How to Brief a Web Design Agency

When it’s time to give your website a little refresh – or perhaps the full facelift – creating a great web design brief is crucial to a successful web design project.

Writing a web design brief not only helps effectively communicate your ideas to designers, but also helps narrow which web design agency’s services are the best fit for your project.

The best web design brief will communicate an overview of the business, scope of the project, budget, target audience, timeline, design preferences, technical information, and project deliverables. While it helps to make your design brief as specific as possible, it should also be, as the name suggests, brief.

Here are eight key elements to include in briefing web designers:

Overview of the Business

Who are you and what do you do? The first step is familiarizing the web design team with your brand. Your website is there to tell a story and help support your business strategies, so sharing your services, mission, values, and key messaging points with your web design team will help determine the project’s direction. 

Establishing the foundation of your marketing strategy and brand identity will help design agencies better communicate your vision, and help your business stand apart from your competitors. 

Project Scope

What is the purpose of this redesign (or new design) and what do you expect to achieve? Don’t be shy – get ultra specific here. Is your goal new customers? An increase in site visits? Higher conversions? Generate more leads? Increased brand awareness? Communicate your website project’s objectives so your web design and development agency knows what to prioritize. 

A great website doesn’t just look good – it solves problems. What problem are you trying to solve? Perhaps your business is moving in a new direction and you need a complete site design and UX design overhaul. Or maybe performance is starting to suffer and you need help with search engine optimization. Specify your desired outcome so your design team can help you achieve it.

Budget

Choosing the right web design agency should start with your budget in mind. Knowing the funds you can allocate to web design will help agencies give you a realistic look at what they can help you achieve and which elements of your web design you should prioritize. Give your website design agency a “needs” list and a “wish” list, and keep in mind – you get what you pay for.  But the best web design agencies have diverse offerings and can work with a broad range of budgets. 

Target Audience

Who is using your website and what do they want from it? Provide your design team with personas so they have a better idea who your customer base is and what their preferences are in regards to your industry. Data values may include age ranges, genders, values, employment, media consumption habits, and other relevant information. 

In order to provide even more specific customer information, get up close and personal and consider interviewing customers or emailing surveys to ascertain why they chose you over a competitor, what they like on your site, and what they would change. Or, if you have the budget for it and your web design agency provides the service, you could enlist your web design company to do the research for you. 

Project Deliverables 

Setting expectations is one of the most important aspects of the web design brief. Deliverables should be specific and agreed-upon in advance. In addition to the actual site itself, deliverables include content, such as blog posts, copy, case studies, and videos. Specify who is responsible for copywriting and if you expect the copy to be search engine optimized. Other deliverables may include:

  • Hosting
  • Creative brief
  • Wireframes
  • Mockups
  • Final prototype
  • Site launch
  • Budget reports
  • Software tests
  • Technical reference documentation
  • Resource availability reports
  • Customer research
  • Content
  • Post launch performance tracking (Google Analytics) 

Design Preferences

This is where you can really let your startup’s personality shine. Where form meets function and your brand takes shape. What does your brand look like? How should your audience feel when they land on your website? An established branding guideline will help designers select the appropriate graphics, color scheme, layout, and overall vibe of your website. 

Include functionality requirements as well, such as sign-up forms, membership log-in, online payment, in-site search, audio clips, social media sharing tool, location map, live-chat, call to action, database integration, and more.   

It’s also a good idea to include examples of existing websites that you admire, websites that you dislike, and websites for your top competitors. Imitation is the highest form of flattery, but you don’t want your uniform looking too much like the opposing team’s. 

Technical Specs

It’s fun to talk about bells and whistles, but don’t forget nuts and bolts. Your web design team will need access to technical information, such as:

  • Log-in credentials
  • Third-party sites to which your website needs to be linked 
  • Social channels and links
  • Website features and functionality
  • Key pages or a sitemap
  • Content requirements
  • Where your domain is hosted
  • Ongoing maintenance schedules
  • Analytics and management platforms
  • SEO and digital marketing requirements

Timeline

You can’t rush art…but time is money. High quality design takes time, but it’s helpful to establish a schedule for check-ins, collaborative meetings, milestones, and a projected launch date, taking into account potential delays and circumstances. A provisional schedule can help with project management, keeping the design process on schedule, and preparing your team for how to best allocate resources during the development period. 

Conclusion: It’s Worth the Effort

Visitors have increasingly high expectations for startup websites. Their palates are becoming more discerning by the day, and it’s not enough for a website to just be fast and functioning. Customers want a beautiful, fun, and overall memorable user experience. A design team can help bring this experience to fruition, but only with your help. A web design brief makes for a collaborative experience that will help your web design agency build a great website and bring your brand expression to life.

So whether you need a top web design agency to develop an enterprise website from the ground up, or you’re at A-round and looking to breathe fresh air into your initial design, a web design project brief is your key to success. If you’re still feeling a little uncertain and in need of some hand-holding, there is a wide variety of free, basic web design brief templates…though we doubt you’ll need them. 

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