How to write a web brief for an agency

Posted on 24th February 2019 by Andi Wilkinson

Time to read: 9 minutes

In this two part guide we will establish what is needed to deliver a web design project, there’s no doubt you need a concise, thorough brief. You know your business better than anyone. A good agency will ask the right questions. A great agency will establish a detailed brief with you before starting on your project.

Starting with a brief is a great way to get on a good footing with any digital partner you choose to work with. It can help you get truer like-for-like quotations and can help you manage expectations in terms of your budget. A huge variation in estimates from one agency to the next can be due to different assumptions in the scope of work expected.

You know you need a good website, but you may need guidance on the end goals, technical aspects, and how best to achieve them. For businesses of all sizes, websites are generally a large investment and require serious thought and careful planning.

Factory use a detailed brief process to ensure we deliver the right results for our clients. Our step by step guide will help you write the perfect brief.

1. The Brief Summary

Before you pick up the phone to an agency, it is good to have the following information to hand. An agency worth their salt will be asking most of these questions on their initial conversation.

  • Give us five words to describe your company
  • Tell us your USP. What makes you different? Why would your customer choose you and not the competition?
  • List your company values
  • Do you have brand collateral? For example, “We have a brand our customers know well, we have signage, uniforms, & stationery”
  • Typeface and colour preferences or dislikes.
  • Websites for inspiration. Provide links – Tell us what it is you like about them, for example “I love this navigation”. Provide 3-5 websites.

2. About You

Agencies will want to know more detail about your company and its background. Include the following:

  • Name, web address, what you do. (keep it short)
  • How long have you been trading?
  • Where are you based and where do you operate? Do you plan on changing this?
  • A brief history. What has changed over the duration of your history?
  • How many staff do you employ?
  • Annual turnover: This is the fastest way to get the scale of your business and is important to the message you want to put forward.
  • Short term goals, keep this short. For example, we want to increase our sales by 25% per year for the next three years. Use SMART goals

3. Project Aims

A good agency wants to design you a website that meets your goals, not just website they think you want. Make sure your chosen agency is asking the right questions. If not, they may lack the proper experience to deal with your project. Tell your agency:

  • Why you want a website. Be specific and be short. For example you could say “I want to reach a wider market by selling my skincare range online” or “I want to take online bookings for my classes”
  • What specifically are you trying to achieve? Do you have a specific goal in mind, for example increase bookings for your classes by 50% in the next year, sell a specific amount of units, get a specific amount of leads monthly. How will you measure success? Please share this info with your agency, as it can make all the difference to the design spec.

4. Budget

Website pricing is a minefield. Making enquiries may result in wildly varying quotes and no one wants to pay through the nose. Why one agency quotes you £5k and another £25k may seem a mystery to you and yet one agency’s idea of a thorough and complete job may differ significantly from another.

We have included this high up on the list of priorities, as it is a critical factor in working with the right agency. Some agencies won’t work on small projects and some aren’t equipped to deal with larger and more complex projects. Don’t be afraid to reveal your budget, It is essential.

A brief and a budget will help you get like-for-like quotations instead of just attracting agencies that may undercut prices but also undercut services. It helps if you break this down. Here’s some suggestions:

  • Budget for web design and build
  • Hosting
  • Ongoing support and maintenance.
  • Digital marketing

If you can’t separate them just yet, don’t worry, but bear in mind you should budget for all of these things. Don’t think you can leave any of these things out if you want a successful website. For example, a site with no marketing of any kind will have little to no traffic. It’s a sure-fire way to make sure your initial investment goes down the drain. What’s the point in spending thousands of pounds for a website that no one will see?

5. Time Frame

An agency needs to know if they can meet your deadlines. Deadlines are the responsibility of both parties. Consider in your deadline, how able you will be able to meet it. Is all your content written? Are your team on hand to ensure the project runs smoothly at your end? When we start a new project, we ask our clients to help us with the following:

  • An ideal start and finish date
  • Is there an absolute deadline? What will actually happen if you don’t meet it? Bear in mind deadlines are also your responsibility, so check what will happen with your agency if you don’t send them what THEY need on time. As such with most agencies, timing cannot be of the essence of a contract.

Typically, our web projects take 3-4 months to complete if we have everything on time. Smaller ones can take much less. Here’s what you can allow for.

  • Planning and finalising the brief 2-3 weeks
  • Design phase 2-3 weeks
  • Development (building it) 3-4 weeks
  • Content population, revision and testing 2-3 weeks
  • Snagging and testing 2-3 weeks.

All these steps will take longer if we don’t get the info we need, so if it takes six months to finalise the brief, then the rest of the work can’t reasonably take place in a couple of days.

6. Point of Contact

It is vital an agency know who the key point of contact is in your organisation, and also that the point of contact has the necessary skills and decision making ability to move the project forward. Too many contacts can mean the project just doesn’t move along. The agency will want to know:

  • The key stakeholders in the project.
  • Who is the singular point of contact?
  • Who is responsible for providing content?
  • Which person signs off at each key stage?
  • Who will be updating the website when it’s done?

7. Target Audience

A well-designed website should be designed with your customers in mind. We ask for the following information from our clients:

  • What sector do you work in?
  • Where are your customers? A local bakery may operate in a 10 mile radius.  however, a company that makes cooking sauces may operate nationally or even export overseas.
  • Who is your existing customer base?
  • Do you have any kind of web analytics the agency can look at? This can provide valuable insights into who your customers are and how they find you.
  • Do you want your customer base to remain the same or are you looking to expand into new markets? For example, you could say Typically we sell our chocolates to tourists, but we are now looking to sell them online and mail them within the UK.
  • Who is your ideal customer?

8. Competition

It is always good to know who else is operating in your sector, and how well (or not) they are doing so. For example, if your business goal is to be the number one provider of IT support services in your area, and there is already a company that has been doing it well for 20 years, on your doorstep, we need to know:

  • Tell us who you believe are your main competitors. At least 3.
  • You could also tell us who you want to compete with. For example, as the IT start up, you may not be on the radar of the well established company, but you may want to get there.
  • For each competitor, provide their name and website.

Part 2: Write a Great Website Brief

In part two we will cover: the customer journey, your current website, your new website, content management system, some technical stuff, content, ongoing maintenance and marketing strategy.

Andi Wilkinson co-founded Factory. A boutique digital agency in Manchester, we value client trust and relationships, gained by clear communication and quality outcomes; if you want honesty, advice in your interest and straight-talking people who give a damn about your business, then we are a great fit. We have built a number of websites, you can find them here. Contact our team if you are interested in working with us here at Factory.

If you want to talk I will be at The Northern Business Expo 2019 12th & 13th March, come and talk to me in person.

Want to work with me?

I can be contacted at my work desk. Drop me a line..