Let’s be honest: starting a website project is not for the faint hearted! And let’s not even begin to discuss the creation of the website design brief. It’s not only a difficult task to master, but essentially, this is the document that will direct the entire web design and development process!
Providing a comprehensive website brief to your design agency will result in a more accurate cost proposal – good for your budget, as well as a website that meets, and hopefully exceeds, your greatest expectations.
The best way to approach this task is to jot down some key points and then expand on each one. Include these 7 essential elements and you can be sure the design team will have a solid understanding of exactly what you are looking for.
1. BE OPEN ABOUT YOUR BUDGET
First of all, outlining your budget early on will give the design agency a chance to adapt their proposal to meet your expectations. Also, it will help them to review your individual needs and offer creative solutions as to how meet these needs within the budget provided. Providing a realistic budget in the website design brief will result in a realistic proposal.
If you don’t have a fixed budget to work from, then offer a price range you are happy with. Remember you will need to keep some of your budget aside for unexpected costs.
Being open and upfront with your budget from the beginning will result in realistic estimates you can easily compare, as all vendors will be working with the same assumptions, and it will most definitely save you a lot of unnecessary time and effort in the long run.
2. TALK ABOUT YOUR ORGANISATION
In order understand your website vision, the design team will need information about your organisation such as:
- Why do people care about what your organisation does?
- What makes you unique?
- What offers and services do you provide?
- How big is your organisation?
- How long have you been around?
- Who are your current and ideal audiences and customers?
- Which countries do they come from?
- Why are they visiting your website?
- What are your organisational values and objectives?
- Where do you want to be in 5 years?
- Do you have a marketing plan? Can you share the basic outline?
- What 10 words best describe your organisation? e.g. young, dynamic, traditional, innovative…
By offering an understanding of your organisation, a website designer will be able to identify those areas that are most important to you and provide innovative solutions on how to display these on your website.
3. CONSIDER HOW THIS WEBSITE WILL HELP YOU AND YOUR AUDIENCE
If you’re looking at a website redesign it means your current website is no longer meeting your requirements, right? It’s important to provide the design team with a complete website design brief with both information about why your existing website no longer serves its purpose, as well as what a successful website would look like to you. Think about these questions:
- What problems are you facing with your current website? e.g. it is difficult for our customers to find the information they want, the current website is slow and outdated, our website is not responsive.
- What are your long-term plans for the website? e.g. we’d like to start a blog, increase our subscriber list.
- Which parts of your current website do you like/not like? e.g. We like the colors and images, but our audience can’t find their way around
- What other websites do you like/not like?
- Which elements cannot be present on your new website? e.g. we can’t use the color blue as our main competitor uses blue
- What are your aims for the new website? e.g. to allow people to buy tickets, subscribe to our newsletter, communicate upcoming events, provide a download function for forms
- How will you promote your new website once it’s online?
- Do you have brand and style guidelines?
- Does your organization have any promotional material the designers could find useful?
- Do you have analytics in place that could provide information on audience location, device and browser preferences and website traffic, can you share some information?
Consider why they will visit your website and what they would like to do. Remember that it’s important for your audience to have a good user experience so always consider their requirements in order to ensure that you to promote your organisation in the most effective way.
4. LIST YOUR DESIRED FEATURES AND FUNCTIONS
When thinking about website features and functions, it’s important to think about what actions you’d like your audience to take when visiting your website. This may include purchasing tickets, making donations, signing up for a newsletter or sharing your content on social networks. To help you get started, here are some questions to think about:
- Will you want the audience to sign up to a newsletter?
- Would you like to promote events or sell products or services?
- Do you use third party integrations such as events management and ticketing systems?
- Will you require integration with your social networks?
- Do you need an online form for subscriptions?
- Do you require a Google Map?
- Will you need a live chat or callback feature?
- Will you have a blog or news on your website?
- Do you need image and video galleries?
- Will you need a search function?
- Do you require an event calendar with filters?
5. TRY TO INCLUDE AN OUTLINE OF YOUR WEBSITE CONTENT IN THE WEBSITE DESIGN BRIEF
Knowing what content you’d like on your website is imperative for the success of the website design! If you start with a design based on 2 sentences, which ends up being 4 paragraphs and 3 images, you’re likely to unnecessarily waste time and money.
The management of your website content is also an important element to consider, meaning what content will need to be changed or updated on a regular basis:
- Do you need to edit text and images only?
- Will you need to restructure pages or create new pages?
- Would you like to create links, such as those to a brochure reader or iTunes?
- Will you have videos on your website?
- Do you need to display content from third party sites such as an Instagram feed, booking, or ticketing system?
- Would you like to add files for download? In what formats?
- Do you have someone available who could administer a content management system?
- Will they need training?
- What levels of access will you need? Full access to change all content or would you prefer to provide access for your team to change certain pages only?
- Do you have content (texts, images, videos…) available for the website design?
- Who will be responsible for producing website content?
- Have you reviewed your existing website content to ensure it’s still applicable?
Website content and management is a crucial part of audience engagement. Keeping your website content fresh shows your audience that you are attuned to their changing needs and promotes awareness of new initiatives. There are pros and cons to having great flexibility over your website content management – the more control you have, the less you need to pay developers to make these changes. However, there’s also a higher risk of impacting your website design, so substantial training will be required.
6. OUTLINE ANY TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
Both the development and the design teams will need to have an understanding of any technical requirements you may have:
- Will you be keeping your URL or do you need a new one?
- Do you have any additional subdomains that need to be considered?
- What are you browser requirements? To make a website function correctly in an old browser will require more work from the developers.
- Where will the website be hosted?
- Do you want the agency/developer to take care of setting up the hosting for you?
- Will you need a CDN (content delivery network) – to improve your website speed?
- Do you require video hosting such as Vimeo or YouTube?
- Will there be any 3rd party system integrations for your CRM, shop, ticketing or event management systems?
- Will you need a backup solution?
- Who will be responsible for the ongoing maintenance?
It’s important to provide accurate information for your website technical requirements as this will most certainly impact both the scope and the cost of the website development, especially when dealing with integrations to other systems.
7. ADD YOUR FINAL THOUGHTS AND EXPECTATIONS
Finally, once you’ve worked through the key points for the website design brief, finish up by adding a short summary of what you’ll expect from a proposal. Include information on your preferred timeframe for both the proposal as well as the website. Remember that the proposal you receive from any agency will only be as accurate as the information you provide in your website brief.