How to write a killer website brief
Expert tips and tricks on writing the perfect agency brief.
Getting the right agency for your new website project is critical to its success, and this all starts by writing a great brief. So, here’s our expert advice on how to craft one.
The four-step basic framework
We find this broad framework works well as a structure for most website briefs, breaking down all the key information into easy-to-reference sections:
1. About us
Provide a high-level introduction about you and your brand.
2. Project detail
Give an overview of the project and all you want to achieve.
3. Project timeline
Outline the go-live date, plus any other key milestones.
4. Proposal detail
Detail submission deadlines and agency criteria.
The 'must haves'
Once you have your broad framework, you can start adding the detail. Here are some crucial bits we would encourage you to add:
1. Company background
What does your business do? What is the history of the business?
These questions are so important for creating a striking site. As an outsider, agencies can often spot interesting nuances about your brand that can be used to help you stand out from your competitors. So, the more context you can share, the better.
2. Project background
Why has the brief come about? And why now?
Knowing why a project has got the green light helps an agency to understand the bigger picture and the pressing issues within your world. For instance, if poor site functionality is impacting on a specific marketing process, then lay these out clearly.
3. Project Objectives
What will make this site ‘successful’ and how will you measure it?
Consider including here both your short and long-term objectives. If you can, outline how these objectives fit into the wider marketing/business strategy. Knowing the wider strategy is key, even if the objective isn’t commercial.
4. Target audience / personas
Who is your audience? And why do they use your site?
If you’ve done work developing key personas for your brand already, then detail that within that brief. However, if you need help narrowing your audiences, outline that too. This means you won’t go over old ground unnecessarily.
Who are your main competitors?
When mapping out your competitor landscape, it’s a good idea to include any strengths and weaknesses, plus any detail which shows the competitive pressures of your business. Other areas might include lost customer feedback and site functionality you want to replicate.
6. Project management and timelines
When does the project need to be completed by? And why?
The ‘why’ is the critical one here. If the website launch needs to coincide with a fixed event for example, then it’s always good to know about this at the start. This ensures the right resource and time management is put in place from the very beginning.
What budget are you comfortable working within?
The budget is a ‘must have’ because agencies simply can’t prepare a realistic proposal without it. If you haven’t scoped one yet, then even a ballpark figure is sufficient to get started. Choose from £0k - £15k, £15k - £30k, £30k - £50k or £50k+.
8. Technical requirements
Does the site require integration? And what are the technical requirements?
Functional requirements – such as contact form and CRM system integration are critical for the brief because they are fundamental to the scope of the project. Other technical requirements might include admin permissions and multi-language pages.
9. Brand guidelines
Do you have any? And do they cover digital brand assets?
If a business has guidelines, often they don’t extend to digital assets such as animation and video. Digital style guidelines can be developed as part of a website project, so if that’s needed, include it within the brief so it can be scoped.
10. Content build and migration
Who will be responsible for copywriting and populating the new site?
Copywriting and content migration is not usually included, as standard, as part of a website project. If you have the required resource in-house, make a note in the brief of who will be responsible, or alternatively specify what support you need.
The ‘nice to haves’
Do you require it? And what is your current hosting environment?
Hosting is a question often asked by clients during a project, but if you need help with it, it’s well worth mentioning it, so it can be factored-in from the beginning. Sustainable hosting is however more important to know at the very outset.
2. Stakeholder management
Who is going to be involved?
Website projects are huge undertakings and getting agreement from multiple stakeholders takes time. Knowing what stakeholders will be part of the sign-off process, and how they like to work, is always helpful to know, so they can each be factored into the proposed timeline.
3. Agency requirements
What are you looking for in an agency?
If you’re keen to secure an agency that has a proven track record within a particular sector or working with a specific platform, then make sure you outline this clearly. Similarly, if it’s important to have an agency that mirrors your own company values, then say that too.
4. SEO support
Do you have any SEO support in-house, or do you work with an agency?
SEO is likely to be a key part of your site delivery, so understanding how you currently manage it is helpful, as SEO-support can be built into the scope, if it’s required. Or, if there is a third-party agency to liaise with, this can be built into the proposed timeline.
5. Support and maintenance
Will you need ongoing support?
Site maintenance is crucial for keeping your site in tip top condition post-launch. If you know your business is going to need ongoing support after the go-live, include this in the brief, and the proposal can then include an indication of what investment this would involve.
The icing on the cake
Feeling confident you’ve included everything? Here are just a few extra tips to consider before submitting.
Less is not more.
The more information you can give, the better. Not only does it mean you get a proposal that meets your expectation (hopefully first time), but if an agency is fully versed about your brand, it helps to avoid any annoying bumps in the road after a project has begun.
Don’t assume anything.
It’s easy to assume that: ‘X comes as standard as part of the project, because that’s what our last agency did’. Agencies don’t know what they don’t know, and whatever specifications you have, it’s always better to lay them out, no matter how obvious they seem.
Writing briefs can sometimes end up being a bit like a shopping list – long and unwieldy – so prioritising is critical. New site objectives might include improving accessibility, driving traffic, or even improving sustainability. Make it clear which one should be focused on the most.
Include the ‘no-nos’
Saying what you don’t want, is just as important as saying what you do want. If you’ve done something before that wasn’t quite right, then include it. Or, if perhaps you have a real desire to step away from anything your brand has done before, then include that too.
What we mean by this, is write unequivocally about what you really want. If you need an agency that will work hard to challenge your ideas and push the envelope, then say it! The best client relationships are built on openness, and the brief is no better place to start.
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