*Updated October 2022 with a brand new template guide and more resources for further reading.
Where to start?
There isn’t a standard way to prepare a website brief. The brief is to make sure your web dev agency understands your requirements and to ensure the finished website reaches your goals.
We’ve been building websites since 2010 and we’ve received briefs that started as one-liners that we had to expand upon, and we’ve received website briefs the size of a small book. Whatever the size of the website brief, we find every good brief outlines what the new website should achieve.
Don’t over-think what goes into a brief for a new site. Focus on the goals of your new site and ensuring your developers understand those goals. If they understand what you’re trying to achieve, they’ll help you build a site designed to achieve it.
The website project brief example below includes the questions we typically ask when we help a client prepare a website briefing document and it’s the website brief template we usually start with in a scoping meeting.
If you want the blank website briefing template, you can download it below.
Introduction to your website brief
The introduction to your website brief should set the scene. Introduce the mission of the business. What do you want your new website to achieve? Explain your position in the market, for example are you a premium service, product or location? Why do you need a new website? What is going on inside and outside your company to create the need for a new site? What objectives do you expect it will hit and by when?
What challenges are you trying to overcome that you face with your current website and how are they holding the brand back from realising its full potential?
In this part of your website brief you should outline the qualitative and quantitative commercial objectives for your organisation. Understanding how the website fits into these commercial objectives will help define the priorities of the site design and structure. A typical qualitative objective could be to improve perception of the brand among its key clients and stakeholders measured by Net Promoter Score, before and after build.
For qualitative objectives look at areas where your site has an impact. Your goal may be to increase the number of sales coming from your site but to achieve that there will be other metrics such as lower bounce rate or higher number of returning visitors. Defining your quantitative KPIs in the brief process, allows web designers, user experience strategists and conversion rate optimisation specialists all work towards what is readily defined as goals, rather than pulling in a way they would interpret to be best.
Of course, our brilliant minds have Patch may see opportunities to meet other organisational KPI’s so best to list as many as possible.
You typically think this is what your marketing agency wants to know but it’s also an important part of a website brief. Your web developers need to know the market, audience and location of the people you’re targeting so they can take that into account for design and defining country and language preferences.
Anyone that has been developing sites long enough has a tale about a non-briefed request to add a right to left language mid-way through a website project. Even if you’re just targeting one language and one location, you’ll want to define this on your new site.
We like to consider buyer personas and take the learnings found in books like Differentiate or Die by Jack Trout and Steve Ridkin who discuss that in a world with many product lines, homogenisation between brands is even more common, so by drilling down into your audiences and differentiating yourself is key to establishing your place in the market. Your website is fundamental to communicating this.
You want your website to be one step ahead of your competitors, right? It makes sense to include your competitors in your website brief. Web designers and developers will research competitors’ websites to deliver a new site that is the best in your market.
As well as listing competitors it can be useful to outline anything you like, don’t like or have tried before and not been able to pull off.
Website Design and Function
This is the part where you outline your wish list and think about what role you would like the website to play in the marketing mix. We really recommend involving colleagues when you prepare a website brief. A new website is a major project that only happens every few years for most brands.
The outcome of your new website project will influence the performance of your brand and different departments in your company for the next few years. Involve people who know and use your current site and ask them for advice on what features and functionality you should include, and what you shouldn’t.
Current Brand Assets
The assets and guidelines a brand has about itself varies from business to business, the more information that can be provided at this stage the better to help determine design features of the new website. This can be provided in the form of logos, imagery and printed media, all the way to the more advanced brand assets of tone of voice guidelines and colour pallets.
In this part of the website brief give more detail in your current website. What has it done well, where has it struggled? What great things about this site should be replicated on the new site and what not so great things do you want to see the back of.
Be honest about what you like about your current website, what you know works well and any external feedback you may have enjoyed from stakeholder, this experience is something that can very rarely be replicated from an agency so full honesty is key, and there’s no such thing as a bad observation here.
In the same breath, understanding what frustrates you about the website is just as important. This can range from functionality and usability issues to missing features or difficulty in updating.
It can also be helpful to list some sites you and your team like the look and feel of, these don’t have to be in the same industry you’re in.
Marketing the website
There are some nuances with how you want to market the website, whether you need well defined landing pages for PPC, or encouraging newsletter signups, these can all influence the priority of the site design and can be amplified by a site design that has considered your marketing practices prior to the site build.
Technical Requirements of the website
If you have an idea about the technical requirements of your new site, you can outline it in this section. If you’re not sure, your web design and development agency can take a look at your current website requirements and make recommendations.
Don’t worry too much about the new website layout or structure at this stage, your developers will define that for you. All they need to know is a guideline of how large the new site will be, if it’s going to be similar to your current one you can say that but if you have plans to make it smaller or larger this is the part where you should state that in your website brief.
What content will you provide for the new website and what needs to be sourced or built by the developers, this can be a considerable proportion of the budget of the site build.
What content will you be using on the site. Will it be existing copy, new copy? Do you have image libraries and videos to be included? Some brands have 3D tours, showrooms and other immersive features.
As well as covering the content you will have on the new site in your website brief you should also outline how the site’s content will be managed after. Will a member of your team manage it, in which case you need a user-friendly CMS (and perhaps training) or will you go to a developer every time in which case you could save on the CMS.
Integration with CRM or other systems
When people create a website briefing document they sometimes forget about connections to the website. If your current website integrates with any other system or relies on APIs to collect data from a third-party source you will need to cover this in your brief.
Sometimes if a client has a complex workflow, we outline it as a flow diagram to ensure everyone on the project has a thorough understanding about data points.
Web design brief
The design part is a brief within a brief, many people prefer to put a mention to design and include an appendix exclusively for the design part of the project.
It’s rare the web developer will also be a web designer and while they work in conjunction the design brief concerns the designer mostly.
In the design brief section, you should provide examples of sites and assets you like, your brand guidelines and your brand values.
Set your deadlines in your website brief. This ensures only agencies that can hit your project deadlines will apply for the project.
We use a simple, easy to understand table.
|Project start date||DD-MM-YYYY|
|Site ready for testing/checking||DD-MM-YYYY|
It’s a good idea to outline your budget in your website brief. There’s a school of thought that if you include you budget in the website brief, every web development agency will bid the maximum. That isn’t true. A website is similar to a work of art and art is valued depending upon its quality (and demand).
The agencies you are speaking to need to know your budget and your brief in order to create a proposal that is reasonable and manages everyone’s expectations.
Not outlining your budget is as silly as not outlining your deadlines. If you’re not upfront about your expectations, how can you expect your agency to be.
Maintenance of the site
We mentioned updating content using the CMS earlier but even if you have a CMS and manage it yourself, sooner or later all sites will need some maintenance.
By outlining who will be maintaining the site after your web developers are able to put a plan in place to hand the project over to the team that will be maintaining it after launch.
If you don’t have anyone lined up to maintain it, you should include that in your website brief and ask if your web design and development agency can provide a maintenance service. Briefing for a new website is a great time to negotiate on a maintenance agreement for the coming months or years. A build and maintenance project can represent an appealing project for an agency and give you some negotiating power.
Ensuring the site is SEO ready
What does the new site need to do for search engine optimisation? Some people are satisfied with a nod to technical SEO and request that their site scores above a certain score on a technical SEO audit. Other people specifically outline requests such as an effective SEO friendly redirect strategy or applying schema markup where appropriate.
If you’re creating a website brief and want to know more about SEO read our website launch SEO checklist.
Outline who will be hosting the website after it’s built. If you want your web developers to provide hosting once the new site is launched outline that request here as well as specifying the technical specification you require for hosting.
If you’re not sure about hosting technical specification speak to your web development agency and they’ll recommend the best hosting solution for your new site.
Questions & Considerations
This is kind of like “any other business” in a meeting. It’s a chance to cover anything else that isn’t included in other areas of your website brief. It’s also a chance to ask questions like the credentials and experience of the agency you’re sending the briefing document to.
Outline the project contacts and their role on the project. Ask your web developers and designers to do the same on their proposal as well.
Outline how you would like to receive the response and proposal and by when. If you want visual presentations say so if you prefer written proposals outline it now.
Doing this will ensure every proposal comes in your preferred format, and the same format, and it’ll make it easier to compare different agencies against each other.
Patch is a full-service marketing and web development agency based in Kent, United Kingdom. Established in 2010, we have a track record of designing and developing goal-orientated websites and impactful digital marketing campaigns.
The best thing about an agency that does marketing and builds websites is we’re not artists (although we have a very good design process). We get marketing and we know we’re building an important brand asset that will make a difference to the performance of your business for years to come.
If you have a new website project coming up, or need some improvements on your existing website, get in touch on the form below, we’ll be happy to help!