What is a web design brief?
A design brief is an essential document that you produce for your web designer that covers the task at hand, the objectives of the project, the strategic direction of the design and the elements that the website must contain.
Taking the time to create this document ensures that both the client and designer are singing from the same hymn sheet throughout the design process and leaves no room for second-guessing, assumptions and mistakes. As a client, the intrinsic result of writing a good brief is that you have considered in great detail what you want to achieve from the project. Your expectations are far more likely to be realistic and the communication during the process of building your site will run smoothly.
How do I write a brief?
The first thing is to ensure you get executive or management buy-in before you approach the designer. If key stakeholders of your business have participated in defining the goals of the website, you can be confident in handling the rest of the project.
The next stage is to answer the series of questions below. By systematically working through these you will consider everything you need to in order to provide a web designer with enough information to meet, or indeed exceed, your expectations and help you achieve your business goals.
1. What is your budget?
Too often, clients are reluctant to discuss budget in the initial stages of communication. If this is a sensitive subject for you, consider these points:
- By being open and frank about your available budget, your designer can create a realistic proposal for the project and manage your expectations from the start.
- A freelancer may seem cheaper initially but you are paying for one individual’s skills and experience.
- A web design company brings the combined skills and experience of its team, and the reputation and recommendations that come from working with a greater number of clients. The support and ongoing site maintenance is often better too!
- When do you need the site to be completed and live? By being honest about budget and timeframe, your designer can plan an appropriate work schedule.
2. What is your business?
- How big is the company and how many employees?
- What is its history?
- What are the company values?
- What are the short term and long term goals of the business?
- Who are your competitors?
- How do you differ from your competitors?
- What is your USP?
- Who are your customers and prospects?
- What ten words would you use to describe your company?
Don’t assume your web designer already understands everything about your business. A local company’s website will be entirely different to that of a global company. Is one of the aims of a new site to appeal to a wider audience perhaps? Or meet the needs of your current market more efficiently? The demographic of your target market will significantly affect the look and feel of the site. An explanation of the business decision behind getting a new site is often really helpful.
3. What kind of website do you want?
- Why do you want a new website?
- What did you like and dislike about the old one?
- What DON’T you want from a new site?
- What other websites do you like and what is it you like about them? (These don’t have to be industry specific!)
- What do you want your customers to do with the site? (Is it to encourage purchase, to inform or educate? etc)
- What are your long term plans for the site?
- Who will liase with the designer and provide copy and images?
- Who will be responsible for updating the site? (How tech-savvy are they? This may prompt a discussion of maintenance agreement options)
Be specific about what you like about another website – is it the overall design, typography, layout, colours, images, ease of use, the atmosphere the design creates etc? If you have different long term plans for the site, your designer may be able save you money in the long run by developing a CMS that can accommodate different requirements in the future.
4. Content and Function
- What pages do you want and how many?
- Do you want all pages to have the same template? – that should be up to the designer
- How much content is there and when/by whom will it be written?
- Do you want to gain subscribers? (RSS or newsletter)
- Do you require certain social integration with your networks? (Flickr, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook etc)
- Do you require a site search facility?
- Do you require a Googlemap?
- Do you require an online form?
- Would you like email hosting?
By answering all of these questions you have written a great design brief. To write the ultimate one, however, you can provide a sketch of page layout, of headings, of how you want pages to interact with each other, of where you want certain images placed etc . The more specific you are about your goals the better! The one thing designers don’t want to hear is “be creative!”
Communication is everything! Feel free to use this use and share this guide!