The Guide to Writing Design Briefs

Marques Coleman
The Guide to Writing Design Briefs
A good web design brief is important for the success of any project. Let's breakdown its constituents.

Having a website is a big deal for every business. It performs a variety of functions, namely helping companies:

·   Have a consistent online presence

·   Easily exchange information

·   Grow target audience

·   Gain valuable consumer insights

·   Share educational insights and become the authority in the industry

·   Build up credibility and trust

It’s in your power, as a web designer, to create a website that does all that. But, if your client wants the website to deliver all these benefits, they have to be prepared to invest a lot of money.

On average, website design and development costs a business around $6,000, with maintenance costs of $1,000 a year. The prices for an e-commerce website can even go as high as $24,000.

However, all these investments and efforts will go down the drain if you and your client are not on the same page. That’s why both a client and a designer need a blueprint that would guide them through the process of developing a website and make sure that everything is taken into account.

A design brief can be a great solution in this case.

What Is a Design Brief?

In its essence, a design brief is a document that outlines the requirements and goals for an upcoming design project.

It’s a common mistake in web design to think that it’s the designer who is the only one responsible for writing this document. In reality, this is usually a joint effort, as both the client and the designer should contribute to the process of creating a design brief. The reason is simple: the designer cannot read the mind of the client, and the client doesn’t often have profound knowledge of web design.

A good web design brief is important for the success of the project, as it:

·   Helps the designers get the necessary insights and background to deliver the correct result

·   Provides step-by-step instructions

·   Allows understanding client’s expectations better

·   Enables timely delivery of the project

Now, as we revealed the purpose and the benefits of a design brief, let’s take a closer look at a detailed guide on how to write it properly.

Step #1: The Introductory Part

A web design brief should start with an overview of the project and its purpose. It should provide an explanation to the designer on what the business is, why a website is an important part of online branding for the business, and which goals it should help achieve.

With that in mind, an introductory part should consist of three main chapters – an overview of the business, the goals of the project, and the detailed analysis of the target audience and market. Let’s break down these chapters one by one.

1) The overview of your business

A website will be one of the signature components of the brand. That’s why it is important to provide a detailed business overview to help the designer understand your brand, how it functions, and what values it has.

To give a full picture of what the business is, the company representative can answer the following questions:

·   When was the business established?

·   What are the main products?

·   Where does the business operate?

·   What are the business’s vision and values?

·   What differentiates you from other businesses?

At this point, they can also mention their direct and indirect competitors and what they like about them. The client can also include a brief competitor analysis to provide the designer with some more insights. You can offer your client to use this table to do a quick competitor overview:

Competitor Overview Table

If your client’s business has been around for a while, they can also include information on their key clients and stakeholders and their general vision of what the website should look like.

2) The goals of the project

In this section, you and your client should agree on the main goals, achieving which would indicate that the project is a success.

The main point here is to make these goals sound as direct and clear as possible. To help your client be more precise, they can answer the following questions:

·   What should this project achieve?

·   What will define the success of this project?

The goals in the web design brief will also depend on whether the website is made from scratch or if it’s a remake. In case you will work on redoing the website, your client needs to explain what needs to change and why. This information will define further goals and objectives for the entire project.

3) The analysis of the target audience and market

In marketing, there’s a bad practice among some brands to target a very vague audience with their websites. They want to attract as many people as possible but end up with nothing because these people have low interest in what these brands offer.

Martha Dickinson, a writer and a researcher at GrabMyEssay, says that 35% of brands end up losing money because their websites don’t deliver any results and don’t attract the necessary audience. And we already know how costly building a website can be.

So, when working on a design brief together with your client, make sure they provide a detailed overview of the target audience that should answer the following questions:

·   What does your ideal client look like?

·   What are their age and gender?

·   Where do they live, and what languages do they speak?

·   What are their marital status, education, and job position?

·   How much do they earn on average?

·   What problems does your product help your ideal client solve?

·   Do you want your website segmented according to the different needs of your audience?

As you get all the answers, make a draft of a target audience persona that will also be a typical visitor of your client’s website. Here’s an example of how it can look like:

Target Audience Persona

Once you have the description of the target audience persona, ask your client to provide a brief market analysis as well. This analysis should:

·   Provide general information on the industry your client is working in

·   Include current market data

·   Give insights on trends within the industry and niche

Based on this information, you can also give your client useful recommendations on what their website should include to remain competitive.

Step #2: Project-Specific Information

Now, as your design brief has all the information to understand the general scope of the project, it’s time to move on to a more specific part and provide more details on the problems that the project will solve and the main functionalities to be included in the design.

1) The problems that the website will solve

Your client might have certain problems in mind that they want the website to solve. In that regard, they might suggest some objectives for website development. Achieving each of these objectives would mean that the problem has been solved.

Consider the following example. Darrin Stevenson, a writer and a content marketing team lead at TopEssayWriting, shared that his company wanted to remake its website because they weren’t getting enough traffic. For that, the company had their web designer to focus on four objectives:

·   Increase the number of weekly website sessions by 40%

·   Grow monthly organic traffic by 30%

·   Create 40 pieces of content that skyrockets traffic

·   Achieve the year-over-year goal that’s 30% higher compared to the previous year

All these objectives were time-bound, in that the website needed to reach each of them by a certain deadline.

As a designer, your task is to help turn your client’s problems into goals and objectives into milestones. Whatever your client’s problems are, low traffic, lack of engagement, or poor revenue, a design brief should focus on that and outline solutions step-by-step. 

2) The functionalities that the website will include

This section should provide all the details on the features that the website will include. At this point, it’s important to communicate each of these features with your client, have them OK all the additions and changes, and make sure they understand why these changes are important for the goals of the project.

Potentially, a web design brief can include a list of the following features:

·   website layout

·   user interface, including user registration and login

·   member management interface

·   restricted resources

·   blog and open resources

·   help desk

·   chatbot or live chat

·   search bar

·   website forms (contact forms, pop-up notifications)

·   social media integration

At this point, you should also talk with your client about the contents of the website. For instance, if your client is outsourcing blog content writing to online services like TrustMyPaper and WowGrade, they should also have a word in writing a design brief and provide information on what the blog section of the website will look like and which categories it should contain.

Also, depending on the purpose of the website, it can include other specific functionalities. For instance, if the website is intended for e-commerce, it should include online billing features, integrations with online payment systems, a shopping cart feature, etc.

Step #3: Project Resources Available to Designers

Once you’ve outlined the objectives and the functionalities of the website, it’s time to talk about time and money. As a web designer, you should have a clear picture of the scope of the resources you have to complete the project successfully.

That’s why, first and foremost, a design brief should include a detailed breakdown of the budget allocated for the web development project. You can ask your client to do this breakdown:

·   per entire project

·   per milestone

·   per objective

On top of that, your client should also provide the budget to cover additional costs that might come up in the course of the project. For instance, apart from the features listed in the brief, your client asks to add some cybersecurity measures to protect sensitive customer data, like their payment information if it’s an e-commerce website.

As for the timeline of the project, make sure your client fully understands how much time each of the milestones will take. As a designer, you need to set realistic expectations and explain why every process takes as much time as it does and why it is in the best interest of your client not to rush things.

Wrapping Up

The process of website development is quite complex and multifaceted. Unfortunately, not every client understands that and ends up giving the designer just a few general ideas and website must-haves.

What’s the outcome of that?

The final result looks unfinished, lacks important features, and requires multiple revisions.

That’s why writing a detailed design brief is an important step in any web development project. It will include all the necessary information, from the business overview, goals of the project, target audience, to the problems the website will solve, functionalities it will include, not to mention the budget and the deadlines that you will have at your disposal.

However, to write a truly informative website brief, you need to collaborate with your client. Only that way you’ll get all the insights necessary to complete the project successfully.

Author bio: Marques Coleman is a content contributor at SupremeDissertations and an executive editor at ClassyEssay. He started his writing career writing articles for the editorial column at Subjecto on how to do copywriting the right way. Now, he also runs his own blog, where he shared marketing tips for small businesses.

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