How to create the perfect website development brief

If you’ve been having thoughts about building a website for your business or even updating your current site, one of the first things you should do is create a website brief.

Often commonly referred to as a scope of work document, a project brief or project summary. At the end of the day, these terms all refer to the same thing. A project brief is a comprehensive summary of the specific tasks that need to be completed by the web agency or freelance developer you’ve contracted with.

It should be a clear, easy to understand the document that your development team can refer during the process of building your website.

It should convey a clear picture of your business and the products and services you provide. What the core functionalities of your website will be, your design and color scheme preferences, and any other relevant information for the developer to know about your web needs.

Writing a clear, in-depth project brief greatly reduces the risk of any miscommunications between you and your web development agency. Below, we’ll discuss the most important topics to cover when you create a website brief.

However, if you’d like a faster, easier and more streamlined process, BriefGen service will help. It has worked with developers and business owners like yourself to create an easy to use an online form that assists in crafting a quality project brief online in a fraction of the time. The best part is, BriefGen is free for you to use – forever.

Common Information About Your Company

The first step in writing the perfect website brief is to introduce yourself and the business that you own.

Give a brief description of who you are

Your brand’s identity and background, and what value your business provides to its customers. Describe in as much detail as possible your products and services, and any relevant information about them. Explain how your business separates itself from the competition. This helps the web agency get a personal sense of who the client is that they’re working with.

Target Audience

To help determine the most effective design for your website, it is extremely important to take into consideration the people that will be using it.

Who your users are?

Let’s imagine you sell trinkets and knickknacks, targeted towards women over 65 years old. Granny clicks on your website, but she can’t read the text because it’s too small or blends too much into the background? She’ll end up going to a competitor’s site and buying her knickknacks there – even if they charge her twice as much!

Therefore, it’s important to consider who your users are and how they will use your website. Are they going to be conducting transactions on your site, or are they visiting your site to read the written content? This sort of information will help your developer determine whether they should include large ‘Buy it Now’ buttons or to prioritize clear, legible text that encourages the user to read more in depth.

If you have an ideal customer, describe them as best as possible. You can consider things such as:

  • Are the majority of your customers male or female?
  • About how old is your average customer?
  • Language your average customer speak?
  • What are typical occupations of your user base?
  • What is the average income of your user base?

Your competitors

Similarly, a brief list of your top three to five largest competitors (as well as providing URLs to their websites) will help your developer gain a deeper understanding of your industry. This helps your developer provide relevant design, features, and functionalities that your competitors may have implemented already.

Clearly define your main goals and objectives for the project is extremely important. If you’re building a new website from scratch, is your goal to advertise a new product or service? Or are you looking to expand your physical retail business to the e-ecommerce market? This is also a good time to mention any additional or ongoing service requirements. Such as domain name registration, web hosting, routine maintenance, or any other requirements for this project.

Web Development

First of all do you need Brand New Site or Redesign of existing one?

Redesign

If you’re looking to update an existing site, it’s helpful to provide the agency with as much information about your current website as possible. Along with providing them with the current URL of your website, you should also check out your website’s analytics and answer the following questions:

  • How long ago was the current site built, and who built it?
  • Who is currently responsible for updating the website?
  • What is good about the current site? Which parts need to be improved?
  • Level of traffics is the site currently receiving?
  • What percentage of your current traffic is from smartphones/tablets?
  • Top five browsers your traffic is coming from? (i.e. Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer, Opera, etc.)
  • Which countries does the majority of your traffic come from?
  • How often do you get a genuine sales lead or conversion from your site?

Explain in detail to the web development agency why your current website is no longer suiting your needs. Whether you want to provide ecommerce to your customers, or just want to bring your website into the current century, explaining your unique scenario to the developer will make the process easier.

New Website

Likely the most important part of the process is providing a detailed overview of all the things your new website needs to be able to do. Being objective-oriented in explaining the specific features, functionalities, and design preferences will make working with your developer much easier. Below are some questions you should be able to answer:

  • Does the website need to be responsive to mobile browsers/tablets?
  • Do you need to be able to place products on sale yourself?
  • Need call to action popups to convert visitors into customers?
  • Have an email newsletter? Do you need a sign-up form for it?

Obviously, it’s important to consider how you want the website to function once it’s completed. Providing a definitive mission statement will help the developer know what to focus on.

“We want a website so potential customers can find our photography company, leading to more business for us!”

You should also clearly define to the developer how your website should function, and what features you need. Perhaps you need:

  • A responsive design to display your website properly on any screen, on any device.
  • A homepage slider with corresponding text alongside the photos.
  • A sliding carousel for sale or discounted products to increase sales?
  • Promotional banner advertising for seasonal products, trending items, or specials?
  • A blog that allows users to leave comments, or maybe an RSS feed to deliver your content directly to your most engaged subscribers?
  • Sales funnel that gathers information from potential clients so you can advertise to them again in hopes of converting to a sale.

How much control you need over the content of your website?

At this stage, it is also important to note how much control you need over the content of your website. If you plan to update your website yourself, be sure to mention your preference of Content Management System (CMS). This is the software you will use to create new pages and update text, images, and links.

It’s alright to ask your developer what he/she recommends for your specific project, and what they charge per hour to train you to use the system.

It is vital to choose a Content Management System that you are familiar with and comfortable using. As paying hourly wages to a professional developer to make changes to your site can get very expensive very quickly.

In many circumstances, it can be very helpful to be able to make changes to your website yourself. Even if you have a minimal web or computer experience, using a Content Management System makes this process easier than you would think. In the majority of cases, there’s no coding experience necessary, and the platforms are very user-friendly. You may want to consider going this route if you:

  •  Run a blog and need to be able to add new posts on a regular basis.
  •  Want to be able to mark down product prices, run sales, and update stock availability on your website.
  •  Need to be able to add, edit, or remove content frequently.
  •  Have a rapidly changing menu and want to keep it up to date at all times.

Budget

It’s also very important to keep your budget in the front of your mind and be clear about it in your web brief. Some of the functionalities you’re dreaming about may turn out to be more of a nightmare when you receive your invoice. Since agencies do this kind of work day in and day out, they’re usually familiar with the costs associated with website development. By clearly defining your budget in your brief, the agency is able to accurately gauge whether they’ll be able to meet your price point while still delivering a high-quality product to you.

Samples of websites

You probably have a general idea of how you want your website to look, and that’s great! At this stage, be sure to include a detailed description of how the final product should look and feel so the developer can understand your vision. Be sure to include any colors, layouts, or fonts you would prefer to use for your website.

Providing a few samples of websites with designs and features you’re interested in will really help. So the developer create a website that more closely matches your expectations. When you create your website brief, you can include links to the sites as well as image snippets for your designer to use for reference. Be sure to include a clear description of what you like about the examples, such as the color schemes, layout or typography, so the designer gets a better understanding of what you’re trying to achieve.

Any Don’ts?

Additionally, setting clear expectations of the things you do not want for your site can help reduce number of revisions. And ultimately get your site to launch more quickly. Perhaps you know that you do not want a three column layout for your website. That you don’t have a need for ecommerce functionality. Be sure to state that in your website project brief. That way, the designer doesn’t waste billable hours developing features you aren’t interested in and gets to work on the things you do want.

Deadlines

Along the same lines, providing clear deadlines for specific milestones will help the developer determine the core functionalities to prioritize, and help keep everyone on the team on track.

"We need to be able to accept pre-sales on the website on November 1st. Email marketing beginning on November 25th. Alpha launch on December 31st"

If your deadlines are less than realistic, a good developer will be able to provide estimates for a more suitable timeframe to complete the given project. Including allowing some time to troubleshoot any issues that arise and make revisions along the way.

Closing

At the end of the day, a well-written website project brief is going to serve as a business plan for your upcoming website project.

It’s important to take your time and be very thorough in describing all your expectations and providing references and information. So it’s easy for your developer to refer back to the document for clarification throughout the entire project.

However, for individuals that have never written a website brief before, providing all this information to an agency can seem like a daunting task.  Some worry that they may not provide the right information to the agency. Whereas other individuals simply don’t have the time to craft such a detailed document.

To create your free online brief in no time, simply head over to BriefGen. Just answer a few quick questions about your business, fill in the blanks and provide some reference examples for your designer to use.

 

And as soon as you hit Submit it gets to work seamlessly behind the curtains to provide you with a document you can present to your developer. By utilizing a free online brief generator, you greatly reduce the risk of any miscommunications with your development team. Which means getting your website to launch faster and making your vision a reality.