Starting a web design project on the right foot can be a complex undertaking without effective project management systems in place. Whether you’re a web professional taking on a new web design client or a business looking to hire an agency to create your site, it’s important to identify obstacles early on, as well as agree upon the overall objectives, deliverables, and expected outcomes of the project.

By using a website brief, you can achieve those goals and more. An outline of what the project will cover can enable you to be more organized, stay on track, and stick to your budget. It also provides a way to avoid scope creep and manage expectations.

In this article, we’ll explore in detail what a website design brief is and why it’s important to everyone involved in creating a new site. We’ll also take a look at how you can create one. Let’s dive in!

What Is a Website Design Brief?

A website design brief outlines the web design process, requirements, and timelines. Its purpose is to provide both parties with a clear understanding of what’s expected in terms of project workflow, deliverables, and post-launch services.

The brief also provides clients with a more accurate estimate of monetary expenses and timescales. This is a result of identifying all key requirements and deliverables early on in the process.

Who should create a web design brief?

A website design brief is usually created by the business, after signing a contract with the web design client. It’s important to identify a few key pieces of information that can help your project stay on track and within budget.  They can also be written by web professionals offering to build sites for new clients, although in these cases, the resulting document is called a web design proposal

In essence, all the relevant stakeholders in a website project can participate in creating the brief. However, most of the work should lie with the client.

The brief can serve as a project management tool for keeping the work on track and managing expectations. As we mentioned already, it can also help prevent scope creep, which is the unintentional expansion of a project’s scope and goals beyond what was originally agreed upon.

How to Create a Website Brief

In order for a web design brief to be effective, it needs to be thorough and clear. You don’t want to leave any room for misinterpretation, as this can lead to project revisions that take up more time and money. 

The following are 10 important points to include so the web designer can create a sufficient final product. It’s important to cover all of them regardless of who is writing the brief.

1. Provide a Description of the Business/Company the Site Is for

One of the important details your brief will need to cover is a company profile or business overview. This is key to helping the entire design team become familiar with the brand and its values, mission, and vision – all of which will determine the direction and business goals of the project.

A list of core stakeholders should also be included here. This is particularly helpful for knowing who to contact for specific deliverables that may be required to move the project forward, as well as responding if any issues arise.

You’ll also want to include any plans for future growth, as this can enable the design team to set an early foundation for expected changes.

2. Come Up With a Website/Project Overview

Next, you’ll want to define the scope of your project and all its deliverables. Extensive background on the final product will ensure that everyone is fully aware of what is involved in making it a success. Some examples of what this overview will contain include:

  • Whether the project is the redesign of a website or a new website to be built from the ground up
  • All expected deliverables, including the website as well as any additional assets (such as a logo, custom email address, or content)
  • Potential obstacles that may arise and how they will be addressed
  • Some details on what is not within the scope of this project
  • The amount of involvement the client expects to have in the design process

You’ll also want to include information on the tone or voice of the site’s content, for both text and visuals. Finally, you’ll want to provide any specific items related to the client’s branding, as well as a list of any key functionalities the website needs.

For example, you’ll need to determine important features that are required to make the design a winner. This can be Call to Action (CTA) buttons, social media integration, or even a simple contact form.

3. Define the Project’s Goals

Once you have a clear understanding of what the project involves, you want to find out the goals of the website or the problems it is expected to solve. This will ensure that the design is effective, stays within scope, and focuses on what is most important to the client.

Some goals the client might want their website to achieve may include:

  • Increase brand awareness
  • Improve online presence with a responsive and accessible website
  • Increase subscriptions and sales
  • Generate leads and inquiries
  • Become a source of key information via a blog, documentation, or e-learning

It might also be important to include a section about the previous or current website (if there is an existing website). You can share what worked or didn’t so that the new design can improve upon the old one.

Something to note here is that it might be important to set up some performance tracking. For example, a tool such as Google Analytics can be set up to measure relevant metrics in order to assess the success of your client’s marketing strategy.

4. Identify the Site’s Target Audience

Next, you’ll want to identify the ideal end-user for the website. This will include gathering demographics, firmographics, and psychographics. These might include age, gender, values, job title, media consumption habits, and other relevant details that may shed light on what might resonate the most with them.

A clear understanding of this information will enable you to design a site that is effectively geared towards its target audience. You’ll need to note that if your client doesn’t have this information readily available, you might have to acquire it yourself. This can give you an opportunity to upsell your user research services.

5. Research Competitors

It’s also smart to know your client’s competitors. This can help you define core features to set the new website apart. You can start by examining their sites to understand their businesses and unique selling points. You’ll want to take note of what they’re doing right or wrong.

Noting down customer pain points that competitors have failed to address gives you an opportunity to solve those issues in your own design. You’ll also want to include particular areas of interest such as key functionality. Finally, don’t forget to provide links and reference notes so that nothing is ambiguous.

6. List the Design Requirements and Specs

Including all the relevant technical requirements and specifications upfront can save you several rounds of revisions in the future. This can also help you to avoid scope creep, and save the client any additional costs. 

Some items to incorporate here include site login credentials, user registration management, and more. Features such as these will be determined to an extent by the type of site you’re building. For example, a brief created for an ecommerce site may also list product categories and variations, payment methods, discount codes, shipping costs, and so on.

It is also important to include any internal brand style guides. This not only saves you the need to make extensive changes in the future but can also help you keep the branding consistent across the entire design.

7. Create a Project Timeline or Schedule

It is possible that a timeline might not be important and a project can take as long as it needs. However, this is an exception rather than the norm. Therefore, it’s important to set a schedule and account for eventualities and delays.

Knowing the schedule beforehand can help your team better plan on how to use available resources over the development period. One important thing to note is that your schedule should be realistic. You don’t want to set expectations for a full site design in two weeks if you can’t actually deliver a quality final product in that time frame.

8. Set a Web Design Budget

The cost of building a website is a very important addition to the brief. It influences several aspects of the project, including what kinds of tools will be used to build the site and the overall scope. 

For instance, if your budget is on the low end, your site may be a little more basic and rely more heavily on templates. This can mean using a Content Management System (CMS) or website builder.

However, if you can put more money towards it, your team can spend time on complex design or high-end services, such as custom-built solutions.

9. Specify the Project Deliverables

One of the most important objectives of a website brief is to keep everyone on the same page regarding what is expected. This means you’ll want to include all the agreed-upon deliverables.

This includes the site itself, as well as any type of content such as blog posts or case studies. After all, delays here can affect the website launch. It also needs to be clear who’s responsible for copywriting and other kinds of deliverables, so it’s easy to reach out early and side-step any potential issues.

When it comes to website content, it’s useful to know whether your client expects it to be SEO-optimized. This is an opportunity to upsell your services in this area. For example, they may not even be aware of the importance of setting up a sitemap for the finished site, or savvy about online marketing opportunities such as Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising campaigns.

Although you likely included your deliverables in the project overview section, it’s worth listing them again. Defining these items is key to establishing and maintaining the project’s scope, as well as the budget.

10. Discuss How You’ll Handle Hosting and Maintenance

Web design clients often let their design agencies handle hosting and maintenance for their sites. Generally speaking, professionals in the industry will have a better understanding of what resources are available and which services will be the best fit.

Some key information to add to this section of the web design brief include who will be responsible for acquiring the domain name and hosting, as well as how much on-going support the client expects from the designer.

If you’re commissioning a website but want to make your own hosting arrangements, you’ll need to include that in the brief. Regardless of who is responsible for this, it’s important to ensure that the choice of hosting provider lends itself to building a fast and secure site.

Website Design Brief Template

Now that you know what should go into a design brief, you can begin to take a crack at creating yours. If, however, you prefer, we have our very own downloadable template, which you can use as-is, filling in all the necessary information as required.

Lastly, if you need some inspiration, check out these beautiful examples on Pinterest.

Keep Your Projects on Track With a Website Design Brief

Using a design brief can help you keep your projects on track and within budget. It also ensures that everyone involved has a clear vision of the expected outcome, and gives you a chance to identify and take steps to avoid obstacles early on.

A brief needs to be as comprehensive as possible to avoid unnecessary back-and-forth due to misunderstandings or a lack of detail. Some items to include are an overview of the business the website will serve, the goals of the project, and its target audience.

Do you have any questions about creating a website brief? Let us know in the comments section below!