How to brief your web designer to get the result you need
You know those crazy days when there’s only a thimble full of milk left, you’ve run out of toilet paper and toothpaste, and even the last coffee bean has been ground?
There’s no avoiding it – it’s time to brave the bleak aisles of the supermarket.
Now, are you one of those carefree folk who heads list-free to the shops, grabbing what looks good and relying on memory to stock up? Or do you go with a full shopping list – because if you don’t, you’re sure to forget the most important things you came for?
Boring as it is, I have to admit I’m firmly in the second group. Organising a list in advance has become even more important since I became a small business owner and a mum (read: all my ‘free’ time has disappeared!). If I don’t write down everything I need (starting from working out the meals for the week) the weekly shop can quickly end up being both less useful and more expensive than I intended.
This doesn’t just apply to grocery shopping, of course. It stands to reason that if putting your needs down in writing works to keep smaller, everyday purchases on track and within budget – the same technique can be used for bigger investments too. Including getting a new website built.
A website brief is a shopping list for your online presence
If you don’t come from a marketing background, the term ‘brief’ may be unfamiliar to you. Simply put, a brief is a set of instructions you give to a person about a job or task. It doesn’t need to be over-complicated – if you think of a brief as a shopping list for your website, you’re most of the way there. This is the jumping off point for how to brief your web designer.
Shouldn’t my web designer be able to help me with my brief?
Some web designers will have a briefing document that they can give you to complete while others prefer a more informal approach such as chatting over coffee about what you want. But if you are still deciding which web designer to choose, it can be very helpful to have your ‘must haves’ and ‘cherry on tops’ written down before you speak to them, so that you are comparing like with like.
This doesn’t mean that you need to be the full bottle on web design and technology before speaking with designers. Experienced web designers will have suggestions about how you can achieve the result you are seeking, that can be incorporated into your final specifications.Think of your website brief as a starting point for your conversation, which can be refined into a proposal.
What to include in a web design brief
These are general areas of information you can include in an initial website brief:
- Is this a new or replacement site? If it is a replacement, what is the current domain (URL) and hosting arrangement? Do you have the passwords to access your current website? Do you have additional domains parked on your main website?
- What has motivated you to invest in your business website now?
- What do you want to achieve from the new site (Goals should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and have a time-frame)?
- What are your three major competitors’ website addresses?
- Who is your target audience? You may have more than one type of person who uses your products or services, but it is helpful to have your primary target market in mind.
- Do you have an ideal customer or user profile? Can you describe your best customer or most important website visitor including their age, gender, name, likes and dislikes, hobbies and lifestyle? It’s really handy if you can think of a real person (even a celebrity) who fits your ideal customer profile.
- Why will they visit your website? For example, to read educational articles on your blog; to research whether you can meet their needs by reviewing case studies from existing customers; to check your brick and mortar location; or to look at your product or service packages?
- What is the Unique Selling Proposition (USP) or Value Proposition of your business – what does your company, products or services do better and differently from all your competitors?
- What does your organisation do? Describe your products, services, history and importantly, the benefits or solutions you offer to your clients.
- Who is going to write or edit your content? Do you have a skilled copywriter on staff?
- Do you have a library of recent, high-quality photographs including purchased stock imagery?
Calls to Action
- What action/s do you want people to do when they are on your website, such as: Subscribe to your newsletter; fill in a contact form; download a white paper; buy from the shop; call you for an appointment?
- What are the two most important calls to action that will be on the home page?
- Do you have existing branding for your business available as high-quality image files?
- Are you happy to use your existing branding going forward or is it time for a refresh?
- If you are rebuilding an existing site – what do you like and dislike about your current site, including functionality?
- Give examples of at least three websites that you really like the look and functionality of (they don’t need to be from your industry).
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
- Do you have a set of priority keywords and phrases to use within the site?
- Do you wish the content writing or editing to be done with SEO in mind? Will you be providing this yourself?
Social Media and Sharing
- Which social media platforms do your target audiences use?
- Does your business already have a social media presence?
- How are your social media profiles and links going to be presented on the website (E.g. Facebook Page Like, Follow us on Twitter, Instagram stream etc)?
Which of the following functions do you require?
- Responsive/mobile friendly design (hint: this is essential!)
- Content Management System
- Portfolios or galleries
- Newsletter signup form
- Membership login and/or Members only content area
- E-commerce capabilities
- Online ticketing or booking system
- Third party advertising on your website
- What is your initial and ongoing budget?
- Is your budget realistic for the features and functions you want? If you interview a number of website designers this will give you a consistent idea.
- What are the priority issues, and can development be staged if the initial budget doesn’t cover the wish-list?
- Have you set aside an ongoing budget for maintaining, promoting and adding fresh content to your website? This should be a monthly figure or a budget of your own or staff time.
- Timeline – is there a pressing business deadline that your website must be ready for?
Now you know how to brief your web designer – where to next?
Now that you have answered all of these questions, you can go shopping for a web designer who can deliver. Although different web designers may have their own approaches and processes for getting a brief from a client, most will appreciate the time you have taken to consider what you want the outcome of your web design process to be. Remember, many web designers aren’t business strategists or marketing experts. If you don’t take the time to consider some of the foundations of your website success, such as your target audience, it is possible that no one would. The end result may well be a website that looks pretty but doesn’t do much at all for your business.
Although different web designers may have their own approaches and processes for getting a brief from a client, most will appreciate the time you have put into considering what you really need. Remember, many web designers aren’t business strategists or marketing experts. If you don’t take the time to consider the foundations of your website’s success, such as target your audience, it is possible that no one will. The end result may well be a website that looks pretty but doesn’t do all that much for your business.
Taking control of the website briefing process puts you in a much better position to make decisions about your online presence to help drive your business forward.
Got your brief ready?
Call Hook and Loop on 0404 086 140 or drop us a line to book your free website consultation
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