When you need a new website, and you’re not going to build it yourself, you need to find
someone to build it for you. The brief is what you use to help you decide who that’s going to be. You set out what you want, and the web agencies you’ve found that look good will tell you how they’ll do it, and how much it’ll cost you. It’s not a contract that’s set in stone – it’s something that will naturally change and develop depending on who you’re working with. But it does form the basis of any website project. And when the brief is a true reflection of what you want, you’ll be able to find the right agency to make it happen – and they’ll have the information that they need to deliver it.
Why does a good brief matter? Well, there are a few reasons why it benefits you, and not just the agency that have more to work with.
- Save time (and money, because time really is money)
If you don’t create a brief, the agency building your website will have to develop it themselves, which takes time. And no one’s a mind-reader, after all – without proper guidance, you can guarantee there’ll be some back and forth as they develop a solution that ticks all the boxes you’ve got in your head. Put those boxes down on paper, and it’ll save everyone time. As most web agencies will calculate their quote based on an hourly or daily rate, saving time means saving costs, too. It’s that simple!
- Fair evaluation
When everyone knows what the site’s objectives are, and how the success in meeting those objectives will be measured, it’s easier to see how good of a job the agency has done in completing the project. A proper brief means there won’t be any dispute as to whether your agency has delivered or not. It provides a bit of security and confidence for both sides.
- Most importantly… a better website!
Creating a website is a collaborative process that balances the needs of your audience with your expertise in your industry, and the expertise of your agency in web design and SEO best practice. If any of those factors are missing, the finished project will be lacking – it very much is the case that you get out what you put in, and this all starts with setting out your objectives clearly in the brief.
What to include in a website brief
- Who you are
As mentioned, any good agency will carry out in-depth research into your company before working with you. But they can only learn what’s out there to be learned. Share your own perceptions of your company – the values that you may discuss in meetings but don’t necessarily share publicly. How you want to be seen, but aren’t quite seen by others yet. Give us your inspiring visions for the future! Be honest and realistic about your position in your industry, too. While we’d never discourage you from shooting for the stars, the point you’re aiming from is very important, particularly when it comes to how your website approaches search engine optimisation. Simply put? Tell us who you are, and how that matches up with who you want to be.
- What you do
Give us an overview of your products or services. Go in-depth, and tell us what makes your particular offering special. What are your unique selling points? Tell us how you see people interacting with these services on your new website. For example, if you’re selling products, do you want people to buy directly online? Or do you want to share product information, but encourage people to contact you directly to buy?
- Who your competitors are
Agencies should undertake competitor research – but when it comes to websites, this is often based as much on competition for search results as for anything else. Who do you lose customers to, and who do you win customers from? Who do you aspire to be like, and who’s nipping at your heels? Understanding who you’re competing with can play a big role in how you’re positioned online.
- Who your target audience is
Tell us a bit more about your typical customers or clients. Are they the ones you want? Or is there another audience you’d rather be tapping into? Tell us some demographic information – age, gender, income, average spend. Tell us what industries they work in, what they turn over, where in the organisation the person you usually deal with sits. Why do they choose you? Why do they stick with you, and why are they likely to leave?
- What your current website is failing to do
Now it’s time to get into the website itself – and any website redesign project will start with a good, hard look at the one you’ve already got. What are your pain points with your current website? Is it not getting enough traffic? Is it getting traffic, but not converting into sales or phone calls? Is it too slow? Is it hard to use on mobiles? Is it missing a lot of information about what you’re doing these days? Is it just looking a little bit outdated?
Be honest, too – even if you’re the one who wrote the copy or maybe even designed the logo all those years ago, do you still think it’s up to scratch? Or could it be better? Of course, you might not know exactly why you need a new website – you could have just had some feedback that it was hard to use lately, for example. If that’s the case, say so! Although more in-depth information is useful, this is where agencies start to set themselves apart – identifying problems you hadn’t even considered, and working out how to fix them.
- What you’ve seen elsewhere that you like
It’s not the most essential part of the brief, but it can potentially be a very helpful one. If you’ve other websites in mind that you’ve seen and like the look of, tell us! No agency worth your time will just go out and copy it – but they will be able to take inspiration from the overall style, and reinterpret it through the lens of your brand identity. If you’re honest and clear about what you want, you’ll get it. But if you compare the designs you’re presented with to a secret standard that the agency didn’t even know about, it’s a recipe for trouble. So, if you’ve got some links to share, we’d love to see them!
- Your objectives
What do you want to achieve with your new website? A lot of this will come down to improving what you think it’s doing badly, but here are a few suggestions for common website objectives: Increase sales; Improve our performance on search engines; Position the brand as a leader in our industry; Generate leads; Show off our portfolio more clearly; Better display our brand identity; Simplify our service offering; Work on mobile. Be as in-depth as you can with your objectives – increase sales or leads by how much, for example. Explain what being a brand leader means for you. Identify competitors that you’d like to rank above. Finally, explain which objectives are most important, and which are lower priority.
- How you want to measure your objectives
How you measure objectives will depend on what they are – and some will be far more subjective than others. However, it is possible to measure things such as the number of sales over the first three months, or the number of leads that result in sales. Search engine positions are also very easily measured, as are factors like the cost-per-lead off the back of marketing activity. Again, it’s important to be realistic – a new website is an investment that will take time to pay off. You won’t immediately start ranking at the top of Google overnight, for example. But this is one area of the brief that will develop as the project progresses. As long as you’re clear in what you want to see, you’ll be able to agree on what success looks like with your chosen agency.
- Your deadlines
Do you need your website to launch at a certain time? Perhaps it’s to coincide with a new product launch, or a business anniversary, or a merger – something with a set date. Any agency will work their hardest to make sure that you can launch in time but, as always, there’s a need to be realistic. In order to meet best practices for design, development, SEO and security, website projects will take many weeks – and more likely a few months. Large-scale projects can take the better part of a year. If you’re too tight with your deadlines, you may struggle to find an ideal agency. Anyone promising to knock it out in a week for you is likely giving you an out-of-the-box template that won’t be crafted to your exact specifications.
- Your budget
A few years ago, there was a big boom of small agencies promising any website for just a few hundred pounds. And while you might still find the occasional agency that does this, you won’t be getting something that will actually help you compete. We’ve mentioned earlier that most agencies will price on the time it takes to develop your site – and mentioned above that websites do take time to build. Different agencies have different hourly and daily rates, and as the deciding factor in choosing an agency often comes down to price, it’s important to be honest about your planned budgets so anyone pitching can tell you exactly what you’ll be able you get for your money. Keep it vague, and you might not get the full picture. However, if you’re not sure of how much you want to spend, most agencies will present you with a few options, usually at a lower, medium and higher price, with different features to match, so you can make a decision.