A brief is a document created with the sole purpose of directing a marketing initiative; whether it’s a website redesign, a rebrand or tactical communications campaign. Of all the different marketing initiatives you’re likely to undertake, you absolutely need to create an airtight brief when you work with a web design agency.
If done correctly, the brief will contain a summary of all of the relevant facts, figures, goals, obstacles and general information that your web designers and developers could possibly need to formulate a great solution. Essentially, you state what needs to be achieved while leaving enough room for interpretation that creative thinkers and technical minds can define the best route forward.
Creating a good brief, however, is harder than it sounds. Here are a few things to consider:
It can be difficult to direct the best web design agencies because they have their finger on the digital pulse and therefore probably know more than you do about what solutions are realistically available. A good way to approach this is to look at competitor websites and familiarise yourself with what’s out there in terms of design and development. Make a note of what you like, what you think could be improved and what you think is missing. Just remember that you want to be better than they are – not a clone – and so you should always be looking for an opportunity to gain a competitive edge.
Be specific about your goals
Don’t talk in generalities about ‘improving the user experience’ or ‘adding value’. Instead, try to state which areas of the site you would like to see improved in order to achieve your goals. For example, you may wish to improve the checkout process to decrease cart abandonment; you may wish to increase click-throughs to the Contact page from the About Us page; you may wish to redesign the product-level pages to promote up-sells. You no doubt have specific goals, so state them clearly!
Don’t be specific about the solution
While you should be clear about precisely what areas you wish to be a priority or strong focus, you should only state the problem and the ideal result. The means of getting to that result should be formulated by your web partners; after all, that’s what you’re paying them for. Just remember that the more specific you are with the goals, the more focused the solution will be.
Things change. Markets fluctuate. Industries switch focus. Where you think there is even a chance that you may need the website to be flexible and/or scalable, say so in the brief so your agency don’t come up with solutions that restrict you in the long-term.
This is the trickiest part. How you approach it should be determined by your unique situation at the time. There are several trains of thought on this, although I think only one approach is really valuable in every regard:
You should state your available budget but stress that ROI is the most important factor. That way, the agency should quote competitively on the most cost-effective solutions. On the flip-side, if there are better but more expensive solutions out there, you can bet your bottom dollar that they will try to up-sell you, so you’re not restricting your horizons by suggesting a budget.
It can pay to speak to a trusted advisor to get a rough idea of where to set your expectations. Do that first, then pitch the work at that budget-level and see what the agency comes back with!
Don’t let your web design agency dictate the future of your business and brand. Instead, allow them to facilitate your growth and success according to the metrics that matter to you the most. They will be happy to work to a well-written brief: Clear and definable goals allow them to measure their own success by monitoring the success of your campaign or project. Furthermore, tell them you’re happy for them to create a case study off the back of their work for you and they will be very happy to go the extra mile to nail that brief and get you where you want to be.