Let's talk about the importance of a comprehensive website project brief. We all know that a business's online presence is of hugely important for success and growth. To keep your website competitive and relevant, website updates and enhancements play a crucial role in attracting and retaining customers. Your website is a significant investment and needs to be treated as the valuable asset that it is. A neglected website is like buying an expensive car and never servicing it, it will run ok for a while, then it’s performance will start deteriorating and if ignored, the cost of major fixes could end up costing a significant amount of money.
It’s important to maintain your website in relation to technical improvements, content updates, as well as keep up to date with software updates, theme files & plugins (WordPress). This will keep your website running efficiently and send signals to search engines that your website is healthy and meeting algorithm standards, which helps rankings. When you need website updates, all these factors must be taken into account by your web developer. Therefore, clients must understand the significance of creating a comprehensive project brief that provides clear instructions regarding goals and requirements.
The Comprehensive Website Project Brief
- Alignment of Goals: A project brief acts as a guide that ensures that both yourself and your web developer are on the same page when it comes to your goals. Web developers have a lot of skills, but being a mind reader isn’t one of them. By clearly articulating the desired outcomes, a brief ensures that everyone involved is on the same page from the get-go.
- Efficient Communication: We all communicate in our own way and most of us assume that we have articulated our thoughts clear enough for anyone to understand. A project brief allows for detailed and seamless flow of information, reducing the risk of misunderstandings, errors and frustrations.
- Time and Cost Efficiency: A comprehensive project brief saves time and resources by eliminating the need for frequent revisions and iterations. Back and forth emails and phone calls take up a lot of time and a project can drag out when requests, feedback and instructions are not actioned quickly.
8 Steps to Create a Comprehensive Website Project Brief
Step 1: Define Project Objectives
Clearly articulate the goals of the website update and enhancement project. Will you require content updates, site structure changes, new pages, addition of new functionality, design changes, information for customers to download? Being able to clearly define what the final look and operation of the website should look like helps the developer review, analyse the requirements and action and/or make recommendations for better/alternative options available. These could be around: improving the user experience, increasing conversions, or enhance visual aesthetics. Defining the project also helps Identify the key performance indicators (KPIs) that will measure the success of the project.
Step 2: Identify Target Audience
To better design changes in your website, it is important to understand your target audience and their needs. Designing and providing updates to your website should consider demographics, user preferences, and behaviours to tailor the website update to suit your audience. This will help in designing an engaging user experience and optimising conversion rates.
Step 3: Evaluate Current Website
An evaluation of your website is to go through page by page and look at what is working and what isn’t. This could be design elements, accessibility, the flow of clicks to reach the desired information or CTA (call to action). What are the site’s strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement. You could also compare your site to an impressive site of a competitor and see what you like and would like to add to your own site. Also, analyse the user data in Google Analytics, Google Search Console, user feedback, and customer support inquiries, to gain insights into pain points and areas that require enhancement.
Step 4: Define Functional Requirements
Specify the features and functionalities that are essential for the website update and enhancement. This may include content management systems (CMS), e-commerce capabilities, support chat, integration with third-party tools like a newsletter program, popups, mobile responsiveness, and search engine optimisation (SEO) requirements.
Step 5: Design and Visual Enhancements
Outline the desired visual improvements, branding elements, colour schemes, and overall design direction. Providing branding assets in ready to publish formats saves a lot of time! Having a document on hand for your web developer including HEX colours, fonts etc, essentially a style guide or branding strategy document. Provide examples of designs you like or reference to websites with design components you like will help the development team understand your aesthetic preferences.
Step 6: Content Strategy
The content strategy is one of the most overlooked components of a website build or enhancement. When evaluating each page of your site and determining what the updates will be, write draft content for each section or page. This will help in the design/layout of the section/page as the amount of content has a significant impact on the design/layout. Content can always be updated later. If writing is not your strong suit, ask your developer about provision of SEO ready copywriting which includes your target keywords and is written with your goals in mind. Providing tone of voice and key messaging guidelines will help the copywriter nail the content to resonate with your target audience.
Step 7: Timeline and Budget
Be clear and realistic about the timeline and budget of the project. Timeline will be agreed to with the developer as they will have a better idea of how long the project will take and may have other projects on the go which impacts delivery. When you submit a clear brief this will be the basis of how a quote is provided by your developer. For a new build, your developer will prepare a SOW (scope of works) which outlines the projects technical, design, content, testing and delivery milestones which your developer follows to the letter. This information also helps the development team in planning and managing resources effectively.
Step 8: Review and Feedback Process
This is vital! A new build can be build on a development site and not be live till finalised and approved. Updating a site and adding functionality requires either putting the site into maintenance mode whilst changes are bing made, or duplicating the page and making all changes and testing, sharing for approval and then overwrite the existing page. Either way, determining how to review and provide feedback ensures a smooth process. Using project management software is ideal where there is room for file uploads, a review & feedback process where sign-off is provided to escalade the task to the next level in the project journey. This allows developers to establish milestones, provide guidelines for feedback, and designate responsibilities to the development team AND the client.
What Can Go Wrong When There's No Brief or the Content is Drip-fed to Your Designer or Developer?
Miscommunication & Misinterpretation
Without a comprehensive project brief, there’s always a risk of miscommunication and misinterpretation of requirements. Remember what I said earlier about not being mind-readers? Drip-feeding content or instructions to the designer or developer leads to fragmented information, which may be clear in your mind as they were your initial thoughts that you are familiar with. However, this makes it difficult for your developer to grasp the big picture. This can result in a mismatch between what you expect and what is delivered. This can lead to frustration and ill-feelings between you and the developer.
Drip-feeding content and instructions disrupts the workflow of designers and developers. Especially if they didn’t build your site and aren’t aware of the details the original developer had about the design and build process. Chopping and changing and constantly backtracking, reworking, or make significant changes to accommodate new information that was not previously communicated. No one is happy in this situation and the developer ultimately takes the flack.
Lack of Focus and Direction
When content and instructions are not provided all together or in a structured way, designers and developers may struggle to prioritise tasks effectively. They may spend excessive time on less critical elements or overlook essential aspects, leading to a subpar final product.
Without a project brief and in the absence of clear instructions multiple rounds of iterations and revisions happen often. You may realise that the initial deliverables do not align with your expectations, resulting in a prolonged and frustrating development process. This can strain the client-developer relationship and potentially increase project costs.
Budget and Timeline Overruns
Drip-feeding content and instructions can significantly impact project timelines and budgets. Imagine you are given the task of cooking a 3 course meal but the recipe is only given to you one step at a time and not always in the correct order. The ideal process is to have all the ingredients, utensils needed and the recipe in front of you so you can review, absorb, understand and then design the order in which you tackle each stage of the cook. Seeing the big picture is important!
Without a comprehensive brief, designers and developers may have to make assumptions or guesswork to fill in the gaps (and sometimes guess wrong). This can result in a final product that does not meet the your expectations or align with your brand image. The lack of clarity may also lead to functional or usability issues, which could have a negative impact on user experience.
By providing a clear vision and direction, you can enable your designers and developers to deliver exceptional results that align with your business objectives.
Be kind to your developer. Get in touch if you'd like assistance with preparing a Comprehensive Website Project Brief.
Interested in expanding your knowledge? Read this interesting blog post, about affordable website design.