How to Write a Website Brief

Preparing for a new website can be confusing. It’s common not to know what you want, never mind how to go about getting it. Built By Inspired would like to help, so we’ve outlined some suggestions for writing an effective brief for your new website.

Start with objectives – Record your objectives for the finished website.

Begin with what you want the website to do. This sounds obvious, but nearly everyone overlooks this step. Objectives should be listed in descending order of importance, and kept to the point, e.g.:

  • Generate sales enquiries
  • Raise brand awareness
  • Reduce the time / spent for each enquiry

Every aspect of your website and your brief should be orientated around these objectives.

Know Your enemy – Find and list your competitor’s websites, and how yours should position against theirs.

Your website will always be in competition with others. Find and list these competitors – try asking a outsider to search for services similar to yours. Try search engines, press, online directories, Yellow pages and anything else relevant to your field. Record the strengths and weaknesses of others, and where possible determine how successful they.

Identify your standards – Find and list the standard solutions to your objectives.

Chances are you’ll find websites who are doing things in line with your own objectives. Maybe you’ve found your objective “building customer loyalty” well catered for by a discussion forum, a blog, or a members-only area. Note the approaches used against your own objectives, and consider them for your own website.

Beware of overly creative solutions to common problems. The vast majority of successful websites use fairly generic solutions, but they implement them really well. Most bad websites fail to adopt the successful standards used by others. When in doubt, outline your objectives clearly and ask for professional advice.

Marketing and promotion – Specify your targets, and co-ordinate all your marketing from the beginning.

Nearly all websites work better when they have more visitors. Yours may require a certain number of visitors to break even – if so, you should work out the numbers.

Your domain name, design and copy all effect the way your website is found by search engines – so whenever possible you should plan your marketing before committing to any of these. This includes any offline marketing you intend to integrate. Consider if there are any specific keywords you want your website to feature prominently for in search engines, and how well contested they are at the moment.

Design and branding – Explain any existing design or branding guidelines.

You should briefly outline whether the website will be following any existing design or branding guidelines. Explain if your company already has a particular look in mind, or if you don’t already have a logo or image to work with.

Support and maintenance – Decide on maintenance before you start.

Over the life of a website, the maintenance can often be the most expensive and most overlooked aspect. Consider some of the following maintenance options:

  • Content Management
    Allows for your own staff to maintain the web content themselves. Options range from the ability to make changes to text in existing pages, to a system allowing for new pages, images, files, forms and interactive elements to be maintained. Content Management is typically much more cost effective than other maintenance options, and has a fixed ongoing cost.
  • Support contract / retainer
    You pay a fixed amount each month for entitlement to manual changes. Has the advantage of fixed costs, and requires less internal commitment than Content Management. However changes are slower to make, as they have to be communicated to an outside party, and this is typically the most expensive option.
  • Pay-per-change
    You pay for individual changes, usually by the hour. This option can be the cheapest if your website only requires a very small number of changes during it?s life. Usually a website is not very effective unless it is kept up to date, and this option has the negative effect of encouraging this.

Conclusion

If you cover all of these points in your brief, you’ll find it a lot easier to get what you want from your website. You’ll also have a much better idea of what you’re looking for and what you should expect to get back when you commit to a developer.

Best of luck from the team here at Built By Inspired!

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