You want a new website – and you want to know how much it will cost. In order to even get estimates, any decent digital agency will ask to see your project brief. The website brief is an absolutely essential starting point that will guide the entire creative process from then on in.
There is no industry standard methodology of writing a website brief – some will focus on the overall business philosophy and values, whilst others will drill into explicit detail of what they want every single button on every single page to do.
It can be difficult to judge how much technical or creative detail to provide in your website brief, and to know what an agency will require so that they can give you an accurate quote. More importantly, what’s written in your brief will directly affect the outcome of the entire project.
Whether you’ve managed a digital project before or not, the following steps should help you and your chosen agency build the best possible website for your budget.
Here are 13 points a good website brief should incorporate:
1. About Your Business
Company information is often overlooked in website briefs – but we need to know all about your business! Info about company history, brand, size, staff and locations will all help us understand what you’re all about. Include a summary on the services or products you provide. Describe to us the very DNA,values and company mission.
Also include any plans for future growth that might be important for us to be aware of.
2. Target audience & users
Try your best to describe the type of people that the website is targeted at. Describe what your ideal client looks like. This will help us design a site geared towards those exact people.
You could even expand upon this with some market research from your existing customers. What do they want to see? What will help you to help them?
3. Goals of the New Site
What are the overall aims of the new site? Most often we’ll see a mix of the following:
- Increase brand awareness.
- Improve online presence with a modern, and mobile responsive website design.
- Increase online exposure through natural and paid listings.
- Increase sales.
- Generate leads and enquiries.
- Improved source of information through e-learning or blogs.
- Bespoke requirements for clients i.e. bespoke platforms or services.
If you think it will be important – include a section about your old site. What works, what doesn’t, things to lose, things to retain, what you don’t like about it.
4. Competitors or sites you Like
Who are your main competitors? We can look at what they’re doing right and what they’re doing wrong. Some may have particular areas of interest i.e. key functionality. Which sites have great designs that you like? Take a look at things like layout, colour schemes, typography, photography, and unique tools or features.
Try providing a list of links with reference notes for each of them.
5. Look & feel
Following on from looking at your competitors, or pages that you like – try and describe the ‘look & feel’ of the new site.
“The website is aimed at athletes so we want a clean, modern, and sporting look. A red/white/blue colour scheme like zzz.com would work well and we think this will give a really fresh feel to the site. Cool fonts like the ones on yyy.com might look good. The whole website just needs to ooze sports, fitness, and wellbeing.”
Pay attention to any nice user interface features you like. Do you like lifestyle photography or illustrations? How much of a free reign do you want our designers to have?
6. Technical features & requirements
This section is very important for larger projects. In order to avoid scope creep later into the project (and additional costs) be as thorough as you can here.
- Does the site feature user logins? How will registrations be handled, authorised, and managed? What will be on the user dashboard? Describe every single bespoke feature that will be required.
- Is the site e-commerce? If so, describe product categories and variations, payment/checkout methods required, shipping cost calculations, shipping tracking, discount codes, any referral discounts etc
- API Integration – Will the site need to integrate with any external feeds or APIs – if so, we’ll need thorough detail and actual examples of these.
- User profiles – What data will be included? What search criteria?
- Established institutions may have in-house coding guidelines – we’ll need to see these.
Also list the general areas of the site that will be required such as:
- Social media feeds
- Discussion Forum
- Interactive Map
- Events section
- Online Bookings
- Portfolio Section
- Team Page
7. In-house requirements
Describe how the site will be managed on a day-to-day basis. How regularly will you be updating and adding content? Will any form of data export be required from the site? Other than standard Google Analytics, do you need to gather any more on-going data from the site?
Will you be providing new content for the site? If so, it will be a good idea at this point to plot a rough sitemap in your brief. How many pages will there be in total?
Be clear on who makes up the team for producing this content, and what the approval process is. Supply of content is very often a sticking point in delaying website launches, so start considering this from day 1.
What photography, illustrations or graphics are currently available?
9. Hosting, support & maintenance
Typically you’ll want your chosen agency to host the site for you, alternatively you may have other hosting arrangements – please detail these. How much on-going support do you think will be required for the site? What might you need help with moving forward?
Any modern hosting setup should be secure, provide regular backups, and most of all provide a website that is fast.
10. Online marketing & SEO
So you finally set your amazing new website live, and you don’t get a single visit all year – because nobody knows it’s there. Digital marketing is absolutely vital to the success of your new website. If you already have marketing plans in place, it can be helpful to summarise them.
There’s nothing worse than investing a lot in your brand new website, but then forgetting that you’ll actually need to drive visitors to it. SEO (search engine optimisation), pay-per-click, social media & email marketing have never been more powerful, and any new website requires a well thought out and planned online strategy. Also don’t forget traditional forms of advertising such as print, and definitely don’t forget word of mouth.
Sometimes a timescale might not be of importance – and the project can take as much time as it needs to get right. In other cases, there might be an absolutely vital deadline.
Letting an agency know your timescales will help them better plan resources and run a smoother project from day one.
12. The future – measuring your success
How will you judge the success of the new website? Do you have sales or visitor targets? A good agency might be able to offer tips and services to help achieve these.
Think of some goals for the first and second year that you’d like to hit.
Yes, your budget! Why do we need to know this?
Firstly, we find that many people are uneducated when it comes to digital agency costs. If your budget is a few hundred pounds, we would invite you to visit a DIY website builder like WIX or Shopify. Remember that you’re paying for a service as well as a product. Your brief needs to include guideline budgets so that agencies can best plan how your money can be spent to achieve your website goals.
An agency will know that with a higher budget, they can spend more time on UX design, or a thorough digital marketing campaign. If the budget is lower, an agency will know what core services are required to achieve a successful V1 of the site. Specifying a price range, however vague, is the best way to summarise this i.e. £7,500-£10,000 ex VAT.
When you’ve invested some time and thought into your brief, not only will you have a much clearer picture of what you want your end goal to be, but you’ll also be able to send that brief to an agency, knowing that you should receive a clear costings, timescales, and intentions from them to move your project forward.
— Pixel Kicks (@Pixel_Kicks) January 30, 2018