How to Write a Design Brief to Keep Your Web Design Projects on Track
Today more than ever, a strong website presence can help make or break a customer’s decision to choose one business over a competitor. When a client comes to you in need of a website, you’ll more than likely take on the project–even if you don’t know how to build one yourself, or have anyone on hand who does.
Luckily, there are countless web designers out there. But before you hire one and have them get to work, you’ll need to set up a design brief. By the end of this article, you’ll have a better idea of not only how to write a design brief, but also how to keep the project on track.
What is a Design Brief?
A design brief is a document written by the client that the web designer will use to estimate the amount of time required and the costs associated with a project. The client specifies all their wishes regarding the design and the various features that need to be added.
Sometimes, the customer hasn’t fully envisioned the project. The brief allows them to record all their ideas in writing so everyone involved reaches a mutual understanding.
Parts of a Design Brief
An effective design brief should contain information on the following topics:
- The target demographics
- Any features you want on the website
- What people can do on the site
- Language options
- Logos and color schemes
- What tone of voice should be used
- A brief example, or a similar website, and what to try to incorporate
- The budget and deadline
Keeping the Target Demographics in Mind
Nowadays, sites fill a variety of niches, partly because there are so many different people. Are you building a site to market to a local audience, or are you trying to grow your brand and reach a larger group? Is the website intended for a younger generation, an older community, or a mix of the two?
These are the sort of questions you need to answer in your brief so the person completing the project knows what to do. For example, if you’re building a website for elderly adults to use, you would use a larger font, links embedded into anchor texts are visible to the user, and there shouldn’t be a large amount of background animation because it will be distracting.
This is the exact opposite of what you would do with kids and teens, though. With younger people, you can use animations and use a variety of images. A good designer knows where the fine line is between stunning and cluttered. They would also use bright colors and play with the color scheme to make the site exciting.
Different sites will be capable of doing different things. However, all sites should share some things in common, such as social media plugins, a frequently asked questions tab, contact information, and a navigation tab.
If the site is marketing a product, then you should talk to the designer about adding a section for customer reviews. If the site is selling a product, then you need to communicate what forms of payment will be accepted on the website.
If you’re trying to build a launchpad or a news site, then communicate how you want the homepage to look. Should it be various tiles with the names of different articles, or should be it a list going down the page? Also, how should the site be organized? Continuing with the news site example, you may want to include a ribbon with different types of articles, like finance and style.
Regardless of where you live in the world, various groups of people will find their way to your site; it’s important to keep that in mind while writing the brief. Some websites are now including different flags above the navigation ribbon or acronyms of various countries to allow users to translate a website without having to use external software.
By including this feature on your site, the content is more accessible, prompting people to stay on the website longer. If they stay on longer, they’re more likely to browse other sections of the site, or shop around depending on if the site is designed to inform or facilitate commerce.
Use of Logos and Complementary Color Schemes
It’s important to note this one because a beautiful site could be the difference between someone staying on it or going to a competitor’s website. If using a logo, think about that logo, and communicate with the designer that you want to use a similar color scheme.
If your logo and color scheme don’t complement one another, it creates a sense of disjointedness that will make people shy away from your site. Specifying a color palette in the brief will help avoid this entirely.
Use of Tone and Style
This element is important not necessarily for the aesthetic value of the website, but its readability. The tone is dependent on two things: the audience and the mood. The way you would write for an adult would be different than how you would address a toddler.
Play around with what words you would use and the order you can communicate the same thing to different people using two different sentences. When building a website that has a young target audience, you’ll have to create shorter sentences and be more direct with what you’re saying.
Whereas tone is what you’re saying, style is how you say it. Let’s say your website is geared more towards professionals in a certain field. You wouldn’t use exclamation marks or contractions as often as you would in a more casual piece.
That is because using contractions helps free up the language. The use of it’s vs. it is, for example, makes a website seem less rigid. A website will have one of four general styles it’s written in: expository, descriptive, narrative, or persuasive.
There are many tools and services online like WritingJudge, Grammarly, TrustMyPaper, BestEssay.Education, and Hemingway that can help you calibrate the tone and voice of your copy to the needs of your target audience.
Communicating the style to the web designer will also help them build a background that complements the content written on your website. Style can also refer to the layout itself. Think about elements that you like from outside inspiration and try to have those things incorporated into the website design.
Scandinavian design, for example, focuses on simplicity, minimalism, and functionally. Its use of sharp lines and a neutral palette gives a clean look to any home, and if these same concepts are applied to the web design process, it creates a sleek and elegant looking site.
Examples of Websites and Why They’re Designed Well
We are going to focus on two different websites, and what each one did well. There’s the social media titan, Facebook, and the sports website, ESPN.
An excellent example of the concept of the use of designing websites with complementary color schemes to their logo is Facebook. Facebook’s logo has a white letter on a blue background. The pane at the top of the page is blue.
Although the interface seems cluttered, however, upon closer inspection, the design team did an excellent job of incorporating white space to break up various sections.
ESPN’s website also has a lot going on, but everything works well together. You have articles you can read and scores you can check, but there’s also background videos playing to keep you informed on a variety of topics.
This site also makes use of smooth transitions, keeping the UI clean. Above the navigation ribbon are scores from a variety of sports, along with a plugin for a variety of fantasy sports leagues. This makes ESPN’s site a one-stop-shop for anything sports-related.
Out of all of the sections in this article, deadlines may be the hardest to communicate. Life happens, and the web designer may be attempting to juggle multiple projects. Because of this, deadlines may not be met. Rather than say the project is due a month from now, say you would like to see progress checks every Thursday.
This allows you to see the site as it evolves. By breaking it up into smaller tasks, you can address something you don’t like right during the check-ins, rather than the designer have to tweak their final product.
Don’t be afraid to contact the web designer. It’s better to reach out a week before the deadline and find out that the site will be completed late, rather than learning this the day after the due date.
There should be two parts of the budget: the cost of the website, and the fee associated with reimbursing the designer for their time. As a general rule, the more detailed a website is, the more you’ll pay for it.
“The more experience someone brings to designing a project, the more their services will cost, but that’s because they’ll be able to deliver a better product.” — Diana Adjadj, freelance UX writer at Studicus.
Final Thoughts on Web Design Briefs
Writing a brief is a time-consuming process, but a necessary one. When you clearly communicate your ideas and goals with the designer, you not only give them an idea of what they’re supposed to build, but you also gain an unbiased sounding board.
This becomes useful when you are talking through what you want to accomplish, and they’re able to give feedback or ask questions that you may have missed. As long as the designer stays on brief and budget, you’re sure to have a website that doesn’t just meet your needs, but exceeds them.