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TIPS FOR PREPARING A GREAT WEBSITE BRIEF

January 21 2013

Preparing a correct and well thought our website design brief is often overlooked by many companies and organisations looking to get a new website or even a web revamp. It is a critical stage in the web process and if done incorrectly could end up setting your designers off brief and on the wrong design path. Having the right brief from the get go, will ensure that the project will be on time, budget and above all on brief. Following are a few helpful tips to help you get your website design brief right. Please note that this has been written by someone, namely me, who has sat on literally hundred’s of web briefing sessions.

Look at you main business objectives and target these.

Just because you are getting a website, this does not mean that you have to throw every new bit of new whizz bang technology at the designer. Try to work out:

– what you are trying to achieve from the website; that is, is it to drive sales, increase brand awareness, inform the users about a product or service or even to just have a basic online presence.

Once you have this one goal in mind you can then work out a clear website brief based on this information. For example, if your goal is to drive sales and traffic through to the site, then an important note to remember in the brief is to keep large amounts of heavy text to a minimum and use strong grab statements, like ‘ see why we are Sydney’s number 1 hotel’ or ‘ buy now and receive a 2 for 1 offer’. It is these kind of strong statements that will attract potential clients and funnel them right through to the end buying process.

Do you know your online audience?

The most successful web sites will do more than look great, they will also satisfy users expectations and requirements. Great briefing documents should clearly outline who your target audience is, their demographics plus as much information as possible about your market and what you believe they want to see online. Be very careful at this stage. There will be the temptation to over design for a wider audience, but this may just have the impact of turning people off. If you are a builder for example, you should know that your target audience is going to want to see a strong portfolio of past building projects as well as a list ( including names) of testimonials. If you are a bit unclear about what your target audience is going to want to see online then a good idea is to look at your competition and see what they have done online. Don’t ever copy them but just keep an idea of their websites style as well as look and feel. This should point you in the right direction.


Your budget guidelines as well as timeline/deadlines should be noted

It’s always a good idea to make note of your budget expectations or limitations in the brief. If you a scared to put in your budget for fear of insulting the agency or that you may miss out on an important part of the website if you go in too low, then this is a mistake. Be honest an open about your funds and have open lines of communication here. You never know what is now available online, that wasn’t for the last project. You may just be surprised with what you are able to get for your money. Technology is moving at such a rapid rate, and the unit costs are coming down so much that budgets can now often be met. So, basically be very clear about what you want and what you are willing to spend. Being cagey or tight lipped may end up costing you more money.
Website timings, if critical, need to be told to your web designer. If you have a PR campaign or need the site for a new product launch, let them know well in advance so the necessary steps and preparations can be put in order. There is no advantage to you as the client to hold off on this information as this may lead to issues later on when the pressure mounts up as the site gets closer to completion. Transparency is the key to web success here and you should treat your designers like partners not as just a basic service provider. Never be scared of what they will think or say and articulate all your thoughts, timings, expectations in the website briefing document.

Try to include some examples of websites you like.

Web designers are visual people and if you are able to provide some examples of sites that you like and give the reasoning behind this, then that is a great part of the briefing process. Look at as many sites as you can and cherry pick the components or parts of the sites you like. Look at colours, navigation, add-ons such as newsletter sign up area, blogs, horizontal versus vertical scrolling etc.


Last word on the subject

Most people when you mention the words, briefing documents, start to become glazed over. If they have never done something like this before then they may fear the unexpected. This does not have to be the case. Most decent web agencies will have a web briefing document that they use time and time again. All you need to do is follow the questions and if unclear about any part, the best thing to do is pick up the phone and make a call. Remember, its your business, your money and your website, so don’t try to cut corners or leave things out just because they may seem like a hassle. The more you can provide upfront the better will be the end result. Designers will work to a brief and if they have to improvise because you are not clear in your brief, then chances are that the initial designs presented may be some what off brief.