the-art-of-writing-a-killer-website-brief

The experts over at iWeb have been designing and developing websites for over 20 years for clients of all shapes and sizes, so when it comes to website briefs, they've seen it all - the good, the bad and the ugly.

If you’ve been tasked with writing a website brief, you might be wondering where to start. The good news is that the art of writing a killer brief is actually pretty simple. This guide contains the core elements we recommend you include.

Why Create a Brief?

A great brief is the foundation upon which all successful websites are built.

Get it right and it smooths the path to cost effective, quality output; get it wrong and it leads to incorrect solutions, wasted time and lost enthusiasm.

The brief supplies a clear base from which the agency and client can align their thinking. It clearly defines your requirements and objectives, and records key information like budgets, deadlines and who is responsible for what.

The Brief

To deliver a fully efficient and successful website, it’s critical both parties understand your business and objectives inside and out. Think of it as the business plan for your website. The more information you can provide upfront, the better placed an agency will be to deliver your vision.

1. The Big Picture

Provide a project description and background:

  • Where are you now?
  • Current marketing and market perception – do you have any insights or research into buying cycles, level of brand recognition and how people recommend you?
  • What is your company’s proposition? How do you demonstrate this proposition?
  • What is your product proposition? Why should a customer be influenced/use/engage with you?
  • What are your products’ benefits? There is a difference between product features and product benefits, so what are the features of your service and why are these beneficial? What does this mean for the customer?
  • What must this project achieve? List in order of importance, e.g. reinforce the brand perception, show a particular range of products, services etc.
  • What do you see as the biggest obstacles to success?

2. Target Audience

Define who your target audience is and what they care about:

  • What are their motivations and inspirations? What turns them off?
  • How aware is your target market of your company and your current website?
  • Are you selling any membership or "members only" items?
  • What do you want your customers to do and why should they do it?
  • What is the single most important takeaway from their experience on your website?

3. Goals and Objectives

Think about what your customer should think or do in response to visiting your website:

  • Do you want a customer to call?
  • Do you want the customer to complete the whole transaction online? If so, what do you class as a transaction?
  • What do you need them to complete?
  • What do you want them to do with the information they’ve found on your website?
  • What are the main calls-to-action?

4. The Current Website

If you already have a website, provide some insights on the following:

  • What is good about your website?
  • What is bad about your website, e.g. not mobile-responsive, outdated design, etc?
  • What levels of traffic is it currently receiving?
  • Which countries are your visitors from?
  • How many conversions, e.g enquiries, sales and leads do you get through the website?

5. Competitors

Map out your competitive landscape:

  • What are your competitors doing? Include any notable marketing activities, strengths and weaknesses, description of competitive pressures on your business and creative objectives.
  • What do you like and dislike about your competitors?
  • Are there any specific bits of functionality you would like to replicate?

6. Project Management and Timeline

It’s important everyone knows what is involved and when it’s needed by. This will help you and your agency allocate the best resource to the project. Some factors to consider are:

  • How many people will be on the project team?
  • Who will be on the project team? Include job title/roles and responsibilities.
  • Who is sourcing content? Possibly the greatest cause of delays in web projects come from an under-appreciation of just how much time it takes to source images, text and quotes for the site!
  • Do you have a specific go live date in mind?
  • Is this go live date determined by any business critical reasons? For example, a product launch, or an event?

7. Technical

To ensure your website operates exactly how you want it to, consider these technical elements:

  • Do you currently have web hosting for your business? If so, detail what company you are hosted with and what hosting package you have.
  • Do you want the site to be available in different languages? If so, which ones?
  • Admin permissions - do you want user-restricted access for each site?

8. Ecommerce

If your site is transactional, then the primary details should be scoped out in a separate functional specification document. But for now, it’s worth including the basics, such as:

  • How many products will there be?  
  • What would you estimate your volume of business will be?
  • How would you like your customers to be able to search for products? For example by title, description, category, SKU, price etc.
  • Which countries do you ship to?
  • Does your site need back office integration with third-party systems, such as Sage Pay?

9. Budget

What is the budget for design and development of the website?

Some clients are very reluctant to giveaway their budget to an agency at the brief stage. But being open and honest about this means you will get better, more accurate quotes in response.

If you don’t have a fixed budget, then specify a price bracket that you are comfortable with, for example, between $15,000 – $20,000.

It’s also worth including information on:

  • Is there a budget for ongoing support and maintenance?
  • Do you have an allocated marketing budget to promote and drive traffic to the website?

Include all of these elements and you’ll be sure to get off on the front foot with your killer website brief!

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About the Author

Joe Turner is the Digital Marketing Manager at iWeb, an Ecommerce Agency and accredited Magento developers. Joe has spent the last 10 years creating and executing digital marketing strategies for companies such as SEGA, Marketing Birmingham and multi-national clients such as Bristan, Yale and Tarmac.