How to prepare a website brief

Author -  Labyrinth Solutions

A clear and concise brief or request for proposal (RFP) will result in more defined and accurate proposals being presented to you, and a much greater likelihood that you’ll get exactly what you are after without later modifications and changes. Ask yourselves the following:

  1. How important is the website to your business model? This is probably the most important thing to consider as it will determine what level of investment you allocate to this part of the business. As with most things, quality generally comes at a price, but if that means you’re much more likely to achieve your targets what is that worth to you in terms of business success?
  2. What is the main reason for wanting a new site – what has been the primary trigger?
  3. What are the site’s sales objectives? It will often have more than one so think about exactly what you’ll want it to do. Ideas include the obvious, promoting the organization, but also it could be used as an information portal to reduce staff having to field everyday enquiries (such as opening hours, ticket prices etc), as a document library, as a portal for staff information, as a tool in your recruitment process etc.
  4. How will you measure the website’s success? If the site is an e-commerce site for example, what level of revenue do you want to achieve year 1, year 2 etc? Based on your predicted average sale value, how many units will need to be sold to achieve these revenue targets and what will the gross profit be? Having these figures prepared will help in the calculation of accurate returns on investment and will help decide on the viability of various options.
  5. Are all your requirements immediate or are some more urgent than others? Could some of these needs be met in a phase 2 or 3 of the project further down the line?
  6. What is the nature of your business? You need to be clear on this as it should be central to the message you convey to the outside world.
  7. Who is the target audience? Are they just in the local area or city, the whole of the country or world wide? Are they of a particular demographic, (children, adults, social class, income levels, location etc)?
  8. Is website design part of the project or will the website designer need to work with a design team that you use for other projects, or perhaps an existing design from your current website?
  9. How important is being able to make changes yourselves without involving the website provider? Generally the more important the site is to your business, the more important your access to managing the content.
  10. How important is future proofing the site?  Ideally how long do you want the site to last before you need to embark on a new website build project?
  11. Do you have different divisions or brands that have different marketing messages and target audiences than the main one? If so, it maybe worth looking at the viability of satellite sites for separate branding. If so mention this in the brief with details of the different brands/divisions.
  12. Is there other advertising taking place that the new web site should tie in with?
  13. What are the unique selling points for your company, your products or your services? You may take these for granted, but your target audience may be unaware of these benefits in using your company. The website company needs to be made aware of these factors so that the site can be built to promote them to the best advantage.
  14. Have you got the copy text ready or will you need help in this area?
  15. Do you have enough good quality images or will the website provider need to find suitable ones for you?
  16. Will the website require many types of forms? If so you’ll need to have these fairly well defined.
  17. Will the site need to host videos or audio clips?
  18. For e-commerce, how many individual products, how many product groups, what delivery options will you need, and what payment options will you take etc?
  19. What is the timescale of the project? Are there any definite deadlines you have to meet e.g. a product launch or a new store opening etc?
  20. When can you start on the project, get the copy organized etc?
  21. When do you want it to go live?

Functionality

This is a very specific part of the brief. Here you’ll need to detail any particular needs in terms of the website integrating to third party software – for example an existing data base or booking engine, or stock control system etc. If it does, you’ll have to have full details available of the other systems and an outline of what you want the integration to achieve.

How do you want the site navigation to work? What ideas do you have on sections, navigation style, internal and external links etc? A good idea here is to write a simple site map, for example the main pages might be – About Us, Our Services, Testimonials, Blog or ‘Talk to us’ and Contact Us. Underneath About us you might have sub pages such as key staff, with staff profiles, another page under this section might be the company history etc.

The simpler you make this map, the easier the website will be to understand, manage and use.

Think about any specific functions you may require. For example:

  • A members-only area
  • News letter sign ups
  • Print page buttons
  • Internal search facility
  • Refer a friend
  • A message board or a Blog

Other Considerations

If you want your site to be easily found on the search engines, you will probably want search engine optimization carried out on it. A good idea is to look at the website provider – do they come up well on the obvious searches based on their locality such as Auckland website design for example with an Auckland based company? 

  1. Does the website company assign a dedicated project manager to the project?
  2. Do you have any requirements about the website hosting? Are you happy to let them handle that or do you have specific requirements where it has to be hosted?
  3. What after sales service do they offer and what do you want? For example do they offer support packages, marketing consultancy, training, seminars or webinars for optimal user performance?
  4. Do you want help with setting up and running email/newsletter campaigns as part of the project?
  5. Do you have any specific payment options you require – for example would you prefer to finance the deal over a number of years rather than pay for it within one budgetary period? If so, make this requirement clear in your brief.

This guide is by no means exhaustive, but hopefully will have given you some idea of the things that need to be considered before a website project is embarked on. The old saying " failing to prepare is preparing to fail " is very applicable here. Good luck!

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