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Writing a Website Design Brief

When commissioning a website it is worth spending a decent amount of time getting your ideas clear in your mind and conveying these to your web developer by writing a clear and comprehensive brief.

Three Tips

Before we dive into the specifics of your brief there are three tips that will help you when writing your brief:

  1. Don't write the brief in one sitting. Take a break and think what else you may want your site to achieve.
  2. Avoid generalities such as "etc" or "nice".
  3. Use technical jargon (e.g. "Bobby AAA standard") if you know it. Otherwise describe what you want to achieve as clearly as possible (e.g. "Should be able to be used by blind visitors").

The Contents of the Brief

The following topics are suggestions for inclusion when you write your brief. Feel free to include the topics that are relevant to your project.

Business Overview
What does your business do? Why do you want a new website?

Target Audience
Demographic information including age, social class and geographic location.

Existing Website
If you are replacing an existing website it is useful to know what you like and do not like about the site and if any parts of it are to be renovated.

Inspiring Websites
Are there three or four websites you particularly like? Which elements of those sites inspire you (e.g. clear horizontal menu bar)?

It is important to list all the pages that you would like your site to contain and what you would like on those pages (the exact text does not need to be supplied at this stage). Some of these will be just one page (e.g. contact page), others will be an infinate number of articles (e.g. news, recipes).

Examples of content are:

  • Welcome Page
  • About Us
  • Products (or services)
  • News
  • Contact Us (with or without an enquiry form)
  • Polls
  • Blog
  • Forum
  • Disclaimer
  • Privacy Policy

Look and "Feel"
Do you have a colour scheme in mind? Should it complement your existing corporate image and logo (please include examples)?

Will you be supplying images or should an image library or photographer be used?

Will you be supplying text or would you like to use a web copywriter?

Would you like to display Google Adwords on your site? Would you like to sell and display your own advertising space?

Foreign Language Versions

Search Facility

Payment Services
Does your site require a shopping basket, checkout and integration with a specific payment gateway (e.g. PayPal, SagePay, WorldPay)?

Personalisation and Membership
If your site requires users to log in you will require a registration page (even if only for admin staff to use), log in page, profile page and password reminder page. Your site might also require different user roles (e.g. administrator, super-administrator, content provider, user).

Administration/Content Management
If you would like to maintain the site yourself then you will require a content management facility (e.g. to add, edit and delete new articles and upload photos to them). Sites that allow items to be purchased will also require a sophisticated backend to fulfill orders.

Do you require visitor analysis or sales reports?

Would you like search engine optimisation and/or social media promotion? Would you like to use email marketing? Would you also like off-line promotion (e.g. brochures, gifts)?

Mobile Proliferation
Would you also like versions of your sites specifically for phones and tablets? Would you also like apps created.

If you have specific hosting requirements (e.g. site must be written in ASP, use a Microsoft SQL Server database and have encrypted traffic) this should be specified.

It is important to know how much you would like to spend in order to not suggest functionality that is either far too basic or far too advanced for your situation.

Do you have a deadline?


And Finally...

These lighthearted articles give a great idea of how not to commission a website: