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Writing a brief for your website is one of the most important things you can do for your web design project. It doesn’t take long to do, and getting it right will save you a lot of stress, time and money later down the line.
In this article we explain the second stage of how to write a successful website brief, which gets into the nitty gritty of what you want to get out of your website, who’ll be using it and your requirements, budget and timescales.
If you’ve not yet read our first article on how to write a website brief, make sure to check that out first – it’s an important step that helps others understand what your company is all about before launching straight into the project details.
A website brief is a document you give to potential suppliers so they can start to understand your company and requirements, determine whether they can help, and if so use the brief alongside information gleaned from subsequent meetings to create a proposal and quote.
In our first article on how to write a website brief, we explain how to paint the bigger picture for potential partners so they can understand your business, customers and vision.
The second part focuses on your project and website. Read on to find out the key questions to answer.
In a few sentences explain the main thrust of your project. For example, are you a new business looking for your first website? Do you already have a website but it’s outdated and needs a complete redesign? Do you already have a website that you want to improve, and you’re looking for a new partner to help you do this?
Crucially, what’s driving your project; what challenges do you want to solve or goals do you want to achieve? Common goals and challenges include:
For example, an accounting firm designed their website some years ago. At the time it looked good and faithfully reflected the services the company provided. However, the design now looks outdated and due to the difficulty of updating the content, new services the company offers don’t even feature on the website, and the news and testimonials haven’t been updated in years. They want a complete website redesign to help them look modern and relevant, to promote their new services, to increase enquiries and make ongoing content updates easy and quick.
Do you have any specific results you’re hoping to achieve? What specifically would make it a success and return on investment, and how could we measure this?
For example, the accounting firm currently only gets 1-2 enquiries per month through their website. They’d like to increase this ideally to 5 enquiries from qualified prospects per month. They understand that keeping the new website regularly updated with new content, news, testimonials etc. is important to gain enquiries, and this depends on the team feeling confident and empowered to update it. They therefore also want to get feedback from the admin team on how easy the new site is to use, and for weekly content updates to become part of the routine.
For a more in depth article on how to set quantifiable goals for your website, check out our blog.
Who will be using your website and what do they want to do or find out on it? There’s often more than one type of audience, and they may visit your website at different times and for different reasons. Common ones include:
Within prospects and customers, you may differentiate between different groups, e.g. identifying those from different sectors or job roles, or whether they’re business customers (B2B) or direct consumers (B2C).
Depending on the nature of your organisation, you may also distinguish between the end consumers and key influencers. For example, if you sell sports holidays for teenagers, the teen will be the end consumer, but the parents are the key influencers and purse string holder/ decision makers.
Some of the most common things they may want to do on your website include:
For example, a company offers health and wellbeing programmes to businesses and their employees. For prospects, the CEOs or HR managers are the key decision makers and purse string holders. When on the website they want to find out more about the different programmes available, the time and other commitments required and what they could expect to gain from it. They also want to see case studies and testimonials that demonstrate the results achieved, and enquire about getting a quote. After a company signs up to a programme, their employees will visit the website to review and book the health and wellbeing classes they wish to attend, get directions to where the classes are held and read the health and wellbeing advice and tips.
What are the websites of your main competitors? What do you think they do well/not so well?
For example, the health and wellbeing company has a local competitor who offers very similar programmes to themselves. Their website looks pretty old fashioned, however they have a great booking system for classes that’s really easy and quick to use. They have a larger national level competitor with a local presence, and their website looks quite impressive but it’s lacking in substance and hard to find out information and answers to questions.
As a starting point, what pages do you think should be on your website? Sometimes this question can feel a little daunting, and certainly when working with a professional web designer it’s part of their job to help you to discover or refine this list. But it’s really useful to know what you initially feel should be considered as part of the page scope. If you have an existing website, you may already have insights, feedback and data that will inform this.
Be aware that this list may change after discussions and analysis – for example, if you have a certain budget or timescales, some of these pages may have to be pencilled as phase 2 or 3. Or, after reviewing your existing google analytics, it may become apparent that no-one’s interested in a certain section of pages on your website, meaning they could be retired in place of something more relevant and useful.
Some features and requirements are important for almost all websites. These include a Content Management System or CMS (so you can edit your content without having to go back to your designer each time you need a change), responsive design (so the website adapts for mobiles, tablets and desktops meaning each user gets the best experience for their device), google analytics tracking (so you know how the site is performing), cookie notices and opt-ins (for GDPR compliance) and general usability and accessibility standards (so everyone can access your website and have a pleasant time using it).
What other features and requirements could be useful for your website? Common ones include the ability to search the whole website (or maybe a specific section such as products, news or team) social media feeds, newsletter sign ups, contact or enquiry forms, the ability to pay online, compatibility with old browsers, integrations (e.g. integrating new enquiries with your CRM, integrating online purchases with your ERP/ stock management system),
Again, if you’re not too clear on what should be included a professional should be able to tease out your requirements, and be aware that your initial list may change after discussions and analysis.
Who’ll be in charge of writing the copy for you website, or reviewing/ updating your copy if you have an existing site? It’s rare for a website quote to include copywriting; typically you provide your copy, although many web designers have in-house or partner copywriters options. Although copywriting is an additional cost, well written copy is the difference between a site that looks great and is easy to use, and a one that delivers and brings in the enquiries/ bookings/ sales. Writing copy is also a far more time consuming job than most people realise, and can be difficult to fit in amongst a day job. Explain where you are and what level of help you’re looking for with regards to copywriting.
Who’ll be in charge of sourcing and potentially editing images for your website? Some website quotes do include images, others don’t, or images will be included at a variable rate depending on how many you need. You may already have photos/ images (taken by a photographer or purchased via stock image sites) that you’d like to consider using. Some of your images may need some touching up in Photoshop. Or, you may be starting with nothing. Explain where you are and what level of help you’re looking for with regards to images.
Who’ll be in charge of populating your website, i.e. uploading all your copy and images to your website, for all of your pages? Some quotes do include population, others don’t, others may offer it as a variable rate service. Providing you’ve specified a site with a Content Management System, anyone can upload content, including yourself; it doesn’t require any special technical skills and your web partner would typically provide training and support. Doing it yourself can help to keep costs down, but if you simply don’t have the time, you may want your partner to do it for you. Explain what level of help you’re looking for here.
Are you looking for your partner to host your website after it’s live? If you don’t know what hosting is, the answer is probably going to be yes. Hosting refers to the server (a computer connected to the internet) where your website lives, enabling your visitors to find and access it online. All websites must have hosting otherwise they can’t be found online. Or, you may already have hosting that you’re happy with and would like to continue using.
Roughly how much are you looking to invest in your website? Sometimes you may have a top fixed limit; other times it’s a case of it costs what it costs. However, it’s valuable to at least indicate a top figure or range you’d feel comfortable with (e.g. no more than £2.5k, between £5-10k, up to £20k).
This is because your budget dictates how much time can be put into your project and what options will be available. Left completely open ended, you may get proposals and quotes that are too big or too small, meaning you have to go back to the drawing board to look at alternative options and new quotes, sucking up extra time and delaying the process.
Do you have any hard or soft deadlines for when the website must be live? E.g. an upcoming event for when the website absolutely must be live, or an ideal month to launch? Or, is it a case of as soon as reasonably possible to do a good job and get it right?
Is there anything you’re worried about for this project? For example, are there any risks that could impact the project, or anything that could make things harder or block/ negatively affect it? This question can often address the elephant in the room. Tackled early enough, the proper solutions and/or mitigations can be put in place to keep the project on track and successful.
Take some distraction free time to review and answer the questions in this article. Add them to the same briefing document you started in How to write a website brief part 1.
It’s a good idea to get other key people from your organisation involved, not just to take the full scope of insights, goals and requirements into account, but also to get everyone invested from the start. Creating a new website is a big undertaking that requires input, effort and sign off from generally at least several people within a business, so it’s important for all key people to have a stake in the project from the outset.
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