How to write a great website brief

Web Design

The importance of getting your company website right cannot be overstated; it is your boldest statement about your business; it enables your business to be found by anyone, anywhere and at any time, and gives you a springboard from which to build an online presence in your industry space. But creating a website from a completely blank page can feel like an insurmountable task, especially if you have little design or technical experience to help you.

You may be concerned about how you will find the right skilled person to design and build your website. You may be anxious about cost. You may worry about spending a lot of money for a product that may not be right. These are all very normal concerns to have, and are concerns that many small businesses struggle with every day.

Finding the right web designer is important. Don’t just go with the first recommendation or ‘friend of a friend’ you come across. Run a Google search for designers in your area. Search by keyword on LinkedIn. Or talk to the Interim Hub team who can help pass you on to a professional that can help. Shop around, and make an informed decision based on the designer’s past work. It’s even better if they have done websites for companies in your industry that you rate.

Once you have found the right designer, success isn’t guaranteed. You won’t end up with a website you are happy with until you have communicated your ideas as thoroughly as you can to him or her. Your brief is of crucial importance, and it can evolve as you discuss what is possible with your designer, but the more thorough it is in the first place, the better a product you will end up with.

A very useful exercise is to pick five of your major competitors, ideally similar size companies to yours (although looking at sites you really admire can also help). Using a piece of A4 paper, draw a line down the middle, titling the first column ‘likes’ and the second column ‘dislikes’. Now take a thorough look through each of your chosen websites and note down everything you like and dislike about them. Be critical and thorough, looking at things like:

  • How images are used
  • Their branding – logo, company colours, other graphics
  • Layout
  • Functionality
  • Ease of navigation
  • Tone of voice
  • Is the content up to date?
  • Does the website create trust in the company?
  • Is it immediately obvious what the company does?
  • Are they easily contactable?
  • What other elements do they include (e.g. social media, newsletter signup, live chat, online payment)

There may be many more elements besides these that you like or dislike about your competitors’ sites. Note these down as well.

Now it’s time to organise your thoughts into a clear brief for your designer. Think about how your findings can be adapted, rather than directly copied. It can help to divide the brief into clear sections such as:

  • Design
  • Layout
  • Content

Taking inspiration from sites you like (or dislike!) does not mean you are copying or plagiarising their work (unless you decide to literally copy and paste their text). Every good website is built on ideas that have been gleaned from somewhere else, and a good designer will find a way to build your ideas into your own unique design.

You’ll find now you have a very detailed brief to pass to your web designer to start the discussion. And remember, your brief is not set in stone. Your ideas will evolve as you discuss the issues.

By putting in time and effort to the initial research, you minimise the chances of communicating the wrong idea to your designer, which could take a lot of wasted emails back and forth and heartache to put right! By making informed decisions from the outset, you’ll save a lot of time and money and will be able to take immense satisfaction in the end result. Good luck!

Amy Fowler is Director of Siren Digital, a digital marketing consultancy providing small businesses with web design, branding, copywriting and digital marketing.

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