Writing a website brief: What is needed and why

Hannah's Photo by Hannah Rowbotham


There’s a lot of pressure on a website as it’s often one of the most important tools you create for your brand; it's the window to your company and the place where potential customers go to learn more and decide whether to enquire or buy. So, in turn, there’s a lot of pressure to write a spot on brief to kick the website project off.

You know your brand inside out; you know why you need a website, you know who you are trying to attract to it and what it is you can do for them - but how do you distill that into a concise and useful document to share with website agencies?

This article features tips on how to write a great project brief that gives proper insight and that results in a truly effective website.

We’ve boiled it down into these key parts:

  • The why
  • Goals
  • Definites
  • Learnings
  • Timings
  • Budget
  • People
  • Worries

First up, your why

This is a biggie... you need to know why your brand exists.

Every brand has a bigger reason for being (I'm sure you're familiar with Simon Sinek’s ‘Start with why’ TED Talk) and it's usually this grand purpose that guides all decisions - whether those choices are made intentionally or subconsciously.

Starting with your why and knowing your purpose will help to inform every idea you have and every project you do - and the website is no exception.

Including the brand's purpose in the brief is hugely important. ​Ideas flow from it, the relationship is stronger for it, and everyone is on the same page.

Your website should communicate and support your vision so that all other marketing efforts align with it, so starting with your brand’s purpose and including it in the brief is hugely important. It exposes what’s at the core of the brand and means everything that follows stays true to it.

The goal

After zooming out and knowing the overall vision, it’s important to zoom back in on the project and define what you’re hoping will be achieved by creating the website. By setting a meaningful and measurable goal, it helps everyone involved know how successful the project has been.

It could be that you’re looking to increase enquiries by a certain percentage, that you want to hit a particular number of subscribers, maybe you want to increase revenue in a specific area of the business - whatever the goal, make sure it’s meaningful so the project makes a real positive difference to the brand, and make sure it’s measurable so you can tell how much impact the project has had in achieving it.

Whatever the goal, make sure it’s meaningful so the project makes a real positive difference to the brand.

The 'definites'

What does the website definitely need to do or handle? Perhaps you need a contact form, an online shop, a social media feed? Does it need to integrate with other systems or software? Every brand is different so it really depends on what your goal is and what will help achieve it.

The ‘definites’ should be a list of things that you think the website absolutely needs to do to hit your goal. It doesn’t need to be fully formed, and no doubt more ideas will come as the project goes along, but if there’s anything you think of include it here.

If possible, rank the list in priority order. This means that each request can be scoped separately and things can always be added on (and planned for) later if the website doesn’t include them from the off.

The learnings

What have you tried before? What is in place at the moment? Anything you can provide that gives insight into what has worked and what hasn’t in the past helps to guide decisions going forward - so even if it wasn’t a success, don’t discount it.

If there is an existing website, has it got analytics tracking on it? If so, bonus! That’s a great place to start to try to understand visitor behaviour and can only make the next version of the website stronger, so sharing what can be learned from it is priceless.

The timings

Make sure to include when the project needs to be completed by and what is driving that date. Knowing how this project fits within a wider strategy always helps to put it into perspective, and might spark some ideas for future projects too. Knowing the deadline and the reasoning behind that deadline is really useful.

The more information shared about the deadline the better - it creates accountability and context.

It’s also really valuable to know why the website is important at this time; what is enabling you to do the project now? What is the driving force behind it and what are the consequences of missing the deadline?

If the deadline date has meaning, share it. If there are certain milestones to hit throughout the project then explain them - the more information the better as it creates accountability and context.

The budget

If you have a marketing budget and a portion allocated for the website, that’s great! If not, it’s really tempting to let an agency lead on how much something would cost, which isn’t always the best way to play it.

Being open about how much you want to invest makes the whole process more time efficient and creates vital parameters as it means that only realistic recommendations and ideas are put forward. Stating your budget, even if it’s a rough estimate or range, helps to scope the most cost effective solution within what you are comfortable spending - meaning that you get the best and most cost effective solution for your brand and for the project.

The people

A successful website project relies on good communication so introducing who will be working on it, and what their roles are is key. It’s always best to have one main point of contact within your brand so that all feedback and questions flow through them. Make sure to note any periods of time that the key contact might not be available; do they have any time off planned? When is the best time to contact them? What are their days and working hours?

Anything you can share that helps to align calendars (or that has the potential to impact the deadline) means that everyone on the project can work to the same smooth schedule.

And finally...

The worries

Include what you’re worried about! It’s always best to be open about what is worrying you most about the website project, the deadline, the process ...anything! By sharing any concerns, you’d be surprised at how fast they disappear because everyone involved is aware and will do whatever they can to avoid them materialising.

Share your concerns - you’d be surprised how fast they disappear.

A new website is a big step and usually a big investment of time, resources and money, so getting it right is key. Offering as much information upfront helps the project run smoothly and results in a website that makes a real positive difference in achieving your goals.

And so, to sum up:

  • Know your why
  • Have meaningful and measurable goals
  • Create a rough list of what the website absolutely needs to handle
  • Share the results of what has been tried before
  • Be clear on your deadline, what is driving it and the consequences of missing it
  • Always state a budget (even if it’s a range)
  • Introduce the team
  • Air your worries

We hope these tips help in making the next brief you write a breeze! 🎉


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