Design brief: The fundament to a winning website + brief template
The brief is the foundation of the web design process. Investing in writing an effective brief will not only enhance the result of your web project. It will save you time and money too. Here’s how.
The design brief defined
The design brief is a descriptive document that forms a design project. It is a fundamental component of the design process. Usually, the brief is composed in collaboration with the client and designer, and functions as a contract and reference for the project. It generally includes client information, challenges and goals, and creative direction. Investing your time in composing a detailed brief is crucial to create a winning website.
A thorough and detailed brief increases the likelihood of receiving your desired result. This is about the classic input-output equation. Shit in equals shit out. Clear communication and alignment can also increase the efficiency of the design process, ultimately saving you both time and budget. Although the designer helps you define your project, you as a client have a responsibility to hand over a clear and detailed brief. Continue reading to nail your next design brief.
What is a well-written design brief?
A well-written brief is clear, concise and strategic. It clearly defines the project and describes your challenge and desired goal. Avoid wishy-washy wording. This is not a pitch. Get into the details and don’t be brief (ironically). Remember that the brief is an investment in a winning website. To write an excellent brief, I recommend you include the following eight components. For our ready-to-fill-out brief template, read until the end.
Crucial components to include in a website brief
1. Contact information
First things first. A design brief should include a contact section. State your company name and specify who the contact person is and what their position is at the company. For certain projects, there are several contributors and company contacts. In that case, list all contacts that need access to the chosen collaboration platform. Include their email addresses and phone numbers, and specify who is the decision-maker to take the final calls.
2. Company overview
A descriptive overview of your company is a natural introduction to the brief. Assume that the designer knows nothing about you. What does your company do? Without writing a pitch, describe the core values and culture of the company. Who are you? Describe what market your company operates in and what your market position is. Define who your competitors are and how you want to differentiate.
3. Target audience
Continue to describe your target audience. Who do you want to reach with the website? How specific this description should be depends on the nature and goal of the project. If your goal is to build brand awareness with a new website, your audience will naturally be broader than if your goal is to promote a product with a campaign landing page. In this latter case, clearly define who you’re targeting. Forget about the classic age and location. Use psychographic characteristics.
Consider the following questions:
- What are their challenges and objections?
- What are their interests and goals?
- What industry and role do they work in?
- What are their personal characteristics?
- How do they purchase and from what sources?
4. Challenge and goal
After introducing the company, describe your current challenge. What is the reason for the project? If you have a website, specify what your challenge is. Whether your current website lacks traffic and conversions or fails to communicate your brand - define what challenge you want to resolve. Continue defining your goal for the web project. This is closely related to your challenge. Define what exactly you want to achieve with the new website.
- The website does not reflect the current or new brand
- The website does not drive enough traffic
- The website does not generate enough conversions
- Build brand awareness
- Generate qualified leads
- Increase visitor to customer conversion
5. Project description
Having introduced the challenge and goal of the project, provide a clear description of the project. Define what kind of website you need, what functions you need and which pages you need to be included. The designer will help you describe your project further, but it’s important to establish an early understanding of the extent of the project. Invest an effort in this. A detailed project description will give you a more accurate time and price estimate.
Consider the following questions:
What type of web project do you want?
- Business website?
- eCommerce website?
- Campaign page?
Which pages need to be included in the website?
- Product page?
- Contact page?
- Blog page?
What website content do you need?
How NOT to write a project description:
“We need a new website for our company because we’re not happy with our current one.”
How to write a project description:
“We want a new website because our current one does not reflect our brand. We have been through a rebranding process and need our new website to communicate our new brand in correspondence with our new brand guidelines. Based on our current website, we need a multi-page website including a home page, contact page, product page and blog page. It’s important that we can manage our content ourselves. We will carry forward or rewrite a lot of our textual content internally. What we need is a full visual redesign from wireframing to implementation. We have previously used Wordpress but we’re open to input on other platforms that better fit our needs.”
6. Creative direction
Once you have described the project, you should offer some creative direction. What is the current visual identity of your company? Do you want the website to correspond with your current brand or do you want a complete new visual identity? Include brand guidelines if you have them. Describe your preferred design style and tone. If you have any reference images or websites for inspiration, you should include attachments in your brief.
From creative direction to technical direction. The brief should include any technical requirements for the project. If you’re redesigning your current website you probably have a preference on which CMS the website should be designed in and what programming language should be used. If you’re changing platforms, describe which CRM systems you use that has to be integrated with the website. If you don’t have any requirements, your designer can recommend a solution for you.
Common requirements relate to:
- Content management systems
- Customer relationship management systems
- Lead capture forms and user registrations
- Analytics and marketing integrations
- RSS feed or accelerated mobile pages
8. Timeline and budget
Finally, your brief has to include a timeline and budget for the project. What is your projected timeframe? Do you have a deadline for the website launch? What is your estimated budget? Unless you’re an experienced web design buyer, this could require some research. Set realistic estimates for your timeframe and budget. You can not expect a full multi-page website to be delivered in a week for the price of $1,000.
Download our free web design brief template
Now that I have walked you through the most important components of a design brief, you can start briefing your web project. I have created a full brief template that you can fill out directly and hand over to your designer, or use for your own reference to start reflecting on and defining your project in preparation for a brief meeting. I have even attached a favourite focus playlist to listen to while you write. Good luck!