Killer web design brief
Ella Dawson
Updated on 10 Nov 2020 · 11 min read

How To Create A Killer Web Design Brief

So, you want a new website? Whether you’re a start-up with no website or simply looking for a redesign, before we can give you a quote on timescales and pricing, we firstly need a brief. 

What even is a website brief? 

A brief is a written document that thoroughly explains and defines the problems that need to be solved, and gives details on important considerations and constraints that need to be thought about when designing and developing a website.

Why is a project brief so important? 

A brief is a vital tool for communicating thoughts and ideas to us in order to gain clarity on your project. It helps cover points that may crop up along the process and keep a clear and succinct path for yourself and our team. It makes you really think and question things you may think aren’t even needed.

The more information, the more it will benefit you as a client… but remember - your brief doesn’t need to be the finished article! Great design comes from great relationships with our clients and we can help guide you in the right direction if you’re unsure!

So, you’re probably thinking, sh*t, so how can I create a killer web brief? 😭  Thankfully, we’ve broken it down for you - here are 10 greats points to touch on in a web design brief  🎉

Web design brief

1. Background

Sometimes, we don’t know anything about you so it’s best to start with information about who you are, what you do, and the services or products you offer. This is vital for us to get an understanding of your business and feel like we’re apart of it. Key information such as your history, size, location, company values is all incredibly important for us to understand you as a business. We want to know its present positioning, and where you want it to go!

It’s also really useful at this stage to have a lead point of contact. For us, it's Andy. Andy is co-founder and project manager here at Shape and is your first port of call for any questions you may have. We like to get designers and developers involved in the process of communication with clients here at Shape so you’re speaking to the relevant team member working on your project, creating an open line of communication. Whether it's over a zoom or you pop into the studio, we’re always excited to meet our clients!

It's important here to give us insider information about your brand that we can guess. For example, your current website may not be offering all the services or products you offer, the business structure may have changed to what your current live states.

2. Budget and Deadline

I mean, it’s best to get this out the way right? We understand not every client will know their budget, or may not even want to tell us! But this saves both you as the client and us developers, a lot of time in the first stages so we can understand if your budget is unrealistic for what you’d like to achieve. Outlining your budget, even specifying a price range, however vague, and an estimated deadline can in turn bring a more detailed and more accurate quote in response. You may be trying to launch the new website inline with a new product launch, opening, or seasonal event, so we can let you know if your vision is realistic within a certain timeframe.

But don’t worry, that doesn’t mean to say if you have a small budget and a quick deadline we say, bye-bye Client. We’re always finding ways in which we can help, for example instead of building a fully bespoke eCommerce site, we can work with Shopify as the back end is already built, this saves lots of time - take a look at our project with Pale Fox, who wanted a quick turnaround on a tight budget. We wrote a handy article on the importance of a budget in web design.

3. Target Audience

This is crucial in our process, from research, to design, to development, we’re constantly thinking about your audience and tailoring it to them. 

Who are we designing for? Who will be using the website and why are they visiting it? Are there any specific characteristics these users have and how do you want them to think and feel when they are on your site? If you have specific demographic data, even better! This could come in the form of Hotjar, Google Analytics, Search Console etc.

Looking further forward, describing not only your current audience but any new audiences you want to attract with your new website design and what your ideal client looks like is super useful. Your target audience can affect details as specific as typography, placement of call to action buttons (CTA’s) to as significant as colour and images.

4. Your Current Site

If you have an existing site or an old site that hasn’t seen the light of day for years, we want to hear the good, the bad & the ugly. What is working? What needs to be improved? What elements would you like to retain? It’s good to know why your old site is no longer suitable, so informing us of this is incredibly useful to us. 

More often than not, it’s very clear to us what these are, but there may be key things you’re looking for more or less of, for example, more CTAs, a better loading speed, better user experience (UX), better device scalability, better ranking in google, the list goes on… But please, remember to let us know the URL 😉

It's real important for us to know your expectations, and also you opinions on aspects of your current site. We could say 'Blue' is an amazing colour, you could say it's awful. Some design elements are subjective, so we'd like to hear your opinions early on in the project to see if we are on the same path. Don't worry, they don't have to be technical opinions.

5. Main Aims and Objectives

So you’ve obviously come to a web design agency for one good reason, a mega website?! 😎 Aside from looking great, we want to know the overall goals of your new site and your vision. Do you want to increase brand awareness? increase customer engagement? promote services? improve online presence? generate sales? retain a better user experience? You'd be surprised how many clients want a new site for very different reasons! 

It goes without saying that all these factors are impacted by Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), so shouldn’t be overlooked in order to achieve your aims. If your knowledgeable on this expansive or may even have someone in-house, it's great to get them involved in the process. If you don’t have a clue, that’s okay - we can talk it through with you.

You may already be a step ahead and know exactly what you're expecting with your new site, you may even have a new sitemap planned - brilliant! The goals of your new site may be pretty straightforward, but once we’re clear on your website goals - you can leave it with us!

6. Competitors

It goes without saying that you probably know your market better than we do (we’d hope so anyway!) Although we do a thorough research phase into competitors and similar industries, it’s great to get your opinion and any insight you may have. You need to decide, are you trying to stand out from the crowd, or fit in and play it safe? There’s no right or wrong answer, it's all dependant on what you want to achieve!

Helping us know your competitors allows discussions about them to take place at an earlier stage. Who are your main competitors? Take time to visit their websites and tell us what you think they’re doing right and what they’re doing wrong. Do you hate the colours? Do you love the typography? Does the layout give you a headache? There may be key blocks or functions on their sites which you’d like to incorporate onto yours.

7. Sites you like

Looking at sites is not limited to competitors or even sites that operate in your industry. You may already have a list of websites you aspire to or like certain elements of. We’d LOVE to hear them! Give a few examples of sites that you like and explain why, for example, the colour schemes, the navigation, or specific interactive elements. What does a successful website look like to you?

It's important to also try and describe the ‘look & feel’ of what you’re trying to achieve with your new site, and this may well be referencing from other sites. Try and describe what elements you like. For example, referencing Nike or Apple as a clean, simple design and layout, AirBnB for the colour, or GoDaddy for the typography. Go in as much detail as you like, we like detail 😍

8. Content

It's good to think early on about how you’d like to populate your new site, don’t leave this till the very end! Will you be providing the new content for the site? Are you using existing content? Do you have images, photography, or videos already? If the answers to the above are, Nope! We know this is an arduous task and we can help you with this! 

From finding stock photography, copywriting, art directing photoshoots, videographers & illustration, we can do this whole process for you. We find a lot of delays in creating a website are in relation to content creation and changes, so finding out who and how you're doing this at the start is a great idea to let the whole process run smoothly.

9. Branding

Your site should be an extension of your brand so we pay close attention to any guidelines we must adhere to. If you’re limited to certain brand colours, a logo and typeface, let us know! It's great if you can supply us with your branding information and relevant source files for your logo (preferably in AI, EPS or SVG format)

Part of designing a website involves brand direction - even if you need to keep a logo, we can transform the look and feel of your brand through colour, typography etc. If you’re open to this, this is helpful for us so we can design with a fresh set of eyes and with no limitations. How far can we push your brand? Are you looking to update your brand colours? Do you have certain assets you'd like to use, ie. illustrations, Photography etc? We mustn't forget about your branding in web design, I may be biased but this is crucial and can be rolled out onto your other platforms, online and offline. 

Even better so, we offer branding as part of our services here at Shape, so if a full rebrand and web design is something you’re after, we can certainly help you in that department. ✅

10. Technicalities

Outlining any specific technical requirements you have or we should know of is super important to avoid any delays in the process.

Make a list of the functionality you’d like on the website. For example, does your site need to integrate with any other systems, such as client login areas or databases? Will your site need to be multilingual? Do you need to integrate a location map? Will you need an online payment function?

There are many things to consider which may be insignificant to you but huge to us, especially factoring specific functions into development. We need to get really clear on the scope, to help give the most accurate proposal possible!

11. Support

It's also good to know how much help you need with the site after it's been built. Your website is made up of lots of code, images, files & folders - all that sort of fun stuff, so they need somewhere to live, that's where hosting comes in! Will you require web hosting? Do you own or domain or want to acquire one? How much on-going support or maintenance do you think will be required for the site? What might you need help with moving forward? (which we call Shape Support) or Organic SEO Services.

Every client is different, some are new on this journey and haven't built a website before. Some clients have in-house content marketing teams that look after the site and just need technical support. And some clients want us to manage everything and suggest improvements consistently to improve growth. Please let us know what you support you'd like or a monthly / yearly budget you have to work with, and we can let you know what's achievable for that.

feature wall within the MadeByShape meeting room

So that's that is it?

And that’s it! Yes, that's a lot of information but hopefully, it can help you write that killer web brief! In summary, the more information that you can provide us with, the quicker you will get a detailed response, and the more accurate the costing and timescales will be.

If you’re still unsure or just need a hand, here at Shape, we’re no strangers to helping with a brief to understand your vision. Just drop us a message if you’re stuck, we’d be more than happy to help!

Are you ready to start a project? Get in touch today 

Written by
Ella Dawson
Hello, I'm Ella. Brand Designer at MadeByShape.
Related Blogs