What's a good web design brief?

Creating a website for your business can be a very stressful affair, especially if you don’t know how to properly brief your web designer[1]. The project and the entire process is quite different than working with a graphic designer.
A website is quite an investment. Not just financially, but for your entire brand (and the overall success of your business if it's online based). It takes time, money, and expertise from various areas to get it right.
You're not going to be making a new website for your business every month, so make sure to devote enough time and patience to this process.
Writing a good brief, in the beginning, will not only enable you to get a great website, it's also useful for the controlling process. This goes especially if you're not signing a contract with the agency or the freelancer. If you see something that wasn't agreed upon, you can kindly ask the designer to take a look at the initial brief and your requirements.
Once again, we’re starting from the assumption that you’re hiring an experienced web designer. Here’s what you need to give them in order to get exactly what you want.

What is your business about?

The very first thing you need to put out there is information about your business. Who are you and what do you do? Who are your competitors and how are you different from them?
For how long has your business existed? If you offer more than one product or service, which ones are the most important? Are you online-based or is there a specific location that should be promoted.
Feel free to go into detail here.
If you're hiring an agency, most of them have a questionnaire they will make you fill in before starting the cooperation. But if you're asking for a quote from an agency or a freelancer without any guidelines, this is a great place to start. They need enough information to be able to give you the best estimate of how long it's going to take and how much it's going to cost.

Who are your customers?

It's important for the agency or designer to know exactly who the website is for. Who is your target group and how would you describe your ideal customer? What are their biggest pain points you're solving?
Here, it's good to start with age, gender, and localization.
How tech-savvy are they? If they're older people who don't do great with technology, you'll have to simplify the interface as much as possible.
Why are they visiting your website? To get information, download something for free, purchase, or just have fun? This has a lot to to with the "why" of your business and the customer acquisition strategy you have.

Technical requirements

What do you need the website to do? Is it just a presentation of your business without any actionable steps. Or you need products to be available in a shop. If so, how will you be charging? Specific data security measures need to be put in place if you're collecting credit card info.
Do you have an idea about the CMS you'd like to be used? What are your reasons for that?
It seems to be implied today, but make sure you remind them about the mobile responsiveness of the website. That will benefit your SEO efforts.
While we're there - how will they optimize the website for search engines? Is it a part of their service or do you need to bring an SEO specialist on board?

How many languages do you need?

How many pages do you need and what should they do?

Is it a membership or a subscription website?

You have to be aware of the fact that the price will depend on the complexity.
Also, this is a good place to think about what comes after. Who will be maintaining the website? Is it going to be someone on your team or do you need the agency or the freelancer to keep doing it for you? If they'll keep doing it, how much will they charge and what does the maintenance include.

The content

Ideally, you'll already have your content prepared for the web designer. Which pages should the website contains and what should be on them?
They will need all of your branding guidelines, logos, photos, videos and everything you want on the website. This is also a good place to talk about the "feel" of the website. You already know who your target audience will be. What do you want them to take from your website? What kind of a feeling do you want to provoke? What message do you want to leave them with?
If you don't have the content, you need to state that in the initial brief. In that case, what is your expectation? What will you be delivering and what do they need to create?

The looks

If you already have a website, make sure to include it in the brief. What do you like about it and what should stay the same? What is not so great and needs to be changed?
Find websites that you like and send them as a reference. Comment on exactly what you like on each of them. It's the best if you stick to websites that are in your industry or similar.
As we said already, branding guidelines and the general "feel" are very important.

Digital marketing

This important aspect of a website is often overlooked. Make sure to let your agency or freelancer know what you need.
Do you want to collect email addresses for your newsletter? How visible should the social media accounts be?
Is your blog going to be an important part of your content strategy so you need it to be optimized for conversions in a specific way?
Will you be offering affiliate marketing?

Conclusion

In case you didn't get it by now, creating a website isn't something you do when your business is just a vague idea. If you want an outcome you'll be satisfied with, you need to be able to answer all these questions. And if you want the website to actually convert visitors into customers, you need to hire experts to make it.


  1. A web designer will typically only do the front-end tasks, while a web developer is in charge of the back-end. A full-stack web developer will do both. Meanwhile, most companies in this business are called "web design agencies". And we often see all the website development tasks being assigned to a role called "web designer". So, for the simplicity of the post, we've used that term. ↩︎