How to Brief a Web Designer

By Javan Bramhall 7 years ago
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Web Dsigner Briefing

Post Updated 26/05/2021 12:45 BST

A great web design brief is an essential part of getting effective results from your web designer or web agency. But where do you start? Clients having their first website build or a professional upgrade may have never done a web design brief. Getting it right can transform the end result. This post looks at how you can work with you digital agency or web developer in order to achive the best results for your brand.

What is a web design brief?

A web design brief is a document that details all the tools and information a client has. The web designer will use this document to make the end result its best.

What should my web design brief be based on?

Focus on the results and outcome

The content of the brief needs to focus on the results and outcome of the web design. How can it achieve the business objectives (sales, events, customer interaction, brand positioning etc.)?

That means that the brief should not focus on the aesthetics of the website. This is really important. It can feel natural to advise the web designer on your colour preferences, fonts, and the general image of how you envision it will appear. This ultimately clips the wings of the web designer. The designer is not costing just for time spent but for the depth of their conceptual abilities. Allow them that flexibility and the end design will be better for it.

The risk of dictating details like this is that many clients try to appeal to so many markets that the website becomes too broad – and appeals to none. Designs become compromised with a mash of styles and will often not look unique. There are also issues of usability that tend to be avoided by allowing the web designer to place functions in the best places.

We’re not saying that suggestions will be ignored, or that they are necessarily bad. You won’t end up with a site like this. It is best to make these suggestions after the first draft of the site has been completed, if they remain relevant. You may find the website already exceeds your expectations.

What does a website design brief look like?

The Layout:

  • Outline the business

Begin by outlining your business. Avoid jargon. Explain what you do, your history and intended direction. This helps to inform the website and the market it will be competing in. It allows us to explore competitor’s choices and start thinking about achieving the business objectives rather than visual expectations. It is also more time efficient if these facts are presented upfront.

  • Current digital presence

Detail your businesses current digital presence. This includes social media channels and existing websites. This allows us to see your branding/positioning efforts to date and how we can build on that – and perhaps synchronise the channels to a consistent theme.

  • The project goal; what does success look like?

Go on to explain why you’re asking for web design work. Is there a message you want the website to convey, and why? Are you creating a digital presence for your customers, or giving them more content to engage with? Does success mean many new users or serving a smaller, solid base? Is the web design work awareness based?

Once that is pinned down – what is your USP? All of this will help inform the creative choices.

  • What is the context of the web design work?

Detail the reason behind the work. Is there a brand reinvention? Are you updating or expanding the business? Is your old website just dated?

The web designer will need some reference to the existing work.

Even if the task is to reinvent the brand, it is useful to have the old documents. This is good for consistency and knowing what to change or keep.

  • What is your target market?

At this point, it should be relatively clear for us to tell, but there can be surprises. Detail your target market and the priority audience of that target market. Include the geographics, demographics and whether it is business-to-user, business-to-business, age, gender, income etc. This information will help us choose a style for the website that embraces the experience level of its users and their most likely access point (mobile, tablet, laptop etc.).

Other design brief content

The quality of the final website is strongly limited by the source material. That includes graphics, photography and copy.

The images for some websites are absolutely crucial. Here is an example of a website we have created that would not look half as good as it does without the work of the professional photographer they hired to reflect them. Consult with your web designer to get their professional opinion on the need for these. You can see this website for an example when professional photography wasn’t necessary (another of our creations).

The brief should state who is providing these source materials and who you are asking to do it. If they are being done, we would recommend getting them done professionally, especially photography, as the end result will be stunted without.

  • Functional requirements

List what purposes the technology of the website will serve. For example, for this website we had to create a searchable map that contained the schools around Birmingham. Other examples are shopping carts, blog pages, forums and galleries.

  • Technical requirements

Going slightly deep into the technical requirements, it’s helpful to list who will be hosting the website, who is responsible for maintenance and who needs access. If you’re unsure, talk them through with the web designer and they should advise on the best setup.

  • Who approves?

Quite simple; state who is required to approve the website and if there are any use of partner and third party logos to consider. When third party companies or organisations are involved, both client and web designer must be mindful of their brand guidelines.

  • Benchmarking

Provide the web designer with examples of websites that you like aspects of. Also show us any serious competitors. This will help the web designer understand your expectations of relevant websites, but also what you don’t want to see. For example, there could be a busy website from a competitor that you absolutely don’t want to go near, and would rather have a clean design. This is broad enough to avoid clipping the designer’s wings. Examples help the web designer see the client’s tastes without stating their likes and dislikes, which generally aren’t good at expressing tastes.

  • Budget

Knowing a budget is the best way for the web designer to advise on appropriate solutions to meet the goals of the web design project. Stating a budget within the brief prevents the web designer wasting valuable time and also saves time on the client side too. Openness ensures that the project can be delivered, and that the web designer and client will be a realistic and good fit for each other. Stating a budget of £1,000 will mean many agencies won’t consider it, much like stating a budget of £20K means smaller agencies will stay away.

  • Timescale and deadline

Offer a realistic schedule. Consider not just the amount of time needed for the website to be designed and built, but also the availability of yourself to review the website and request and approve amends.

Consider also that the stages of a project will stagger time; the consultation, concept development, production and delivery can only happen consecutively. Specific technical functions may take more time to develop. Some copy for the site is likely to need to come from the client, so this needs to be allowed time for too.

The Guiding Document

All websites will benefit from having time to properly review. Rushing a web design project will see the end result less than it could be. Preparing your brief with all of this information will help towards avoiding this, especially if the project is very tight on time. If tight, be upfront about it. Designers understand that these projects can fall to short deadlines, and that’s okay – but they need to know.

The web design brief is the guiding document for the project. You can think of it like a business plan, but just for a specific task. It should cover everything necessary to the project that is easy to refer to throughout the timeline. Finally, it needs to be in black and white – a verbal brief will not suffice.

At Digital Glue, this is what we do. We know that our best work comes from listening first. We give you the information you need to ensure that the results are the best they can be. Getting us a well-built web design brief means that you will save time in the long-run and get the very best value for your investment.

If you need help pulling together your web design brief or have a great brief that needs turning into a great website, we’d love to hear from you. Get in touch.

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