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How to write a website brief

20 August, 2014

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Are you trying to write a website scoping document and struggling to decide what to put in it? This blog post should help you.

Why do you need to write a website brief?

Before you go to any suppliers and ask for quotes, it is important to put together a website specification brief (or website scoping document). This will enable suppliers to quote accurately and will save you lots of time (and potentially money) in the long run.

What should go into a website scoping document?

There are no set rules for a scoping document and it really depends on what your website needs to do. As a general rule, the more information you can give a website developer, the better their proposal will be and the more accurate the quote. And ultimately, the better the end result will be.

The process of writing a website brief will help you to think critically about your project. What do you really need and what is a “nice to have” what you really need

Stage one: Internal cross-departmental scoping

Your website is a global entity that will be accessed and used by many people for many different purposes. Ask your team what it needs to do. For larger organisations, you should seek feedback from all departments and frontline staff on what customers/clients are asking for. Combine this with any relevant customer and stakeholder requests data you have. Then decide with your senior management team how much of this should be delivered through your website and how much through other marketing channels.

Stage two: Website audience and purpose

Now is the time to establish your website development project goals. Think about what you want to achieve with it and who it should appeal to. Who will visit the website and what information will they want? Include sections in your website brief like website audience and purpose. For example: “an information source for the education sector” or “to sell professional services to B2B clients”.

Stage three: Website development project scope, content and sitemap

Now you know what your website needs to do, plan out what it needs to include. Draw up a site map, with details on each section: how will content be organised? What information will go in each section? What content you already have and what needs to be written or sourced?

Include any branding and visual identity documents you have, along with details of all social media pages and blogs that you would like to be integrated. Also include Information on all your key products and services – which are most popular/profitable? Which ones do you want to highlight? (eg on your home page)

New look website

Stage four: Functionality and technical requirements

What functionality does it needs to have? For example, is it just text and images or do you want it to integrate with a CRM system for online bookings and sales? How will you convert visitors? For example, think about data capture forms and interactivity or engagement. How will information on the website be maintained? Will you need different user logins – with authors, editors, approvers and administrators? Consider data security, and any technical requirements, eg which browsers will the site need to be optimised for, and what content management system (CMS) do you want? Do you need a mobile optimised website? (For this, think about what proportion of your visitors will be using mobile devices to access the site – this number I growing across the board.)

optimise website for mobile

Stage five: Deliverables

Who will do what, and when? When do you need the site to be live by? What outcomes can you measure? Do you have any key dates for the schedule?

Stage six: Search engine optimisation (SEO)

Once the website is built, how will you drive traffic to it?

Conduct keyword research and competitor benchmarking. Think about your wider digital marketing platforms and social media pages – how will you drive people to the site? Will you write a blog to create content to publish through your social media channels? (This will have a huge positive impact on your SEO.) Engagement and interactivity should also be key considerations.

seo

So in summary, there are a lot of things to consider when putting together a new website. But don’ let this put you off. Include as much information as possible in your website specification or website document, but don’t worry if you don’t know all the answers – a good website development supplier will be able to talk you through this and give recommendations on the best options for your business.

Good luck with your project!

Has this been helpful? Is anything missing? Do let me know your thoughts in the comments box below.

And if you’d like more website development advice like this, sign up to receive my weekly blog delivered to your inbox every Wednesday.

  • Great post Jonny.

    We have a briefing document that asks many of the points you cover, although we often find the need to sit down and tease this level of detail out of our clients.

    Certainly asking the right questions at the beginning is crucial to delivering the best results, particularly for complex bespoke build projects and those website that are built to deliver results.

    • Jonny Ross says:

      Hi Andy,

      Thanks for taking time to comment, and yes it would be amazing if all clients gave you the detail without asking those probing questions!!

      Do you think I missed anything key above?

      Jonny

    1. Great post Jonny.

      We have a briefing document that asks many of the points you cover, although we often find the need to sit down and tease this level of detail out of our clients.

      Certainly asking the right questions at the beginning is crucial to delivering the best results, particularly for complex bespoke build projects and those website that are built to deliver results.

      1. Jonny Ross says:

        Hi Andy,

        Thanks for taking time to comment, and yes it would be amazing if all clients gave you the detail without asking those probing questions!!

        Do you think I missed anything key above?

        Jonny

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