A website is a commercial tool – whether you’re using it to sell online, generate enquiries or just build your brand. So your agency needs to understand how your new website will fit with the rest of your business.
In your website design brief, sum up your company history, your products and customers, your markets, your strengths or weaknesses and your future plans.
What is your position within your marketplace? Are you a best-value option, a premium choice – or somewhere in between?
Do you have a marketing plan already? If so, let your agency know what part your new website will play in it.
Your website will be going toe-to-toe with your competitors – most obviously on Google’s search results page.
Therefore, your brief needs to include a review of competitors’ sites. Who are they? What are they doing well – and not so well? What opportunities does that open up for you?
As part of your website design brief, explain exactly what you like about other people’s sites – for example, the design, the functionality, the user journey. This helps your web design agency understand exactly what you’re looking for.
Visitors and traffic
Your brief should profile your existing and future customers. Who do you want to visit your website? How do people normally buy from you? Who are your ideal new customers, and what would they want from your site?
Then there’s the question of how visitors will find you. Will you aim for a first-page listing on Google, or direct traffic with pay-per-click (PPC) ads? What part will social media and email play? And what about offline channels like print advertising and events?
Structure and content
Now, think about what pages your website might need. Your agency will be able to help you here, but it’s good to have a basic idea.
For a smaller site, you can just list the pages. For larger sites, you might want to draw a ‘family tree’ style diagram (known as a ‘site map’), showing sections and links within the site.
Think about the content each page will feature. Remember, it doesn’t have to be just text – you can include images, video, documents, maps and more. Aim to give your users what is most helpful to them.
Detail in your brief what content you will be providing and what you need the web design agency to supply. If you need copy to be written then the agency knows they need to quote for this.
Do you already have hosting and a domain name? If not, you’ll need to set them up. Your agency can do this for you, or work with your existing provider if you have one.
For ecommerce sites, your agency will need to know what platform you prefer (if any), what products you want to offer, what functions you want and the arrangements for payment and shipping.
Your new website will probably need a Content Management System (CMS) so that you will be able to manage most of your website content inhouse. If you have a preferred CMS then add it to your brief, however it may be better to ask what CMS the agency would recommend and why.
A site is a long-term commitment, not a one-off project – so what maintenance and support will you need? This could include updating content and features, security tweaks or just general help and advice. Ask your agency what they can offer.
How much do you want to spend? This is a bit like saying ‘How long is a piece of string?’ But your agency needs to have some idea of your budget, so they can tailor their proposal.
With websites, you get what you pay for. Think of your site as an asset that you’re investing in, not just a cost. It will be a central part of your sales and marketing effort for many years to come.
If you have a timescale, let your agency know up front. A large site can take several months to develop, particularly for a smaller team – so don’t expect them to work miracles.
This sample document is the ideal website brief document that asks all the right questions for you to complete and send out to your list of web design agencies.
Ready to turn your website design brief into reality?
We can translate your website design brief into a beautifully designed, fully functioning website. And if you don’t yet have a brief, we can help you develop one. Find out moreabout our approach to website design, or get in touch.
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