Creating a Website Design Brief

Design Brief

The start of any major project can be intimidating and daunting. All of a sudden we get impulses to clean our office space, sort out business cards alphabetically, clean the top ledge of the cabinet that has been collecting dust for two years, load that app on your phone that you haven’t played for a year because all of a sudden you remember how much you loved that game (I recommend stick tennis), the list goes on. Website Design Brief

For a lot of people, the thought of creating a new website will definitely create this feeling that can be overwhelming. The answer to calming the nerves and providing a great starting point for the creation of a new website is in creating a website design brief.

What is a Design Brief?

A website design brief or creative direction brief is an overview of the look and feel of a new website. It gives a website designer what they need in order to come up with designs that are on target and on strategy.

The information sourced for the design brief will be collected from initial meetings highlighting the needs, opportunities and requirements of a new website, responses from a discovery questionnaire and reviews of your current website and of your peers.

The design brief is one of a number of planning documents we use for planning a new site. The other documents are the technical brief (sometimes called the Architecture, Requirements and Definitions, or ARD plan by our team), the content strategy, the sitemap and wire frames when necessary. We'll talk about each of these other items in future blog posts.

What’s Included?

The categories of what goes into a design brief will alter depending on your business or company, an e-commerce site will have different objectives than a not-for-profit company website, however, the following headings are what we typically include when creating a design brief:

  • Purpose of Brief – quickly clarifies the purpose of the document to readers, so they understand this is not the technical brief or sitemap
  • Website Objectives – a list of the main objectives that you want the website to achieve.
  • Website Audiences – describe the primary audience, and secondary audiences.
  • Website Key Messaging – messaging that should “whack website visitors over the head” when they arrive at your site.
  • Conversion Goals – what do you want your primary audience members to do when visiting the site?
  • Homepage Inventory – create a list of what will likely be included on the homepage
  • Creative/Design Direction – define visual branding considerations, imagery to be used in the site, font style, size and colors and background colors.
  • Mood/Feelings – list adjectives that you want associated with your new website (trustworthy, secure, people-oriented, etc.). If the project is worthy, create a mood-board that will direct the design of the site

You will notice that discussion of functionality and navigation are missing from this list. Again, this is because those are items best attacked using separate technical briefs, sitemaps and wire frames.

What are the Benefits of Creating a Design Brief?

It is a great start when you have decided to create a new website. No more procrastinating and thinking about what to do and how to do it. You now have direction and can get moving. By outlining the goals of how you will incorporate design into your website, you have also created a document that will have you ready for your next steps. The design brief should always be referred to during each stage of development to ensure that the goals are being met and the project is on target. It is a great reference point and keeps everyone on track.

By the way, a variation of this document is also used for internal websites, mobile sites, web apps and digital presentations.

We believe that creating a design brief at the outset of any website project is imperative in laying the foundation for success. It ensures that all our team members understand the goals of the project and that our clients have had the opportunity to articulate what it is they want their site to achieve. So if you have made the decision to create a new website and you’ve found yourself trying to get three stars in ALL levels of Angry Birds…put the phone down and start your design brief. You won’t regret it!

By Brad Pizem
Client Services Director
February 7th, 2013
Disclaimer: Our team members contribute to this blog in their own voices. As such, opinions expressed in this post are not necessarily shared by Upanup. If you are curious or concerned, please contact us.