Briefing a web design agency to develop and build a new website can be a challenge, but time spent on creating a thorough, well-thought-out brief can make all the difference; it can save time, money, ensure your new website is slick and get you results.
A good brief = a great website
So, what goes into a good brief? Here are eight vital points to consider, all of which form some of the key elements of our Discovery Phase workshops.
1. What does your company do and what are your business objectives?
A short description of what you sell or what services you provide, who your customers/users are, and how your business differs from your competitors not only helps us understand your business, it helps you to focus on what you need from your website. Websites should be created to support your business strategy and goals, so it’s vital to share this information.
2. What’s your budget?
This is crucial because determining a budget gives us an idea about what’s possible for your new website. Can it be all singing and dancing, or will we need to be clever with the tools we employ? Knowing the budget will help prioritise website capabilities – what’s on your must-have list and what’s on your wish list?
The cost of a bespoke website build can be anything from £5,000 to £80,000. It can be the difference between buying a flat-pack kitchen from B&Q or getting a professional, bespoke kitchen designed and built that suits your family, your lifestyle, and considers how you live now and the future. Understanding what side of this scale you sit on helps enormously in creating a detailed specification.
3. What’s your schedule?
Do you have a launch date or an event you need your site to be ready for? Schedule in time for consultation and approval within your business but, importantly, don’t underestimate the time it takes to gather content. Consider who will be doing this and take into account whether it is in addition to their usual work. Writing up a provisional schedule to discuss and confirm with your developer can be helpful for everyone.
If a website is to be developed properly, a timeline guide is about three months, to include planning, design, development, content production and uploading, testing and SEO. Clients also have to commit time too, because websites are a two-way, collaborative process. We recommend adding meetings and milestones into your project calendar; in too many instances clients have failed to remember a meeting or deliver what we’ve asked for because they’re not managing the project properly.
4. What do your customers want?
Understanding what your current customers and target audience needs from your website and what’s valuable to them when they visit your site helps ensure an excellent user experience. We recommend interviewing several customers about what they like about your current site, what they would change and what else they would like to be able do on the site. Why do they come to you over your competitors and what makes them take the desired action?
This is also a good time to compile a persona for each segment of your target audience. Are they 45-year-old mums or 20-year-old students, small businesses or large corporations? Does your typical client have money to spend or are they focused on getting the best deals? All of this makes a difference to the website you need.
5. What do your staff want?
Your customers are not the only people using your website; your employees do too. This is a great opportunity to get feedback from them, so that you can make their jobs easier and perhaps save some money into the bargain.
Ask your staff how they use your website. What would help them in their jobs? Perhaps they are regularly asked the same questions that could be answered on specific website pages or through blogs based on the regular concerns and issues customers face. Are there processes that could be streamlined by new website tools and plugins? Would simple intranet functionality improve employee communication, or could an extranet help you share files with your customers? If your marketing people have developed branding guidelines, make sure you share them with your website designer to support their work.
6. Which websites do you admire?
View a range of websites, including your competitors’. Consider the looks you like; design features, colours, images and typography, and a site’s functionality; what would work on your site for your clients? What are competitor sites like? Pick out the good and bad bits and explain those opinions. Take time to read text to get a feel for a website’s tone and consider how your business should come across to its users. Should it be friendly and chatty, straightforward and authoritative, or can it use slang or street talk, or technical language because your clients value that?
7. How will your website be updated?
It goes without saying that your website will need to be regularly updated with fresh, interesting and relevant content. How will you go about this and what are your plans for your website’s future? What content do you need to produce and who will do it? Consider whether you need control over the content of your website – text, images, new pages – or whether you need to be able to change its structure. This will help with the crucial decision of which CMS your website is built on.
Do you have the capability to source and edit photography? Can you resize graphics? You don’t want a site that relies on these to stay updated if you can’t deliver. Discuss this with your website designer to clarify what you need.
It’s also important to consider how your website will be maintained and supported with CMS upgrades, plugin updates and regular back-ups. Neglecting this can leave your website open to hacking and affect the security of your data.
8. Future business plans
Don’t forget that a website should constantly evolve with your business and customers, so think about the plans you have for your business upfront and plan for quarterly reviews. Your web designer can keep these plans in mind when the specification is created, so that it enables future development, without having to start from scratch again.
Throughout the project, we build a collaborative ‘Phase Two’ list when new ideas crop up that are outside the initial project scope. We also sometimes run ‘What’s Next?’ day workshops to talk about how the business has evolved, how the industry has changed and generate new ideas: part discussion, part discovery, part prototyping. By joining forces with clients in this way, we can generate silly, but innovative ideas that we can implement either now or in the future. This can involve helping clients to see ways in which they can digitise their company – via their website – to reduce costs and improve efficiencies.
This may seem a daunting list of requirements, but time spent on a crafting a tight brief is invaluable. Now you have a steer, we hope you will find it easier to focus on what you want from your new website. If you are ready to get a brief together…
If you’d like a bit more help, we also offer a Development Phase workshop to discuss your needs, help us understand your business and develop and strategy that meets your business needs. Please get in touch. to find out more.
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