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A guide to brief your website design project

– what your website developer needs to know

Make sure you nail the design brief upfront, and cover off any important design requirements before the designer starts work.

A web design brief is a document that guides the entire web design process. It should be as comprehensive and detailed as possible, and serve as a common point of reference for all parties involved.

Clearly communicating your requirements is critical to getting a website you love. It will help the designer understand your website vision, quote accurately, and avoid miscommunication and costly re-iterations.

Here is a guide to things your website developer needs to know:

Essential components of a web design brief

1. Your business

Give the website designer an understanding of who you are, what your business does, where you are heading, and how your brand should be portrayed.

  • What do you do?
  • What are your products and services?
  • How long you have been around?
  • What is the size of your business?
  • What is your vision?
  • Where do you want to be in 3 – 5 years time?
  • How do you want to be perceived in the marketplace?
  • Who are your ideal customers? (age group, male/female, professionals, interests etc)
  • Who are your top 3 competitors?

2. Your website

Explain what drove the need for a new website, and describe what a successful website looks like to you.

A. Why do you need a new website?
B. What do you like about your old website (if applicable)?
C. What don’t you like about your old website (if applicable)?
D. Describe your ideal website
E. How many sections will it have & what are they?
F. What features and functions do you require (examples below)

  • Search box
  • Sliders
  • Social media
  • Google maps
  • Blog
  • Ecommerce (and if so, what payment method is required; PayPal, Credit Card on website etc)
  • Gallery
  • Directory
  • Forms
  • Newsletters
  • Membership
  • Integrations to existing systems
  • How will you measure the success of the website?

3. Your users

Provide details about who your target website users are, so that the design, features and functionality can be tailored accordingly.

A. Who will be using the website?

  • Public, trade, staff
  • Age group
  • Language requirements
  • Country/ localisation requirements
  • Male/ female

B. Why are they visiting your website?

  • Research
  • Information
  • Entertainment
  • News
  • Look up pricing
  • Download
  • Make a purchase
  • Get contact details

4. Your design

Describe how your new website should look, the impression you want to give, and any brand and style guidelines that need to be met.

A. Values to communicate with your design – e.g.

  • Masculine vs feminine
  • Traditional vs contemporary
  • Professional vs personal
  • Serious vs friendly
  • Strong vs soft
  • Exclusive vs inclusive

B. Websites you like & specifics about what you like

And not just a page of links please. Do some structured online research of what websites might be useful to present to the agencies. This should not be seen solely as a beauty contest where you just present designs that you like. Try to find sites that meet some pre-determined criteria. For instance:

  • Links to your competitors’ sites – WHO ARE YOUR MAIN COMPETITORS?
  • Which of these have clever functionality (which, what, and why is it of interest?)
  • What sites have design features that I like (any sites, what features do you like and why)
  • What sites have a photographic style that you like?
  • Any sites that have a typographic style / tone of voice that appeals

In all cases be as specific as you can as to what it is that appeals to you about the sites you list, being mindful at all times as to how these design features or functions will benefit your users, rather than letting your own preferences get the better of you. If your marketing team have a style guide detailing how your branding must be used then that will clearly need to be sent to your agency before they put together designs.

C. Your brand colours, fonts, icons & any style guidelines.

D. Is a rebrand required? do you have an existing logo?

E. Example images or materials (please forward to us)


5. Updating and editing your website, CMS?

How do you want your website to be updated? by yourself/ your staff in a Content Management System (CMS) or our website developers can do it for you as you need it.

6. Your budget

Providing an indication of budget and timeframes will help your web designer manage your expectations of what is realistically achievable.

How much do you have to spend?

There really is no benefit in withholding something as crucial as this, and yet very often that is the case. If you don’t have a fixed budget then perhaps specify a price bracket that you are comfortable with – “between $2,000 – $5,000.” The real reason an agency will want to see a budget is so they can better tailor their recommendation to your expectations. It may be that the best solution to your problem is a site with online ordering, or perhaps a community forum, but if this is not within budget it is therefore discounted. With this, as with every other element of a briefing document, it makes so much sense to be open and honest. It will save you a lot of time in the long run.

7. Timings

OK, another obvious one. And one that is common to any endeavour right? Building a website, producing a brochure or building a shed. You need to know what is involved and when it’s needed. But websites still often catch people out. More so than any other project they tend to invite opinions from all corners. Some advice to help you on your way with this one; be clear from the beginning who makes up the website project team at your organisation, what the process of approval is, and who is sourcing content. Note the last point. 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. Bear in mind that this goes on alongside your day job. Ensure you allow time for sourcing the material and getting approval from your management team. You may also wish to show any new designs to customers to source some opinions from those people who matter most. Presenting accurate timings to your website developer will result in a far smoother project. Web developers can anticipate work better, and therefore allocate the best resource to the project.

  • When are you looking to get started?
  • Do you have a hard deadline to be live by?

8. The Future

How do you see the site progressing in the years to come? This is another reason why it is so crucial to have a website working party within your organisation, and for you to encourage people to take part in the sourcing and publishing of new information. If you have a vision for the future of the site then communicate this to us, as we can not only make recommendations as to how this might be achieved, but we can also factor this in to their initial designs. Have you scheduled any surround activity that will promote the launch of the site? Perhaps you have PR launching, radio, advertising or e-marketing all set to coincide with the live date of the site. For goodness sake don’t keep this a secret as all of this will be crucial for you web design agency to know.

Communication is a vital component of all projects – and in web design, it all starts with a detailed design brief. Taking the time to document your website requirements will ensure that you have a common brief for obtaining quotes, and once you get started with the project it will serve as the point of reference for desired outcomes and deliverables.

Want to talk through your web design requirements with a experienced web developer? Contact Coast Creative Services

If you’re looking at doing a redesign of a current website, make sure you view our website redesign checklist first to avoid common mistakes.