Creating the perfect Web Design Brief - A Client Guide
Web design entails more than just looks - it requires consideration of brand and creative expression, marketing activities, UX and technology, all delivered via an engaging interface across multiple platforms.
Knowing what goes into the website design process helps with choosing the right agency and people to create, manage and develop your website. Ultimately this partnership will enable you to engage with your customers or clients more effectively. And of course, you may have an idea or concept that will change your business forever - you just need the right agency to translate your epiphany into code.
A great website starts with a good brief.
In this second instalment of our Client Guide series, we’ll take you through the planning and creative stages of designing a new website. We’re offering you a free comprehensive download that will walk you through the briefing process so that you can communicate exactly what you need to your chosen agency - so grab a coffee and get started.
Step One. Define your budget and timescale expectations.
For most businesses, marketing spend on a new website will be clear cut from the outset. For others it may be idea first, budget later, so providing a possible budget can help your potential agency recommend realistic creative and technical solutions.
As well as the website design and build, will you need any of the following?
- Brand Development - the first step of any design project should be to review brand collateral. A brand review will look at elements such as tone of voice, colourways, and undertake market research to ensure your audience is connecting with your brand.
- Ongoing maintenance - this could be anything from content updates to database management.
- Hosting - hosting costs vary according to provider and to the site you require. Having an idea of the running costs may impact on design decisions.
- Phased Development - for example, campaign led microsites, or ecommerce sites that grow over time and require more services to be added. These types of project work well under a phased development process, allowing each element to be launched separately and spread cost.
- Design or Technical Partners - be clear who will be doing what and what services you require. Some agencies only provide certain services, so choosing a full service agency can help to streamline these costs.
- Deadlines and commercial commitments - while these may seem obvious to state, being transparent with your agency as to who is involved in the decision and approval process is very helpful when briefing, so everyone has a handle on reasonable timescales of delivery.
Step Two: Explain your business.
It’s not enough to spend money on a great looking site if it doesn’t perform the functions your customers need - unless it is engaging with your core audience you won’t see the ROI you expect. If you know your brand, then explain your business, your values and your vision to the agency. Then define your goals.
A good web agency employs amazing people who understand what works and what doesn’t, and how to best engage your audience. Choosing an agency with a digital marketing background has huge benefits - they’ll build your website from the ground up using conversion optimisation and know exactly how to make your website work harder for your users.
Include details about the following in your background information:
Your agency will use information on your audience to create user profiles - involving research into the kinds of behaviour these users exhibit online. This helps to select the best layouts, colours, features and functions.
Who will be using the website and what do they want? Do you have specific demographics or an existing user base, or are you expanding your target audience?
Products / Services
If your agency understands what you sell then they can create a content strategy that guides your prospective customers through a user journey that resonates.
What do you sell? Why do people buy it? Does it solve a pain or present an opportunity for them? How do they buy it? Most importantly what are the USPs of what you offer?
Competitor research provides a lot of insight both into how your competitors operate and also what content and features they have implemented on their own websites. Are there features you feel would work well on your own website? if so, it is useful to explain if any of these more desirable for your business than others.
Step Three: Project your ideas.
This stage of the brief is about reviewing your current site and your marketing activities. It’s one of the most important and will guide a lot of the design decisions.
Give your agency a real feel of your website’s history and success, and how it fits into your business model. Having this insight enables them to see what can be improved, identify where problems have arisen in the past, or what is working well, and what else could be implemented in order to achieve your goals.
This is the key thread throughout the creative process. Tell your agency what you will be looking at to measure success.
Describe what you want - more traffic, more conversions, more sales? Your website design will be dependent on these measurables. For example, you may want ‘more traffic’, but what you really want is better traffic, or more conversions. A good agency will be able to identify where your website design is standing in the way of this.
Marketing & Content
This is the point at which you should outline your current marketing activities, so that your new website can be integrated into these seamlessly and improvements made. Consider what type of marketing support the site needs to perform and whether you need help with ongoing marketing input.
Key things to brief on are:
- Lead generation - downloads, forms, sign ups.
- Calls to action - where, what and how
- Customer service and CRM activities
- Existing marketing collateral - videos, social media channels and anything that needs to be included on pages. If these don’t exist, would you like them?
- Desired marketing collateral - do you want a blog site for example, and where will the content for this be coming from. Share any marketing plans so your agency can help identify touchpoints where specific features may be needed.
- SEO - although distinct from website design, SEO considerations and activities will feed into the design and should be considered from the outset. Let your agency know if you have an existing strategy.
Bear in mind, that although good SEO goes a long way to improve your visibility in SERPs, you should first and foremost be optimising for your consumers, not for Google (even Google recommends this!).
Many website design projects begin with a brand review. If you have brand collaterals share these with the brief. If not, then define what you might want to commission, such as logo or tone of voice. At Bozboz we work from the roots up and our website development process starts with a review of your brand and brand identity to ensure consistent and effective communication of your brand across all your assets
Step Four: Define your wishlist.
The last stage of the website design brief is all about technical specifications, based on the purpose of the website. You may or may not have a definitive list, and your agency should be able to recommend other features that could work well at achieving your objectives.
Must Have Functionality
These are the nuts and bolts of your website. and can be anything from CRM to ecommerce functions to behind the scenes features such as stock levels and your desired CMS. Be specific about browser and platform requirements - think about your end user. You need to be mobile ready - and this is one of the top reasons for any website rebuild. Share a sitemap or schematic of what you expect from your new website.
This is where you can define your dream, and this is where giving your agency a good brief will help to realise your vision. Think about the type of widgets, tools and other functions your site will need, but keep in mind the idea of stickability - those features that users are familiar with and keep your users hanging around, for example a highlight reel, news feed, contact form or business awards.
Non standard Technical considerations
Are there additional technical considerations to be aware of beyond those that will have been detailed in the previous sections? Make sure you include any limitations, such as being able to access the site from different locations or offices, or having user level capabilities and further development requirements.
Step 5: Engage an agency who understands your business.
Last but certainly not least, engage an agency who puts in the effort to truly understand your business. Once you’ve engaged them, trust in their creativity, keep talking to them through the development process and allow them to translate your vision to the online world.
So there you have it. Whether the web project is big or small, going through the briefing process clarifies your vision… you may even consider things or have ideas you never thought possible!
If you’re ready to put together your website design brief, download our full guide and easy to use template - just fill in the form below and start creating!