Hiring a web designer to build or revamp your website can be a major investment for a small business, so it is essential to get the brief right.
Give your web designer unclear instructions and you could find yourself forking out for something that does not do the job. We explain the art of writing a good web design brief
Talk through what you want with a web designer first. This will help you to draw up a specification for an acceptable design. They should tell you the pros and cons of the different choices you can make, and most will do this for free if they think they’re going to win the business.
These discussions will help you write your web design brief — the instructions telling the web designer how to build your site. While not legally binding, the brief is an important document. It can pull the designer back on track if they don’t deliver what you wanted, or go over budget.
Consider three things when writing a brief. Start with the technology. You need to ensure your site can be displayed by different web browsers on different devices. Increasingly customers are accessing websites via their smartphones. You need to ensure that clients can view your site on a smartphone and that it works as well as it would if the client were accessing it via a computer. Programmes like Flash can help you achieve this.
If your site will be used to make online sales, you should consider whether your site should link to back-office systems such as stock control systems. You will also need to consider how you will accept payments. Your e-commerce site should also integrate with your other sales channels. See our article on commissioning your ecommerce website.
The second key area is look and feel, so include some of your marketing material showing the colours, logos and house style in the brief. Make sure you give examples of websites you like and those that you don’t plus the reasons why.
Finally, be clear on what the site should achieve. This will help the web designer understand your business model — what you sell and who your customers are. Don’t forget that people scan websites, so it’s important that your pages aren’t cluttered with information and that people can easily find what they’re looking for.
Bear in mind that what you want the website to accomplish and what your visitors require from it may differ. Think about the needs of your audience and reflect these in the design brief.
Plan ahead for the future development and maintenance of the site. You should be able to update it yourself rather than using external specialists. Otherwise you may be charged every time you want to change product information.
Throughout the process you need to keep an eye on the quality of the work and the budget. Give a clear date when you brief the web designer when the work has to be completed and regularly check the progress. Also remember that every time you change your mind and amend the brief, it might have an effect on the overall cost of the project.