Why Web Design needs more than a brief brief

Question: How many web designers does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

Answer: Does it really need to be a lightbulb?


As a web designer, I couldn’t help but laugh at this. Because it sums up the disconnect that can happen so easily between a web designer and their client. Especially if the brief is too, well, brief…

If you’ve thought to yourself “I need a website. It’s time to find a web designer and make it happen”, pause for a bit (to read this post) and give some thought to what you really need. Then put together a design brief. As the #1 point in my post about dos and don’ts for web design clients says:


“The more input you can provide, the better… Consider the future needs of your website, not just what you need to get started.”


If your brief is clear, there’s less likely to be time-consuming changes and going back and forth between the client and designer. And you’re more likely to end up with a website – and a designer – that you’re happy with and that works for your business.


Multi-coloured light bulbs
[Image courtesy of tungphoto / FreeDigitalPhotos.net]

What should a web design brief cover?

A brief should be, in a word, specific. The more specific detail you provide, the clearer the brief. [< Tweet this.]

You can still leave room for inspiration and creativity on the part of your designer, while ensuring that the elements you require aren’t left out. You know your own business, and your designer knows theirs, so the two of you need to collaborate on the design process.


Describe Your Business, including:

  • An overview of what you do, where and how the business operates, and your brand personality. (Are you a vibrant young startup or an established professional outfit?)
  • A profile of your clients and target market (such as ages, gender, location, interests). What will the website offer them; what might they be searching for; what do they want to see?
  • The aim of your new website (product awareness, education, build an e-commerce business, etc).
  • A summary of your competition, and their websites. What do you like about them, and what would you do to differentiate from them?
  • Whether you already use social media (Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, etc). If so, provide links to your pages.
  • If you have an existing website to redesign, explain what needs to stay, be changed, or removed. Describe the good and bad aspects of the old site (in your opinion, or even better if based on customer feedback)


Suggest Style and Content:

  • You can point to websites that you like (and explain what it is you like about them).
  • Also describe what you don’t like – give examples of what styles should be avoided.
  • Do you only want a design layout, or do you also need copywriting, SEO, colour advice?
  • Do you already have an idea of brand colours? [Read more about choosing colours for your website]
  • Will you select and provide images, or do you want the designer to propose some stock images? How many images will you need, and will they change regularly?
  • Will you supply text for content, and does it need proofreading or editing?
  • Will you create video content?
  • Do you want it all to display on mobile devices? Or are some elements more important than others when viewing on a small screen?


Clarify the Process:

  • How would you like to be kept informed of progress on the new website design? Via phone, emails, or the ability to view the site online via a staging website? And how often? Weekly, or at pre-determined points in the build?
  • What is the process for feedback? And how many changes can you request without it affecting the cost and/or timeframe?
  • As for timeframe, do you have a deadline or are you flexible? Make it clear when you would like the site to be active, and what else might be riding on that date. Do you have a corresponding product launch or advertising campaign? The project may need to include milestones to ensure the site is built on time, with consideration for you providing content and feedback too.


Consider The Future:

  • Will you be adding social media channels that require integration? Or an email marketing signup?
  • Are you starting with a catalogue, but want to sell products online at a later date?
  • Do you have the skills to update the website yourself (eg. via a CMS) or, realistically, should you get the web designer to maintain it?
  • Will you want training and documentation to maintain the site yourself? Make sure you request these things in the brief.
  • Don’t limit your brief to only what you think you can afford now – you should let your designer know your aims for the long-term so they can build the right foundation.


Don’t Sidestep the Budget:

  • Without a clear brief, the cost for your website could vary substantially, depending on what flight of fantasy the designer might take, or on how many times you ask for changes because things are not to your liking.
  • Before you ask “How much will you charge to build my website?”, it’s a good idea to already have a price range in mind. If the quote is higher than expected, you can then discuss with the designer exactly which elements could be changed or omitted to bring the cost down.
  • With budget constraints in mind, you could also prioritise the requirements of your brief – things that must be included vs the nice-to-haves.


How do you deliver your web design brief?

It could be done via a phone call. Or Skype. In a formal document. Or at a face-to-face meeting. No matter which, allow it to be an interactive process. It’s highly unlikely that you’ve thought of every aspect needed for the design. Nor can you expect the designer to have thought of every aspect of your business needs.


If you don’t feel confident or knowledgeable enough to prepare a full brief yourself, ask the web designer to write up a brief as part of their proposal, based on your initial consultation. Don’t sign up with a web designer until you feel your needs have been heard and clearly understood.


In the end, you want to be sure that you’re both imagining a similar style of light fitting…


Contact Right Hand Design – Web Designer Sydney – for Small Business websites that meet your needs at a price you can afford.


Author: RobynRHD

I'm a small business web design specialist with interests in social media and other online marketing methods. As my blog intro states: "Steering small businesses in the right direction with what I hope is practical, realistic advice and useful tips, amidst the constantly changing noise and hype. I'd like to help you sort out what you really need and how to go about it." I'm a proud Aussie, living in Sydney, and an avid fan of Column 8 in the Sydney Morning Herald.

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