Digital Strategy

Writing a foolproof brief for your new website: Part 1

Graeme Ashworth

If you’ve read my previous article about picking the right web agency, you’ll know that spending time upfront to assess your situation and get clarification on the brief is vital unless you want to end up with an angry rhino on your hands!

Digital brief

But let’s take a step back - writing a brief can be a pretty daunting task, particularly if you’ve never done it before. We’ve seen hundreds of briefs, ranging from informed and insightful through to generic waffle that provides little context or detail on which services the client requires and why they it’s required.

This three part blog series is a high level guide that will help you to write a killer brief and prompt you with some points for consideration.

Company and the market

You should start by providing background information about your company, who you are, and what you do.

This section should include information on:

  • Why your business exists and why you do what you do
  • Why now is the right time to be investing - what are the key drivers?
  • Your products or services
  • The size of your business - number of employees and turnover
  • The size of your team and its experience
  • When your business was established
  • Your company’s values and ethos
  • Your USPs and positioning
  • Your competitors
  • Your target audience(s) - who they are and why they access your website
  • Any market/user research that you may have done to this point

Tip: You need to give the agency a good understanding of your business, where it is now, and where it aspires to be in the future.

Tip: Speak to your customers and see what their thoughts are on a new website - is there anything they’d like to see changed? Or added? Don’t forget that the website is for them and future versions of them, and so their opinion is crucial.

Background project information

Think of this section as a situational analysis. It shouldn’t be a list of functional requirements, but rather to inform the agencies why you’re undertaking a new website project and what the existing challenges are. 

Inform the agencies why you’re undertaking a new website project and what your existing challenges are.

This section should include information on your existing solution:

  • What’s good – what’s working well, what do you want to keep?
  • What’s bad – what’s not working so well, what do you want to change the most?
  • Who is the incumbent supplier? 
  • Traffic the site receives
  • When was it built? 
  • Who built it?
  • Which technology stack does it use and what licences do you have in place?
  • What integrations does the site have and do they currently work as intended?
  • Which other business functions would you like to automate through the website?
  • Volume of sales or leads through the site – has this increased/decreased?
  • Who is responsible for updating content on the site?
  • Who else within the business uses the site and what are their needs?
  • What is your preferred project management style?

Tip: Consider the content you want to use in your new website. If you’re looking for a new website, it’s likely that the content isn’t working to its full potential, so take the opportunity to review what you currently have and assess what needs to change.

Tip: Providing Google Analytics access is really helpful to agencies in providing a considered and tailored response to your business and its needs.

Other agencies

You should also provide information on other agencies that you are currently working with and their roles. For example:

  • Branding
  • Digital marketing
  • SEO
  • Social
  • Events
  • PR
  • Paid search
  • ETC

Tip: It’s always useful to include any brand guidelines for agencies to establish a sense of your company, so include them with your brief.

Internal stakeholders

Provide information about all of the stakeholders that will be involved in the project and their roles.

If possible, it’s always useful to provide information about all of the stakeholders that will be involved in the project and their roles, as well as the response time that each of the stakeholders will typically need. All too often, a stakeholder that hasn’t been considered at the outset can end up having a steer on a project or halt it altogether. Understanding this fully upfront can save a lot of stress later down the line.

The second blog in this three-part series will focus on the project vision and your future solution. It will take you through what you need to include in the functional and technical specification as well as what you need to this about to ensure your site is a success after launch. 

For further help on writing a brief or advice on any of the above, why not give us a call to discuss?