A good web design brief is key to the success of any website design project.
Instead of making decisions on a whim and going into this process blind, a web design brief keeps you on track and within scope.
It sets the direction of your web design project from the outset and keeps everyone involved aligned.
The Web Design Brief Template
The Web Design Brief Template is a free template that will help you get the brief for your web design project right. ...
There are a whole range of different scenarios where you might need a web design brief including:
- You’ve realised your website doesn’t drive leads, sales, or conversions
- The website you have no long represents your company and what it is you do or offer
- You’re a new business with no website, and you want to showcase your offering
- You created your own website using web design software, and now need to up your game
- You’re adding an ecommerce offering and want to account for that
There are a huge range of web design projects you might be looking to run. A well written, thought out web design brief is crucial to each of them.
Knowing how to craft a web design brief is no easy task as there’s a lot of different points to consider.
But that’s what this post is all about!
We’ll be walking you through the process of writing your own web design brief to make sure it’s detailed and comprehensive.
Before we dive in, make sure to watch the video below to get an overview of how to write your own web design brief.
What Is a Website Design Brief?
A website design brief serves as a comprehensive document that defines the steps, prerequisites, and schedules involved at each stage of the web design process.
Its aim is to ensure that everyone involved shares a mutual understanding of the project’s workflow and objectives to ensure the desired outcome is achieved.
A well written web design brief also enables clients to gain a more precise estimation of costs and timeframes which is important when making decisions. There’s no point deciding that you want a 50 page, fully designed website if you haven’t got the budget to cover it.
This is achieved by identifying all essential requirements and deliverables at an early stage of the process.
What Is a Web Design Brief Used For?
A web design brief is a vital tool for communicating your ideas to your chosen web design agency.
Finding an agency who offers web design services is easy if you know what you’re looking for.
Even if you choose to work with a great web design company, you should still have a well structured web design brief to help them understand your exact requirements.
Whether you’ve identified the need to have a website designed or redesigned, you can use your web design brief to get into the specifics of the project at hand.
In contrast to writing a design brief which explores brand-oriented questions and things to include, a web design brief focuses more on functionality and website problems.
There will be some areas that cross over with the other briefs in this series (links of which can be found at the bottom of this blog) but lots of the considerations are website-specific.
We’re going to walk you through how to write a great web design brief in detail so that no points are left behind.
Why Is a Web Design Brief Important?
There are two main reasons why you’d want to write a web design brief:
- You’re a new business and you need a website
- You’re an existing business whose website is no longer fit for purpose
Just like with any other brief, the idea behind a written web design brief is to bring clarity to your situation.
The primary goal of this document is to ensure clear and effective communication between you and your chosen web design agency. By documenting the project’s goals, requirements, and expectations, this brief acts as a reference point for both parties throughout the design process.
It also provides a roadmap for the project by outlining the steps involved, timelines, and milestones to keep the project on track.
By specifying the project’s deliverables and requirements, your web design brief ensures that the project is executed efficiently and within the agreed-upon constraints.
Ultimately every business, regardless of what type of project you’re starting, should write a comprehensive web design brief.
Benefits of a Well-Written Web Design Brief
As discussed above, the main benefit of a web design brief is to bring clarity to the project.
Aside from this obvious benefit, creating this document can also:
- Enable efficient workflow – By outlining the project’s scope, deliverables, and timelines, a web design brief facilitates a smooth and efficient workflow.
- Lead to enhanced collaboration – The web design brief acts as a foundation for collaboration between the client and the web design team. It provides a common reference point that ensures everyone is on the same page throughout the project.
- Streamline revisions – By having a clear web design brief in place, any necessary revisions can be discussed and implemented more efficiently, ensuring that the final product aligns with the evolving needs and objectives.
- Time and cost savings – Investing time in creating a web design brief can save both time and money in the long run. By clearly defining the project requirements, your web design agency can provide accurate estimates and timelines.
- Higher quality output – A comprehensive web design brief acts as a roadmap for your chosen agency. It provides valuable insights into your preferences, brand identity, and target audience. With this information, the web design agency can create a design that meets your expectations.
Who Should Write a Web Design Brief?
A website design brief is usually created by a business owner or a member of the marketing team before reaching out to web design agencies.
It’s important to identify key pieces of information that can help your project stay on track and within budget instead of just diving in.
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.
Your web design brief can also 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 – by this we mean the unintentional expansion of a project’s scope and goals beyond what was originally agreed.
Now that you know who should write a web design brief, it’s time to outline what should go into it.
Let’s quickly go over some web design FAQs first though to make sure we’re answering your most burning questions!
Web Design Brief FAQs
When it comes to web design briefs, these are the questions people tend to ask:
What is a Web Design Brief?
A web design brief is a document used to outline the web design process, requirements, and timescales. Do keep in mind that this is a very general definition (below we look at what you need to include in much greater depth).
Who Should Write a Web Design Brief?
Anyone in your organisation responsible for the website side of things has the ability to write a web design brief.
That said, this individual in question should probably be around the middleweight level. We say that as the person briefing what they want should have a deep understanding of your organisation and have a bit more responsibility than, say, a junior.
What Should Be Included in a Web Design Brief?
Your web design brief should include a project overview, objectives and goals, target audience, the problem, competitor information, project timescales, project budget, and contact information.
People Also Ask: How Long Does a Website Take to Design?
The answer to this question will depend entirely on the size of the website, as in, how many pages do you need, what functionality do you want to offer; questions like that determine how long it should take.
Some sites take a week to put together, others, months it all depends on the project requirements.
What Should Be Included in Your Web Design Brief?
Your web design brief is still going to include some of the sections from The Design Brief and Branding Brief.
But this time, there’s also going to be a lot of focus on your online presence, what exists, where it’s hosted, and what your future plans look like.
You should include:
- An Overview of Your Business and Current Website Situation
- The Objectives of Your Web Design Project
- Your Target Audience and Market
- The Problem You’re Facing
- Project Specific Information
- Competitor Information
- Project Timescales
- Project Budget
- Contact Information
- How the Project will Be Awarded
- Required Response
On top of that, we’re going to look at specific website information, including:
- Website Features and Functionality
- Key Pages or Sitemap
- Content Requirements
- Calls to Action
- Website Likes and Dislikes
- Traffic Generation
- Domain Name and Hosting
- Ongoing Maintenance
- Analytics and Management
- SEO and Digital Marketing Requirements
Before we dive into the specifics, let’s cover off the basics one more time.
If you’ve read either of our previous two posts on writing design briefs, you might want to skip ahead!
An Overview of Your Business and Current Website Situation
The first thing you should explain in your web design brief, is about your business, the sector you work in, and the website you’re looking to build.
If you’re looking to create a new website, try answering the following:
- What does your business do, and what sort of website do you need?
- How will customers find your website?
- What will keep customers coming to you rather than your competitors?
And if you’re an existing business redesigning your website, answer the above, and:
- What’s wrong with our current website?
- Have we got enough feedback to make real improvements?
- Will our existing website provider put up any resistance?
- Potential obstacles that might arise and how they will be addressed
Website design projects rely on everyone having a thorough understanding of the situation and the challenges they’re likely to face. Including a list of key stakeholders is also helpful as this information helps identify the individuals responsible for specific project deliverables and serves as a reliable point of contact for addressing any concerns.
The more information you can share in the first instance, the better your web project is likely to turn out.
The objectives of your web design project
There’s always a reason for embarking on a web design project.
If you’re a new business, then you’ve probably just realised that you need help with your website.
If you’re ready to rip up an existing site though, what’s driven you to take that sort of action?
Maybe you’re adding an ecommerce offering, or you’ve pivoted and things are moving in a new direction.
Once you’ve taken the decision to start a new website project, you have to let your agency know why.
From there, you can start getting clear on your website goals.
The goals of your project might be pretty straightforward, for example:
“We need a new website that helps showcase our business. We operate in a crowded marketplace, but the quality of service we offer puts us head and shoulders above our competition. To show this, we want to use case studies and testimonials that speak to the quality of our service.”
The goal here is differentiation through quality of service. Simple.
Having a solid “goal statement” like this keeps everyone on the same page with your project. It also gives your chosen web design agency something to measure against.
Knowing how you will measure the success of your web design project is also key.
If you’re going to judge the success or failure of a project, it’s only fair to let the agency you work with know what the criteria are.
For example, if you’re going to base it on whether you’ve multiplied your online sales by 10, then you need to include this in your web design brief.
This is because it’ll change how your agency approaches your project from the start.
Rather than spending time on creating pixel perfect website designs, they’ll be running tests with customers, and designing around the results.
Having a set of “success factors” can really help all parties as it ensures everyone knows what their responsibilities are.
Your target audience and market
Web design is used to solve problems for your customers, as well as your business.
The job of a web design agency isn’t just to make things look pretty as web design is a problem solving tool.
Think about this:
Your website is making no sales. Sure, that’s a problem for you but, but realistically, it’s because your website design isn’t hitting home for your customers.
When it comes to website design and development, a design agency is responsible for designing for your customers. Not for you.
Therefore, it’s important that they know what your target audience looks like.
We’ve got a great post here about creating customer personas to help you outline their demographic traits and psychographic characteristics.
You can do this by asking insightful questions about your existing customers.
Take your ideal customer, and build your persona around them.
On top of thinking about demographics and psychographics, I love asking the following questions:
- What does their family structure look like?
- What type of car they drive?
- Are they a pet owner?
- What newspaper/magazines do they read?
- Which websites do they visit? And for what purpose?
I often find simple questions like this help a lot more when creating a website, rather than the demographic information and psychographic traits.
Knowing what websites customers visit and brands they buy into, can help inform you about the design styles that appeal to them, what type of content they like.
The problem you’re facing
The objectives of your web design project are one thing, but the actual problems you’re facing with your website is something else entirely.
Goals and objectives focus on where you want to be.
As a new business the problem is:
“We don’t have a website, and we need one.”
You’d imagine, that’s an easy fix, let’s create one – end of web design brief.
Not so fast! You’re still going to want to include all of the information we’re outlining here.
It’s usually easier to outline the problem with a website redesign project:
“Our website is old and dated. We don’t make any sales or generate leads. It’s not mobile friendly.”
These are problems that need unpicked, but they’re usually easier to outline at the offset.
Although it can seem a little self-deprecating, deep diving into the real world problems you face as a business is the only way to solve them.
You’ve done the hard part, which is realising the problem you’re facing.
Now, steer into it, and with a professional web design agency by your side, you can overcome it!
Project specific information
Website specific project information can be tricky to outline in a web design brief.
This happens because more often than not, it’s beneficial to have your web design agency make recommendations, rather than adding restrictions from the outset.
However, there are always some things to consider.
Let’s take a look at creating a new website as an example:
- What is it you want to show on your website?
- Do you have experience with a particular website platform? (Like WordPress)
- Is the content all written out and ready to go?
Your project specification doesn’t need to be super technical.
But if you have specific requirements, it’s best to get them listed out now.
Other things to consider alongside your web design project are:
- What does your marketing strategy look like?
- Have you developed a brand strategy?
- Is your branding and brand identity in place?
- Do you have a digital marketing strategy in place?
You’re going to your web design agency for their talent and recommendations. So don’t be completely closed off to changing things!
The more information you can share about your project here, the better.
You need to decide if you’re trying to stand out or fit in.
If you’re working on a web design project, knowing about your competitors can help your chosen agency get an understanding of what they’re all about and what they’re doing online.
It also allows them to take a look at their website, and discuss with you how you want your website to function and look when compared to them.
Helping your web design agency get to know your competitors not only eases their workload, but allows discussions about them to take place at an earlier stage in the web design process.
It also means they don’t stray too close to what your competitors are doing when creating your new website.
To find out more about separating your offering from others brands, check out our post about differentiating your company from the competition.
This question often helps agencies decide whether they can be involved with your project or not.
If you’re looking for a rapid turnaround time, and the agencies you reach out to have a lot of work on, they might decline the offer to work together.
“ASAP” is not an acceptable answer when talking about timescales either. There needs to be a reasonable level of understanding here, things don’t just happen overnight.
As a rough guide, here’s what we tell people at Canny about our website timescales:
Web design project timescales
Web design projects can take anywhere between 6 and 12 weeks. It really depends on their complexity.
If you’re looking for a brochure web design that simply showcases your business, you’ll be down nearer the 6 week mark.
However, if you’re looking for a new ecommerce website solution, you’ll need to carve out a good quarter of a year (if not more) to get things in place.
Timescales should really be put in place by you design agency when you decide to move forward.
One thing I always ask our new clients is:
“Is there an event/product launch/something else we can work towards with the project?”
And that always immediately helps get some initial website launch plans in place.
We have a blog post to help you get your new website launch right.
Try to avoid reaching out to web design agencies at the last minute. The earlier you can bring them in on your plans the better!
Project budget is the area that throws most people into a confused spin when talking about their web design brief.
Think about this:
Web design agencies get approached for work on a regular basis.
Amongst their enquiries, is a whole load of rubbish, some half-decent leads, and sometimes, some real hints of gold (which you want to be).
By sharing your web design budget early, you can build trust and transparency with your chosen agency.
Nobody wants their time wasted.
You have a 30 minute to 1 hour call with a web design agency, and then you send over your web design brief with no budget information.
Your web design service agency reads through it, and comes back with a full website design proposal.
It’s 5 times over what you thought you’d be paying. You’ve lost an hour of your time, the agency has also lost a significant chunk of time by writing out the proposal.
And the project is going nowhere.
By being clear with your budget early on, you can make sure everyone is on the same page right from the start.
If you’re really unsure on how much certain things cost, we have some great posts about pricing of design and branding services that are listed out below:
Hopefully this gives you an insight to how much web design projects cost, and why sharing your budget is an important step to take early in your relationship.
There’s nothing more frustrating than “design by committee.” However, it does happen, and it can be managed.
But there always needs to be a lead point of contact in any web design project that can go between both the agency and the company.
Clearly listing out the contact details of the project contact, as well as the best time and way to get hold of them, will make things run a lot smoother.
Your design agency should also do their part here and once the project kicks off, they’ll assign a member of staff (usually an Account Manager) to handle their side of the communication.
How the project will be awarded
If you’re considering scoping out the field, and firing out your website brief to a range of agencies, then you need to make sure they know how the project will be awarded.
For the record, we don’t believe in distributing your web design brief to a huge number of agencies; It’s not respectful of their time.
That said, we appreciate you’ll want to collect several proposals and opinions. 3 to 5 agencies is a fair number to approach.
So how will your project be awarded?
Typically, there are several elements at play:
- Cost/Value for Money
- Quality of Work
- Previous Experience
- Alignment to the Design Brief
- Suitability of the Agency
There are any number of factors that you could use to judge the responses.
It’s normal to write into your web design brief, the percentage and weighting of each of the awarding criteria.
This helps to show your design agency what’s most important in your decision making process.
If they’re particularly keen to partner together, then they might consider reducing their price if it’s the heaviest weighting factor.
Likewise, if they’re really busy, they might inflate their price to make it “worth their time” if they have to draft in extra staff.
The required response section of your web design brief is usually straightforward.
You need to let your agency know what you’re expecting back, by when, and how to submit it.
It’s simply a case of listing out what you expect to receive back.
This could be:
- A written response to the brief
- Examples of relevant work
- Testimonials from happy clients
Tell them how to submit their proposal, what to include, by when, and you’re off to the races.
What about those additional sections that should be included in your web design brief?
Let’s take a look at those now:
Website features and functionality
Websites have a special set of skills that they need to perform.
To make your web design brief the best it can be you need to list out any special features and requirements.
These might include:
- Integrations with a CRM system or mailing list provider
- Trackable contact forms
- Ecommerce functionality
- Member zone or portal
- Subscription model
If you’re thinking of building a website that’s any more than a business showcase, you need to have that written into your brief.
When writing about features and functionality, people tend to dive into the aesthetics and visuals of the website.
We don’t need to know in the brief if you want a website with a blue background and Comic Sans as the font. You can save that for later discussions!
We need to get really clear on the scope, to help give the most accurate proposal possible.
Key pages or sitemap
You need to know what pages you want on your website.
Most websites consist of at least:
Then it’s a case of building it up for your own unique case from there.
Sell sports socks? You probably want a page about how great your socks are.
In the restaurant business? Make sure you include your menu on there.
Some form of loose sitemap or list of key pages will help solidify your brief.
If you have an existing website, try and list out the key pages and how they’re performing. This way your agency will be able to make sure they’re not overlooked.
Different people have different content requirements.
There are several buckets you might fall into here:
- You don’t want to write the content, and want to hire a copywriter
- You don’t have any content ready, and want your agency to help
- You have a whole bunch of copy ready, and just need it looked over
- Your existing website contains some content you want to refresh
It’s a good idea to include your content requirements in your web design brief and this extends to imagery and video as well as written text.
Some sites rely quite heavily on images, so do you have a library ready to go? Or are you looking to use stock photography? Your content requirements can impact the price of your website, so get clear on them as early as possible.
If you’re relying on your chosen agency to write your website content then you should also include information on your brand tone of voice. This helps them craft the content in the right way so that it engages your audience.
Providing this information from the outset mitigates the likelihood of delays and should reduce revisions later down the line.
Call to actions
A call to action is the “primary action you want your visitors to take” on your website.
Some people do well closing leads on the phone, others would prefer an email to drop into their inbox with the relevant information.
If you’re setting up an ecommerce website, then the likely action you want people to take, is to buy your products.
When listing out your key pages, you could try and map the key call to action to each page.
This will help your design agency out when they’re putting your wireframes and page designs together.
Website likes and dislikes
In our Discovery Process at Canny, we go through a whole range of websites and visual styles to get to the bottom of this question.
But in your brief, try and list out:
- 3 websites you like
- What you like about each of them
And then do the reverse.
Likes and dislikes are important as it can guide the design style and choices made throughout the project.
Try and go into a little bit of detail for example do you like the colour schemes, the navigation, or specific interactive elements? What does a successful website look like to you?
If you can, describe the ‘look & feel’ of what you’re trying to achieve with your new site too. You might reference Apple as a clean, simple design and layout, or Monday.com for its use of white space.
This dips into digital marketing, but it’s a good idea to give your agency a heads up about your digital marketing strategy.
Are you going to be running a whole load of pay per click ads?
Maybe you’re advertising using a huge city centre billboard.
If you’re not sure how to advertise your business, check out the best small business advertising ideas to help you get started.
Again, your digital marketing plans feed your website design project.
Looking to set up loads of landing pages quickly, then some sort of landing page builder is probably a must have feature.
Going to A/B test your way to success?
Then let’s get those versions setup as part of your project.
There are a whole range of digital marketing techniques you could use, so make sure to talk things over with your web designers.
Domain name and hosting
Your chosen web design agency can handle hosting and maintenance for your website. Generally speaking, these professionals 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 your web design brief include who will be responsible for acquiring the domain name and hosting, as well as how much on-going support you expect from your chosen agency.
Alternatively if you’re commissioning a website but want to make your own hosting arrangements, you’ll need to include that in the brief too. Regardless of who is responsible for hosting, it is essential to ensure that the chosen hosting provider is capable of supporting the development of a fast and secure website.
Domain names and hosting are two separate things that are often lumped together.
Your domain name is the address of your website. It’s what’s visible at the top of your internet browser in the address bar.
There are a range of extensions you can use, from .com to .ninja to .online.
Either way, you’re going to need one to make your website work.
If you need help from your agency to secure a domain name, let them know.
It’s often a good idea to buy a suite of domain names. That way they can’t be swept out from underneath you if you create the next Amazon or Google.
You then need to point your domain name to your website hosting.
Your website is made up of code, images, files, folders, and all that sort of fun stuff.
They need somewhere to live.
Your website hosting is that space.
You’ll want to pay for great hosting after reading about the drawbacks of cheap web hosting.
Again, most agencies can either:
- Host your website for you
- Make a hosting recommendation
Just be sure to let them know if you need help!
If you’re working for a larger organisation, you might want to think about working with your agency on a retainer to provide ongoing maintenance.
Typically, if you’re hosting with an agency, they’ll be performing security checks and updates on a regular schedule.
If you want them to update content and post new blogs for you, then you need to write that into your brief.
Analytics and other tools
Most people default to Google Analytics and have it installed.
But there are a range of other tools people like to have installed on their site.
Some people like using Hotjar, CrazyEgg, VWO, to track clicks and scrolls.
Then you have Live Chat options such as Drift and Intercom.
If you want these installed, again, list them out in your design brief.
Reach Out to Web Design Agencies
By this point, your web design brief should be pretty comprehensive so it’s time to start reaching out to web design agencies.
If you’re still not sure on how to find a web design agency, you could contact us to discuss your project.
It’s time to get the process started!
How to Write a Web Design Brief (Free Web Design Template Included!)
A web design brief is an essential tool for finding a suitable web design agency for your project.
It’s important to note that the brief is not set in stone. It should be adaptable and open to modifications as your chosen agency becomes more familiar with your project.
Goals and objectives may change, particularly when external factors come into play, causing unexpected challenges.
This is normal, and it’s important to be prepared for back-and-forth discussions to fine-tune the details.
Similar to other briefs in the series, the web design brief is a way to engage with agencies and serves as a reference throughout key milestones in the project.
However, it’s crucial to remember that the brief is not fixed. Instead, it should be treated as a flexible document that evolves alongside your project.
If you need help on any part of your web design project then get in touch with our team. We’ve created high-performing, optimised websites for a range of clients and we can do the same for you.
Other Design Brief Templates in the Series
As well as The Web Design Brief Template we’ve also created a whole range of other brief templates that you download and use completely free.
So, no matter what sort of creative project you need to write a brief for, we’ve got you covered. Check them out below:
The Design Brief Template
The Design Brief Template will help you get the foundation for any design project right. It’s a good all rounder!
From graphic design to interior design, no matter the type of design project you need – The Design Brief Template is sure to help you out.
The Branding Brief Template
The Branding Brief Template will help you get the brief for your company branding project right.
From straight up branding projects for small businesses, to the full scale branding of larger companies – The Branding Brief Template has all types of branding projects covered.
The Video Brief Template
The Video Brief Template will help you get the foundation for your video project right.
Whether you’re embarking on a corporate video, documentary, explainer, or any other type of video project – then The Video Brief Template is sure to help you out.
The Marketing Brief Template
The Marketing Brief will help you get the brief for any of your marketing projects right.
Whether you’re looking to grow traffic to your website, or increase conversions from existing traffic – then The Marketing Brief Template is here to help.
The Content Brief Template
The Content Brief Template will help you to generate interest in your brand/business in no time!
This brief is perfect for marketers out there looking to work with an agency to strategise, create, and market their content. With content marketing becoming a must in business – The Content Brief Template is designed to help you progress your own content marketing strategy.
The Packaging Brief Template
The Packaging Design Brief template will help you communicate the needs of your packaging project.
From cartons and bottles to boxes and envelopes, knowing what to include in your brief can be confusing – that’s why we designed The Packaging Design Brief template, to help you make sense of the packaging madness.
The RFP / RFQ Template
The RFP / RFQ Template will help you to create an easy to understand document that communicates the needs of your project.
Whether you’re embarking on a branding, web design, brochure design, packaging design, or any other type of design project – then The RFP / RFQ Template can help.