How to brief a web design agency
So there’s a feeling within the company that the website needs a re-think. You need to find someone to do the job, and it needs to be someone you feel you can trust – and then you need to articulate to them what you need. It can feel like quite a challenge.
Starting the conversation internally about what’s required is the first step. Understanding exactly what you need can save time and money in a development project, as well as ensuring that everyone ends up happy. But what questions do you need to ask to get a picture of your requirements in sufficient detail to inform an agency?
Whoever you talk to will need a little bit of background information to get them going:
The agency will need to know a little about your company: its products and services, its key messaging, its geography (i.e. local, national, international), and its ethos. They’ll also want to know the existing website URL and your reasons for wanting to redesign the site – what it is still doing well, and what isn’t working?
Sometimes you don’t have a budget in mind, but if you do, it’s always worth sharing this. Many of us are reluctant to do this because we fear that agencies will ‘bump up’ their quote because they know that there’s more budget available. But you will actually get a quote that is better matched to your needs and expectations if you give an indication of budget – ruling out those who can’t match your needs within your budget, and allowing others to tailor their solution to your pocket. It may even encouraging some to discount their services slightly to fit within the indicated spend. As with all aspects of a project, clear and honest communication is the best way to a happy outcome!
Similar to budget, if you have a particular deadline or timeframe in mind it’s worth letting the agencies know up front – but don’t feel you need to impose a timeframe if you don’t have to. Most agencies will want to be prompt in their delivery in any case, without being tied to artificial deadlines, and nobody wants a rushed project. Good agencies will be honest about whether they can meet your budget and timeframe expectations and still do a good job.
These questions won’t necessarily inform the agency’s process, but will be key to ensuring that things run well internally.
Are you intending to rewrite your existing content? If so, who is responsible for this?
Ideally the answer to this questions is ‘yes’. If the site needs to be redesigned, it’s unlikely that the content doesn’t at least need to be reviewed. Plan to set aside plenty of time for this: it is very easy to overlook the importance of content and the time required to do it properly.
Who is going to be making decisions on this project? Who will have input? Who will collate feedback, and who will have final sign-off. This can significantly alter the way a project runs – and remember, design by committee is rarely successful!
THE PROJECT IN DETAIL
These are the questions that you will use to draw out your requirements, and understand what the success of your website redevelopment looks like. You won’t necessarily need to answer all of them – just use the ones that produce useful answers, and skip any that don’t feel relevant.
Role of the website
- What is the role of the website within the business?
- Is it establishing thought leadership? Is it a direct sales tool? A shop window? Should it be generating sales enquiries as a stand-alone tool, or is it a tool which supports your sales team?
- What do you want people to do when they arrive at the site?
- Who are your competitors and what are they doing well/badly?
- Who do you want to visit the site? This may be more than one group of people. It might be useful to develop some quick personas when talking about audience, because these can then be used to help understand user journey & effectiveness against goals later.
- How are they going to find the site?
- What does each one need from the site/what do you want them to do when they get there?
- How do they engage with your business – what pain point are they trying to address, and what ongoing relationship will they have? What brings them to you in the first place, and how does that relationship develop?
- Can you summarise your message in no more than 3 bullet points? And without using the word ‘solutions’!
- What is the key information you’d expect each audience group/persona to need to look at?
- What sort of information do we need to provide to support the key messages?
- What do you want to achieve with the design?
- What emotions/response do you want to evoke from the design?
- Are you keeping your current branding? Is there a brand guide?
- What do you look for in a good design? What criteria will you use to decide what’s right?
- What websites do you like and why? (this really doesn’t have to be relevant to your industry – it’s a useful exercise to look at a range of websites and see what works for you, regardless of what sector the website is for)
Functional & Technical requirements
Answer these only if you can – if you can’t, don’t worry since the agency will be able to help you work out this information.
- Does the website require any specific additional functionality, such as e-commerce, members-only areas etc?
- Do you already own the domain?
- Do you have access to the DNS control?
- Will you require hosting?
Need to start planning a website redesign?
If you’re about ready to start planning a website redesign project, please do download our PDF version of this content.