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Sean Giles |

Whiteboard displaying a project timeline from Week 3 to Week 7, with tasks such as Design, Dev, and Engineering. Sticky notes outline different milestones and infrastructure resources, effectively illustrating the top ten points for writing a website project brief.

So you need a new website – you have dreams, aspirations and KPIs to hit and you need to know the amount it will cost to meet your goals.

The brief is a significant starting point that will be the rock on which your project is built. Everything that is included in the brief will define the parameters of the creative process that your new website will go through and enable the agency to accurately cost the project.

Sounds important, doesn’t it? So where to do you begin? Whilst many will claim there is a single way to write a project brief, there isn’t.  Some project planners choose to focus on the business strategy, philosophy and values, delegating design to creative genius types whilst others want to delve into the minutiae of detail, designing pages and menus etc.

Sometimes it can be difficult to work out how much creative and technical detail is needed in your brief and to know what the agency will need to give you a correct quotation.

If you’ve never managed a website project before it can seem quite daunting but don’t be phased….. and to those seasoned warriors out there, it’s always good to touch base with the most important ingredients for writing a successful project brief.

1. Tell the agency about your business — in detail

The sad reality is that company information can often be undervalued. A good digital agency will look to thoroughly understand the very DNA of your business. Information about your company history, future plans, sector, brand, team, products, services and active locations will help us to not only comprehend what you are about but ensure that you are reflected in your digital solution.

2. Define your ideal user

Do you know who you are targeting? Can you describe who would visit your website?  What do your users want to see? What will assist you in helping them? Do you have existing customer data or market research closely defining who your ideal user and target market are?

The closer you can define who your ideal customer is, and perhaps how he thinks;  the closer we can sculpt the user experience of your digital solution to meet the user’ needs and your commercial objectives.

3. Goal setting for your digital solution

Once you know your ideal user and target market, it’s important to know what you want from them. Sometimes it is easy to define goals and sometimes it isn’t.

Some key things to consider are;

  • Increase sales through e-commerce
  • Increase or decrease the length of time a user visits a website
  • Compile sales leads
  • Get followers
  • Custom conversions
  • Collecting user data
  • Increase brand awareness.
  • Improve organic SEO — A responsive website design.
  • Improve organic SEO — website speed optimisation
  • Tailored requirements for digital platforms.

4. What kind of ‘look and feel’ are trying to achieve for your digital solution?

When beginning a digital project you want to choose what a ‘ look and feel’ that will reflect your brand and the solution your offer. You might take influence from some really interesting websites that you have found or perhaps you are taking influence from a competitor that you are trying to emulate. The inspiration for your digital solutions can be taken from anywhere. Consider things like;

  • Layout
  • Colour palette
  • Images
  • Font choices
  • photography
  • User interface.

It might be worth creating notes for each influence you have. This might be a list of links accompanied by notes explaining what you like about that particular web page.
Lastly, consider how much free reign you want designers to have,  once you have passed on this critical information.

5. List out the general areas of your website and draft a sitemap.

When writing your digital project brief, begin by creating a draft sitemap of all the pages on your website and try to gain an idea of how many pages there will be in total. You may want to include basic functionality that these pages have.

  • Blog/News — Are new entries shown on the homepage?
  • Social media feeds — Pinterest feeds, Instagram feed etc.
  • Noticeboards and forums
  • Maps — Custom map types
  • Events listings  — Events, time and date, image and Youtube embed
  • Bookings — Calendar View, Export
  • Your portfolio — the Large imagery is masonry style gallery.
  • Meet the team — Quirky gifs.

If you are looking to develop a larger project, specify the technical elements in the project brief.

Being as thorough as possible from the outset can help you to avoid what’s termed as ‘scope creep’. ‘Scope creep’ is the addition of new features which fall outside of an agreed specification. These additions will lead to additional costs later in the project.  To avoid this try and include all the technical elements that will be part of your solution.

Some examples of technical features that could be included within various projects include;

  • For an e-commerce website, it is worth describing the number of categories, categories types,  bespoke deviations, payment and checkout options, referral discounts and discount codes.
  • Sage Integration
  • Does the website have users who can log in? How will user signups be authorised and managed? What user dashboard options there be? Are there multiple user levels or types?
  • Does your website need API Integration – Are there external feeds to plug in?
  • Companies may have established coding standards that need to be adhered to — the agency you choose will want to see this from the outset.

If you need something truly bespoke it’s no problem, we’ll just need to work with you to flesh it out.

6. What are your In-house requirements?

It’s worth describing who uses the website and how it will be used and managed daily.  Will you be adding new pages and content on a regular basis? How often will you be adding content and making content updates? Will you be importing or exporting data into your website regularly? Will you have to add events on a regular basis? Other than the standard options for collecting user information like  Google Analytics, have you considered have any other tools in mind to learn about your user?

There are a million and one options available when setting these requirements but if you’re in need of some guidance, we are here to help you.

7. Your Content

Content is one of the most important factors which is often overlooked when initiating a project.

If you’re not ready to begin Adding content to your content management system or supplying content to your digital agency this is often something that will delay your website from going live. So make sure that this is something that you think about from the outset of the project.

Our recommendation would be to create a plan that sets out who is responsible for producing content and to consider what kind of approval process you want to implement.

Also, consider other materials you will need; video, illustrations, graphics, photography and if up haven’t got these already, start thinking about where you can get them from. If you’re stuck for ideas we might be able to make some valuable suggestions.

8. Support, Hosting & Maintenance

Most clients choose the agency that they are working with to host their website but there are alternatives. If you want a different set up please detail this and we will implement this for you.

Consider that every hosting setup ought to be secure, have regular backups and be fast. (This is very important as Google measures page load speed). Decide whether you need a shared hosting environment or dedicated hosting environment as a solution the meets your needs.

Consider how often you are going to want changes, Agencies often have a variety of support and maintenance packages that make changes far more cost-effective.

9. The Deadline

In some projects the timescale might be of less significance – and the task can take as much time as it needs to get it right. In other projects, the date of release can be of high importance to the commercial objectives of the business.

Telling your agency these time constraints and it will allow them to plan ahead and make sure that they can deliver to your requirements.

10. Your Budget

Have you considered your budget? The cornerstone of any project brief.

If you haven’t worked with a digital agency before, it’s important to learn how digital agencies cost work and the processes that your project work have to go through

When considering your project budget, if you have allocated between £200- £500, we would recommend using a template website builder like WordPress, Shopify or WIX.

Keep in mind that when using an agency you get a service first and the end product secondly.

The brief should also have a guide budget so your agency of choice can plan how your funds can be used wisely to accomplish your commercial objectives.

With this in mind, you should include a guide budget in your brief. The agency will need to plan how your money is spent so you get the most bang for your buck.

The higher the budget, the more time can be spent on user-experience, design in-line with a digital marketing campaign that can get your new shiny website the traffic it deserves.
If there is a smaller budget the agency will look to begin prioritising the core features that are needed for a successful minimum viable product.

There is no set way of valuing a project brief as each project is unique and requires bespoke coding to meeting your requirements. Projects can range from £5000–£75,000. So get the process started.

Once you’ve created your project brief, you will have a much clear understanding of the what your website will look like, perhaps how it will function and you should have a clear idea of exactly what you are trying to achieve. You can send this to the agency who should then be able to give you clarity on the project cost, how long it will take and the agencies plan for getting your new digital project up and running.

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