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How to write a web design brief

You’ve been tasked with organising your company’s new website. You could just go straight to Google and search for local web design agencies.

Then have a chat with each agency and see which one you like best and that can work within your budget. Sounds sensible enough. Wrong.

That path leads to confusion, uncertainty, surprises, arguments and wasted time - for the agency and for you (and your bosses). What you need to do first is put a website brief together. What you need is clarity. Clarity for everyone involved in the project.

By reading on, you’ll learn how to draft an effective, clear web design briefing document.

What is a web design brief?

A web design brief is an essential starting point for a website design project.

It’s a document that ensures the client and agency understand what is required and the expected outcomes. Various stakeholders are involved in developing a new website so it’s important everyone understands what’s involved in the project. This way nothing gets forgotten or overlooked, the requirements are clear and there are no last-minute surprises. However, there’s no strict industry-standard web design brief.

Some website briefs might be extremely high level, focussing on overall strategic values. Some may drill down into great creative and technical detail e.g., what colour specific buttons should be, what the site structure should be, how the CMS (content management system) should work, etc.

But some particular steps and details should go into your web design brief to ensure you and your agency build the best possible website for your budget, and to ensure the project runs as smoothly as possible.

Information to include in your briefing document

Here, then, are 9 areas that should be addressed in your web design briefing document. It may look like a lot of information to gather, but it’s worth it. It’s the central document for all the project stakeholders and, if nothing else, it will at least focus minds and help identify any issues that may get forgotten or overlooked.

  1. Website overview
  2. Business details
  3. Target audience and site users
  4. Goals – aims and objectives
  5. Primary competitor websites
  6. Overall website look and feel
  7. Technical features and requirements
  8. Site content requirements
  9. Delivery deadline & budget

How to write an overview for a website

If you don’t create a full web design briefing document with all 9 sections in, at least create this overview section - it’s essential.

  • Define what your agency needs to deliver, e.g.
    • Logos and graphics
    • Website database, pages and structure
    • Content
    • Email accounts
    • Hosting and other technical requirements
  • Describe the tone of voice required for the content, thinking about:
    • Who your target audience is
    • How they speak
  • Describe the look and feel e.g. imagery, video and graphics.
  • Note any important links required e.g., social media accounts, other business websites.
  • Note what you, the client, will provide and what the designers and developers will need to provide, e.g.,
    • Library images
    • Product images
    • Copy
    • Setting up Google Analytics, etc.
  • Define what is not within the scope of the project.
    • Remember, your website can evolve as you see what works and engages.

About your business

Your agency needs to know all about your business. The better understanding they have about what makes your company and your clients tick, the better job they’ll do.

For example:

  • What the company does.
  • Company history, brand, size, staff, locations, etc.
  • Services or products you offer.
  • The company mission statement and values.
  • Plans for any future growth.
  • Who the primary stakeholders are.
  • Roles and responsibilities related to your website design project.

Target audience and users

  • Who is the website aimed at?
  • Describe your ideal client.
  • Give them a profile:
    • Age
    • Education
    • Location
    • Jobs/roles
  • Why would your target audience visit your website?
    • Buy products?
    • Insight, information and guidance?
    • Book services?
  • How will your target audience most likely be accessing your website? What technologies do they use?

 Website goals

  • What do you want to achieve with your website?
    • Increasing brand awareness
    • Increase sales
    • Increase subscriptions
    • Increase lead generation
  • How will you measure these goals?

Key competitors and/or sites you like

  • List some of your competitors’ websites
  • What do you like about them?
  • What don’t you like?
  • Which non-competitor websites have great designs you like?
  • What do you like about them?

Website look and feel

Try to describe the look and feel you’re after for your new website.

  • For example, do you want a clean and modern look?
  • Do you prefer photography or illustrations?
  • Do you have corporate brand guidelines?
  • Do you want a big say in the look and feel, or does your agency have free reign?
  • How do you see the navigation or user journey working?

Technical features and requirements

This is an important area for your agency to be fully aware of from the start.

  • Are there any specific technical features or requirements that need to be included or taken into account? For example:
    • Integration with business databases
    • Existing or new blogs
    • How will the site be updated? By whom?
    • What CMS (content management system) requirements are involved?
    • Dynamic site requirements
    • Hosting requirements

Site content

Content is king. Not just any old content though.

Relevant and engaging content is truly king.

  • Who’s responsible for your site’s text content? You, the agency or a copywriter?
  • Who will ensure your website is SEO-friendly?
  • What imagery will you use? Will you source that or your agency?
  • What graphics or video requirements are there?

Budget and deadline

You probably won’t be able to create a project timeline at this stage, that’s your agency’s job. However, you might have some milestones that need consideration, such as:

  • Online or offline promotions.
  • Exhibition dates.
  • New product release dates.
  • Strategic changes at your company.
  • Annual leave of project stakeholders, Christmas breaks, summer holidays, etc.
  • Any seasonal fluctuations to your business.

Define the available budget for the web design project, but consider a contingency budget too.

In conclusion…

Hopefully, this article has shown you how useful and important an effective, clear web design briefing document is. Even if you don’t have the information for all the suggested elements, something is better than nothing.

And, if nothing else, you’ll find that simply the process of creating a clear web design brief can trigger important discussions internally and with your agency that will benefit your project hugely.

Intuitiv has been designing and building websites since 1996 - the early days of the wild, wild web.

We’ve experienced a humongous range of varied, successful web design projects.

So, don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns about getting your web design project off the ground.