If you need to write a website design brief, chances are your company needs a re-design of an existing website, or you’re a startup business looking to improve your online presence.
This is not a definitive guide, but will set you off on the right foot and help you to understand what is required in writing the design brief for your website. Your website design brief will serve as a written explanation of your project and should outline your aims and objectives as well as any milestones. It will be an important document for you and your designer to reference throughout the project.
First your web company or designer needs help to understand your business so they can do the best job for you. Introduce yourself and your business with a few paragraphs including some key facts like these:
- When were you established?
- How many employees do you have?
- What is your annual turnover?
- How large is your customer base?
- Do you trade locally, nationally or abroad?
- What is your main product or service?
- What sets you apart from your competition?
Using the Template
I’ve created a template Website Design Brief to save you some time and get you started. Just follow the link below to see the file on Google Drive. You can make a copy of your own, or download the template as a Word document from the file menu.
Your Existing Website
If this project is going to replace/update an existing website, your designer needs to know why. Why does your existing website need improving?
- Does it look out of date?
- Is the information lacking or incorrect?
- Do you have enough control over your content?
- Does it cater for today’s mobile users?
- Does the website load too slowly?
- Is the navigation awkward?
- Does it generate enough enquiries, leads or sales?
- What do you like about it?
- When was it built?
If you have Analytics data regarding your existing site this is very helpful for any web company or designer to see. We can look at who is using the site, how many visitors you have, where they come from, how they found you and how they view your site (eg: via mobile / desktop, or from windows / mac computers). All this information is very relevant when looking at how a website can be improved and what it’s technical requirements will be. If you can provide it, please do.
The Aim of Your New Website
Examine the goals or your new website. What do you need from it? What will it do better than your last? Look at your target audience and give your designer all the details you can.
- What are your aims?
- Do you need to increase traffic / visitors?
- Do you need to spread awareness?
- Do you want to generate more sales?
- Are you launching a new product?
- Do you have a product or service you want to feature?
- Who is your target audience? Are they adults, teens or children? Are they from a specific industry or do they have a common interest? Are they from the same income band or a specific area? Are they male or female? Any information like this you can provide will be helpful for your designer.
- Who are your main competitors?
- Is there other advertising in place which this website will accompany?
- Do you want to improve search results for specific phrases?
You may feel like you don’t want to disclose this information, but outlining your budget is very important. You are likely going to send this brief to a few companies. If they know the budget you are working to, they can better advise on what is achievable. You will then be supplied with the most relevant quotes which will be easy to compare. Whatever your budget, a good designer will be able to offer you advice and guidance on the best approach to suit.
If you have a set budget for ongoing maintenance and marketing of your website, include those details too.
Now it’s time to outline your style guidelines. If you can give your designer some direction here you are more likely to get a faster end result which you are happy with.
- Do you already have a brand identity or logo design? Include the logo for your designer to see. Do you have high quality digital files of the design?
- What are your company colours?
- Do you have company vehicles? A photo would be helpful here.
- Can you provide existing leaflets or brochures?
- Have you seen any other websites you liked or were impressed by? List a few to help your designer understand your tastes.
If you do not have an existing brand or are not sure what direction you want to take with regards to style, say so. Your designer will be able to look at details regarding your target audience and product information to offer style guidance and come up with designs to best suit your industry.
Content is everything. Without content, you have no website. It is very important to have a clear plan for your web content at the beginning of your project, so start thinking about this now.
If you have an existing site that is lacking, it’s likely that the content on there needs work. Don’t be tempted to leave it as it is, and don’t copy and paste from your competitors. If you don’t have the skills to write your own content, talk to your designer. A good web designer will be able to offer or recommend a copywriting service for you to use.
Your designer will need the copy for your site content at the start of the project so they can design the site around it’s content. If you don’t already have the copy ready, just include an outline in the brief which lists the main page titles and sections of the site. Think about:
- Who will write your copy?
- Who will keep the content up to date?
- Do you have brand guidelines for the tone of your text?
- Who will be reading your copy?
- What do they want to know?
- Do you have media files to include? For example product photos or pdf brochures.
- Can you get professional product photographs from your suppliers?
Technical Details and Requirements
This can be difficult. You may not know what to mention or have any idea what you need. If that’s the case, say so. Your designer will be able to use the other information you have provided in the rest of this brief to offer guidance regarding technical requirements.
If you do have some technical knowledge or pre-requisites, please be as clear and as thorough as possible. Some examples of the details you might want to list are:
- Do you already own the domain name and hosting?
- Can you provide existing Analytics data for your current website?
- If you are selling products, do your stock levels need to be integrated with existing software?
- Do you need to accept payment online? Do you have a payment gateway in mind? Sometimes your options might depend on who you bank with.
- Will this project be for an Intranet? Provide network and server details.
- Do you expect to have users with disabilities? For example people who are blind, colour-blind or with learning difficulties.
- Will your staff or clients need access to login to the website? Detail why they will be logging in and what you want them to be able to do.
Promotion and Marketing
After investing time and money to create a brand new website with your designer, you will most likely want to promote it. Just like a traditional business, your online presence needs marketing too. Do you have a plan for this?
- How will you tell your existing clients?
- What mediums will you use to promote your new website? Will you use traditional methods like radio and newspapers? Will you use social media? Could you use a press release?
- Are there specific searches you want to be found for?
- Are there other websites which might want to link to you?
Telling your designer about your offline marketing plans will help them to integrate any online marketing you have planned too. Timing is key.
Milestones and Deadlines
If you have specific milestones or deadlines for the project outline them here. Try to be realistic as good quality work does take time. You may need to be flexible. If the time estimate for your project exceeds your intended deadline, your designer will be able to advise on the best approach by taking into account which features are most important.
Instead of releasing a site with all the bells and whistles, it is often wiser to launch at an earlier stage. By releasing new features and enhancing your site over time you can keep your clients interest and monitor feature usage more easily. As time goes by, a good designer will be able to use your Analytics data to advise on features to add / drop. Think about:
- Which features are the most important?
- What is the absolute minimum your website needs to launch?
- What features would you like to release at later dates?
- How have you decided what features to include? Have you had feedback from staff or clients? Have you considered asking their input?
Main Point of Contact
It is important to appoint a main point of contact for the design project. Who will be responsible for meeting with your designer and making sure your requirements are met? Detail that person/s here along with all their contact details.
Send Your Brief
If you’ve been through all the guidelines above and you’re ready to get started on your project, then it’s time to start sending out your design brief. Send me your brief too, so I can tender for your project and get back to you with a proposal. This can take a few days to prepare. Once you start receiving proposals you’ll likely want some time to think them all over – so don’t forget to plan time for this stage too.