How to write an effective website brief

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Whether you need a new website or to update your current site, most businesses will need to employ a web development company to work with. Preparing an effective website brief will help you to appoint the right partner to work with and will enable them to develop a website that meets your needs and expectations.

Following the guidance below will help you prepare a comprehensive brief and going through it logically is a great way of clarifying your own thinking about your new site.

What is the driver for the project?

The first thing to document is why you want a new or updated site.

Is it that your existing website looks tired? Do you have a new product or service area which you want to introduce? Have you decided on a different strategy for your business which focuses on a new target audience? Do you want to introduce new functionality, such as an on-line shop or a news or blog section? Are you looking to reposition your business? Do you need to respond to a change in the market or in your customers’ needs? Are you looking to establish yourselves as a new company?

Whatever the driver, setting that out will give some context for the project.

What do you want the new site to deliver?

Next detail what you want to the new website to achieve for you. Try to set out what good would look like in your eyes.

How important is the performance in on-line searches? Do you want people to request quotes? Are you aiming to get people to sign up to receive communications from you? Do you have any particular events or campaigns that you need your website to service? Will you be using it to actively recruit staff? Is it all about online sales?

This will be as much for your benefit as for the website developers, so try to think through all your aspirations for the site. A good website company will feed back to you if they think any of your goals are incompatible or unachievable within your budget.

Provide relevant company details

This section should include information on:

  • How long you’ve been operating

  • The company’s values

  • What services or products you offer

  • The target audience you currently serve and whether that will be the same for your new site

  • The geographical area you need to reach: local, UK, global, selected countries

  • Current website address (if you have one) and any other websites or web addresses you use

  • Any other presence you have on-line, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pintrest, etc.

  • Any partnerships you want to reinforce

It’s also helpful to provide details on who your key competitors are and how you differentiate yourself from them.

What you like and don’t like about your current website

Setting out what you do and don’t like about your current website is important in guiding the development of the new site. If there isn’t anything you like, just say so. If you like the way certain elements look or are organised then set that out. This will help the website company identify where it needs to spend time, as well as where is doesn’t. Think at this point about whether you will be reusing any of the text or images you currently have.

Other websites or features you like

We all spend time looking at websites as customers, so use your own experiences to highlight what you consider to be done well. It could be about functionality which you think works well, a site which has the look and feel you want or a layout style you like.

The more clues you can give the website company, the more quickly they will come up with what you want.

New website requirements

Give an overview of what you want the site to have or to showcase. This could include:

  • Any particular ‘feel’ for the site or aspects you want reflected through the site

  • Industry accreditations or awards you have and want to see profiled

  • Requirement for news feed link to social media or time sensitive pages, such as for news, promotions, events, etc.

  • Does it need to have mirrored sections in another language or be completely bilingual?

  • Will you want a separate, login, area for existing customers?

  • Do you want to offer on-line shopping?

Include an outline page structure for the new site, if you already know what you want this to look like. If not, list the pages you want to include and ask for guidance on structuring this effectively.

Who will be visiting the site?

If you have different customer segments identified, then include these. Will they be individuals or companies? Does it need to provide information for staff? What about journalists?

Some other useful information to include would be:

  • Who will be updating the site, how comfortable are they with doing this and how often will you be adding new content?

  • Will you be writing new copy and getting new photography done or will you want to reuse existing content?

  • Who will be managing the project for you and what is their role in the company?

Timescale

Will the project start straight away or is it something for later in the year? Is there a target completion date and, if so, is this a hard deadline or is there some scope for slippage?

If there’s a need to get new photography or write new copy, is this in hand yet? You may want to wait until you have initial designs before doing this, in which case say so as this will impact the timeline.

Budget

It’s much better to set out your budget for the development of your new website than simply hope for a quote which fits with your available resource. Whilst a low budget may rule out some companies, it’s unproductive to waste time on those who can’t work with the amount you have available.

When giving a budget figure, say whether this is just for the design and build of the site or if it includes anything else, such as new text and photography or redesigning your social media graphics to match.

Submission requirements

If you’ve decided to go through a tendering process, state what you want in terms of a submission back – such as specific details of how they approach the design stage of the development, number of days’ work included, or any pre-launch site testing they include.

Every company has a different quote style and if you don’t set out what you want to assess, then it can be difficult to make comparisons.

Set out the timescale for receiving submissions and when you anticipate selecting the successful company. That will help them plan their workload, keep you on track and save you from receiving unnecessary follow up calls.

Summary

Having a website which appropriately represents your company and serves the needs of your customers is key for any business, so developing a new site or updating your existing one is a crucial project.

Preparing a comprehensive brief will help you to clarify your thinking, help the website company to deliver what you want and make the process as easy as possible, so make sure you give it the time it deserves.

If you need help developing a brief for your website, managing the tender and development process or writing new customer focused and keyword optimised content, we can assist. Find out more about how we can help you get the website you want and need.