How to write a brief for a website

Article by:

Lewis Lewis

Founder of Method & Class. Designer, developer and all-rounder.

When I’m not happily pushing pixels around, I like to dine out with my wife (Esther), walk our dog (Bonnie) or tinker with a classic car. Can be found on Twitter, Facebook or Google+

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How to write a brief for a website
If you’re reading this, the chances are that you have been given the task of writing a brief for a new website or a redesign of your old website. You’re in luck: this page will help guide you through the process. It’s not the definitive list of what you’ll need, but it’s certainly an excellent starting point, and will serve as food for thought.

We have broken this guide up into a number of stages to make it more manageable.

Introduction

The web design company will need to know a bit about your company in order to get a feel for how they should design your website. A good starting point would be to list the following:

  • A couple of paragraphs about your company
  • The products your sell or services you provide
  • The size of the company – e.g. the number of employees, a rough turnover figure (if you want to provide it – there is a lot of difference between how a £100,000 company and a £100,000,000 company should look!)
  • Are you an international company? If so, which countries?
  • How long have you been established?
  • Describe the company using five or ten words (e.g. young, vibrant, technology based etc.)

The old website

If you have an existing website, firstly let the web design company know the URL! (the web address) Then answer the following questions:

  • What is good about the website?
  • What is bad about the website? (i.e. old colour schemes, out-dated design)
  • How long ago was it built? and who built it?
  • What levels of traffic is it currently receiving?
  • What percentage of the traffic is from smart phones & tablets?
  • Which countries are you visitors from?
  • What are the top 5 web browsers and platforms (Mac/PC/Android/iOS) visiting your website?
  • How often do you get a genuine sales lead through the website?
  • Who is responsible for updating the site?

In order to meet your requirements, any design agency would need to know why the old website is no longer suitable. So also detail anything else that could be relevant.

The new website

You must now examine what you need from the new website. So, a good starting point would be to consider the following:

  • Outline the aims of the website ( e.g. to increase traffic, increase product awareness, generate more sales, offer e-commerce, advertise a new product or service)
  • Who is the target audience? Has this changed from the old site? What are the demographics (e.g. children, adults, social class, income levels, location, etc.)
  • How will your target audience be accessing your site – via their phones, tablets or desktops?
  • Is the new website part of a re-brand, or a new product launch?
  • Is there other advertising taking place that the new website should tie in with?
  • What are the unique selling points for your company, your products or your services?
  • What industry are you aiming the website at?
  • Is the market already saturated with competitors?
  • List a few competitors’ websites.
  • For e-commerce websites, you should detail who you bank with – this will be important for deciding on which payment gateway you should use.

Budget

Outlining your budget is very important. Have no doubt, you will get better, more accurate quotes in response. If all of the agencies know what the budget is and are working to the same brief, you’re likely to get very similar quotes, which is good, right? At least you can compare apples with apples.

  • What is the budget for design and development of the website?
  • Is there a budget for ongoing support and maintenance?
  • What is the online marketing budget for the next 6 months?

The look and feel of the new website

The website should be an extension of any offline media, advertising or branding that you have. It is always helpful to be provided with a brochure, some marketing literature or the annual report to help get a feel for the company, so include them with the brief.

In order to get an idea of the kind of site that you want, it is worthwhile noting three or four websites that you like – not necessarily competitors’ or sites related to your industry, just give a few example sites that you like the colour schemes of, the navigation, or the interactive elements.

The content of your new website

Start thinking about how you want to populate your new site.

Resist the urge to duplicate your existing content in your new site – if your existing site is letting you down in some way, the chances are that the content is no longer up to scratch. Having thought about your target audience, take the opportunity to review whether your content still meets their needs.

Don’t put this off until the end of the project – start thinking now about how you’re going to produce the copy text. Do you have the resources or skills to create and supply the text to go on the website? If the answer to these questions is no, you will need a web copywriter as well – we can provide this service if necessary.

  • Do you have the skills & resources available to carry out a content audit of your existing website?
  • Who will be responsible for generating content
  • Can you provide any brand guidelines (preferably incorporating details on tone of voice, phraseology etc)?
  • Do you have any corporate images, photography or videos?
  • Can you provide your logo & corporate identity pack? Ideally in a vector format such as .eps, .pdf or .psd?

Technical requirements

You should outline any special technical requirements that your company might have:

  • Do you already own the domain?
  • Will you require hosting?
  • Is it an intranet/extranet or internet site?
  • If it is an intranet, is it a Windows only environment?
  • Are you on a Windows server or a Linux server?
  • Should you be catering specifically for text only browsers, audio web browsers or Braille readers?
  • Is your site likely to be targeting people with special needs or requirements? I.e. limited mobility, colour blind, deaf, learning difficulties etc.
  • Considering your exiting website’s analytics – do you have a particularly high proportion of mobile users?

Maintenance

The ongoing maintenance of a website is an often overlooked aspect of the website’s design:

  • Who will be responsible for the on-going maintenance of the website?
  • Do you have the skills, resources and time to maintain the website in-house?
  • What happens if that member of staff leaves the company?
  • Would you prefer to make an arrangement with the website design/ website development company for them to handle website maintenance?

Promotion

You are investing in a new website, so you want customers to see it, right? Now detail how you will promote it. An online business is no different to a traditional business it needs marketing.

Off-line promotion

A website should really be supported by an off-line strategy of promotion and advertising, perhaps consider including the following:

  • Postal mail shots
  • Brochures and flyers
  • PR exercises
  • Sponsorship
  • Vehicle wraps
  • Print advertising with QR codes

You might be thinking, ‘why do they need to know about off-line promotion’? There might be ways of linking the two together, for example, extracting all the postal addresses from your mailing lists and using them to print all the envelope address labels on the fly.

On-line promotion

The on-line promotion of a website is often overlooked when considering the website brief. The promotion of your website on the internet, both in terms of getting it on the search engines and also building links with other websites, is vitally important to the continued success of the site.

You should consider:

  • Building link partners.
  • Search engine optimization and submission.
  • Search engine paid listings (the sponsored links you see on the side of your search results – Google Adwords).
  • Email marketing – commonly HTML emails that are branded inline with the website.
  • Social media
  • Banner advertising on related websites.

Conclusion

You should finish your website design brief with a short conclusion, outlining what you would like to receive back from the design agency. As a rule of thumb, at Method & Class we provide a full proposal, detailing how the site would be built, the layout, the costs (initial and on-going), the timescales involved and any assumptions and conditions that we have made.

Don’t forget to include timescales and be realistic; a proper proposal can take a number of days to prepare, so don’t ask for it back in 2 days time.

A template brief is available to download at the top right of this page.

Good luck with your website design brief and don’t forget to include us on your list of companies to tender for the development work…

If we can help you with this, just give us a call on 01908 565755 – even if it’s just to have a chat about it all.