How to Brief a Web Designer

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? New businesses and start-ups may be working on their first website build or their first professional upgrade and may have never done a web design brief before. Getting this part right can transform the end result.

This post looks at how you can work with an agency or web developer to achieve the best results for your brand.

What is a web design brief?

A web design brief is a document that provides all the requirements, tools and information the developer needs to ensure they create a website specific to the business’ needs. The web designer will use this document to make the website as best it can be, in line with their clients requirements.

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 do you want your website to  achieve your business’ objectives ? This means that the brief should not focus on the aesthetics of the website. Although, it can feel natural to advise the web designer on colour preferences, fonts, and layout; this ultimately clips the wings of the web designer.

The risk of dictating the details is that many clients try to appeal to a broad audience, which ultimately leads to a limited one. Your website’s designs can become easily compromised with a mish-mash of styles, which means it will lose its unique edge. There is also the issue of usability that tends to be overlooked.

The designer is invoicing for their conceptual abilities as well as time, so it is crucial to allow them the flexibility they need to ensure the end result is aesthetically pleasing and functional.

Your suggestions shouldn’t be ignored, but we would suggest that you make these after the first draft of the site has been completed. However, you are likely to 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. Explain what you do, why you do it, your history and intended direction, avoiding jargon. This helps to inform the website and the market it will be competing in. It allows the agency to explore competitor’s choices and starts by thinking about achieving the business objectives rather than visual expectations. It is also lends to a more efficient process when these facts are presented upfront.

  • Current digital presence

Detail your business’ current digital presence. This includes all the social media channels you use and any existing websites. This allows us to see your brand’s position to date and how we can build on that.

  • The project goal; what does success look like?

Explain why you’re asking for web design work. Is there a particular 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, niche base? Is the web design work awareness based?

Once that is pinned down, make sure to detail 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 rebrand due? Are you updating or expanding the business? Is your old website outdated? 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 will give a good indication on what to change or keep.

  • What is your target market?

At this point, it should be relatively clear for them to tell, but clarity is important . Detail your target market and their priorities. Be sure to include their location, demographic and whether it is business-to-user, business-to-business, and the clients age, gender, income etc. This information will help us choose a style for the website that embraces the preference 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.

Images for your websites will be 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 a professional photographer. Consult with your web designer to get their professional opinion on 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.

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 schools around Birmingham. Other examples might be 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 this through with the web designer and they will 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 its brand guidelines.

  • Benchmarking

Provide the web designer with examples of websites that you like aspects of, also any serious competitors. This will help the web designer understand your expectations, and 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.

  • Budget

Knowing your budget is the best way for the web designer to advise on appropriate solutions to meet the goals of the project. Stating a budget within the brief prevents the web designer wasting valuable time and saves time on your side too. Openness ensures that the project can be delivered, and that the web designer and client will be a realistic fit for each other. Stating a budget of £1,000 will mean most agencies won’t consider it, and 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 factor in your availability 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 lack its true potential. Preparing your brief with all of this information will help avoid this, especially if the project is tight on time. If tight, be upfront about it. Designers understand that these projects can fall to short deadlines. 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. 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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