The AMA MicroDigital Guide to writing a website brief
Brian Healy, Head of Agency at Un.titled shares his wealth of experience on what makes a great website brief. This template will guide you through the process. It's not the definitive list of what you'll need, but it's a great starting point and will serve as food for thought.
Any agency will need to know a bit about you - your organisation or company, your venue or venues and what you offer - in order to get a feel for how they will design your website. A good starting point would be to list the following:
- A couple of paragraphs about your organisation, company and/ or venue
- A summary of your offer - e.g. programme of activities, products and services you provide; do you have an online programme (on demand or live streamed events, learning courses and the like)
- Are you a local, regional, national or international?
- How long have you been established?
- The size of the organisation and offer - e.g. the number of staff, a steer on your turnover, capacity and the number of events and performances in your programme or calendar, whether you have an outreach or educational programme, whether you offer events AND classes and courses …
- Describe the organisation using five to ten words (e.g. young, vibrant, digitally savvy etc.)
The current website
- If you have an existing website, what is the URL (web address)?
- How long ago was it built (and do you know who built it)?
- What are your headline website traffic figures (e.g. number of visitors, what peaks do you have, what’s the split between devices, your bounce rate)?
- Briefly, what is good about the website? (e.g. structure, relatively easy to use, up to date info)
- And what don’t you like about the website? (e.g. out-dated design, old colour schemes, cumbersome workflow, can’t edit everything, doesn’t make enough use of modern thinking and best practice web development)
- Do you know what your customers have to say about it - do you have any feedback?
- Have you done any auditing of the site (tests, surveys, SEO and keyword analysis)?
- Who is responsible for updating the site?
- Do you sell online (e.g. tickets, artwork, retail)? If so, what’s the approx proportion of online sales to total sales (e.g. what percentage of ticket sales are online vs offline)?
- Also what is the average order value?
- If different to anything you’ve answered above, what is the most complex part of the site?
- And similarly what’s the most important part of the site?
- Are there any other reasons why the old site is no longer suitable or fit for purpose - detail anything else that could be relevant (e.g. original developer has moved on, it’s not mobile friendly, ticketing integration is too basic etc)
The new website
Now look at what you need from the new website. A good starting point would be to consider the following:
- Outline the aims of the website ( e.g. to increase traffic, increase bookings and online ticket sales, increase awareness of the programme of activities, integrate ticketing better, offer e-commerce, advertise a new product or service, improve workflow and gain time savings in managing the site)
- If you’ve got them, list any agreed KPIs you may already have (e.g. engagement indicators and conversion rates, ticket or product sales, also in-person visitor numbers)
- Who is the target audience (or audiences)? Is this different from the old site? What are the headline demographics? (e.g. children/ adults; average income / spend levels; location; time availability etc.)
- Is the new website part of a rebrand? Or perhaps an organisational change (e.g. restructure)? Or perhaps another project (e.g. new ticketing system being implemented)? Or all three - rebrand, organisational change and new ticketing system?
- What are the unique selling points for your venue and the programme of activities you offer?
- Is there other advertising taking place that the new website should tie in with?
- What is your market like - e.g. is it saturated with competitors?
- List a few competitor websites (venues you see yourself competing with):
- List a few websites that are NOT competitors but which for you are great designs:
Outlining your budget is very important. Have no doubt, you will get better, more accurate quotes in response. Some form of steer on available or expected budget would be helpful, for both you and whoever you are talking to. It will help determine the scope of the project in our response, help prevent scope creep further down the line and will give us a better idea of what we can do to meet the requirements. It will also help determine the timeline we can complete the project in. On a very simple level, it will also give you a better means of comparing apples with apples. All of which are good things, for both of us.
- What is the budget or budget range for design and development of the website?
- What is the budget for ongoing development (improvements to the site over time)?
- What is the budget for ongoing hosting (support and maintenance)?
Deadline + Schedule
Often you won’t have a detailed schedule and that’s fine - it’s a key part of the initial project effort, to establish a meaningful and realistic schedule or timeline that we will all deliver to. That said there are often important dates (not even necessarily related to the web project) that the project needs to work to - e.g. launch of new brand, new season programme, new director, new ticketing or CRM system going live.
So, with that in mind, do you have important dates and/ or deadlines which the web project needs to incorporate into the overall website schedule? Are these definitive or provisional?
What are the main challenges as you see them:
Directly in the project - whether technical e.g. integration of a collection system or more strategic e.g. procurement of a new CRM
And indirectly - e.g. you’re a full formed and ambitious but small and sometimes very stretched
A fun bit - the look and feel of the new website
The website should be an extension of any offline media, advertising or branding that you have. It is always helpful to be provided with a brochure, some marketing literature or the annual report to help get a feel for the company, so include them with the brief.
- What do you have by way of brand guidelines and how extensive are they - specifically do you have a working and approved organisational logo (including variations and different treatments where necessary), as well as approved organisational colours and typographical rules (fonts, sizes, rules on uses etc)? Also do they incorporate digital guidelines (e.g. colours, typography etc specifically for web use not just print) or would that be part of the project too (i.e. to extend the guidelines for web and digital use)?
- Please list around 5 websites that you like the look of, it would be great if you could include a note or two on what you like about them:
The content of your new website
Start thinking about how you would collate content for and then populate your new site. Resist the urge to duplicate your existing content in your new site - if your existing site is letting you down in some way, the chances are that the content is no longer up to scratch. Having thought about your target audience, take the opportunity to review whether your content still meets their needs. Don’t put this off until the end of the project - start thinking now about how you’re going to produce the copy text. Do you have the resources or skills to create and supply the text to go on the website? If the answer to these questions is no, you will need a web copywriter as well - we can provide this service if necessary.
- Who will be responsible for collating and producing content?
- Do you have the skills & resources available to carry out a content audit of your existing website?
- How much new content do you think you’ll need to produce (e.g. venue images and/ or video)?
- Do you have brand guidelines (preferably incorporating details on tone of voice, phraseology etc)?
- Will you be able to provide good quality, hi-res versions of your logo (ideally in .eps format) & other related brand assets as and when necessary?
You should outline any special technical requirements that your company might have:
- Do you already own the domain(s) for the new site?
- Is this a new site on a new domain OR a rebuild of an existing site?
- If it’s a rebuild of an existing site, do you know if you will need redirects setup from the old to new site?
- If you sell tickets for events and/ or classes of courses or run any sort of programme of events, what is your ticketing system (e.g. Spektrix, Tessitura, Eventbrite), are you happy with it and is it likely to change in the next 6-9 months?
- Do you want the new site to integrate with your ticketing system? If so do you know what it offers by way of integration (e.g. does it have an API, is there documentation)?
- Do you know what integration features you’re looking for - e.g. deep linking between CMS and the ticketing or CRM platform or collections system
- matched design and UX across CMS and ticketing or CRM platform or collections system
- integration of event data from ticketing system (e.g. event ID; title; date(s), time(s); prices (inc discounts); availability; genre/ category; event info; event image(s)
- integration of record data from collection system (e.g. record ID; title; meta-data; image(s) etc)
- Integration of user records from CRM platform
- automated recommendation (e.g. 'You Might Also Like This')
- single-sign-on (SSO)
Hosting and Maintenance
- Will you require hosting for the new site?
The ongoing maintenance of a website is an often overlooked requirement of a new site.
- Do you have the skills, resources and time to maintain the website in-house?
- Who will be responsible for the on-going maintenance of the website?
- Do you have an onboarding process for when key member(s) of staff leave the company?
- Are you looking for external support on any aspect of website maintenance (excluding hosting)?
You’re investing in a new website, so you want customers to see it, right? Now detail how you will promote it. An online venue is no different to a traditional venue, it needs marketing.
The digital marketing of a website is often overlooked when considering the website brief. The promotion of your website, in terms of increasing visibility in search engines and generating a sense of engagement, is vitally important to the continued success of the site.
There are a number digital marketing activities that you should consider:
- Social media campaigns
- Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
- Pay-Per-Click (PPC) and Display Network adverts (image & rich media adverts on relevant websites) - paid listings you see in search engines
- Email marketing
- Content marketing - i.e blogs, video content, newsletters, social media
- Banner advertising on related websites
Your chosen activities will depend on your budget, your target market and the resource within your company to manage the activity. For example, you don’t want to run a social media campaign if your target market doesn’t use social media.
You should set the scene and outline any initial thoughts and research.
- Have you previously run any digital marketing campaigns? i.e. social media, PPC, email.
- If so, what did/didn’t work?
- Do you have any initial thoughts for digital marketing activity? If so, please detail.
- Do you have the skills, resources and time to maintain the digital marketing in-house?
- Have you gained insight into the online habits of your target market? For example, do you know which websites they use, when they’re online and why they use the websites they use.
- What’s the product/service differentiator against your competitors?
- Do you have a budget for digital marketing?
- If so, what is the digital marketing budget for the next 6 months? Does this include third party costs (such as PPC) and agency fees (set up & monthly management)?
A website can also be supported by an offline marketing strategy. Do you already run any of the following activities:
Direct mail: [ Y / N ]
Brochures and flyers: [ Y / N ]
Outdoor advertising: [ Y / N ]
PR exercises: [ Y / N ]
Sponsorship: [ Y / N ]
Vehicle wraps: [ Y / N ]
Nearly there ...
You should finish your website design brief with a short conclusion, outlining what you would like to receive back from a digital agency like us. As a rule of thumb, we provide a full proposal, detailing how the site would be built, a breakdown of the costs (initial and if relevant on-going), the timescales involved and any assumptions and conditions that we have made.
Don’t forget to include timescales and be realistic; a proper proposal takes a while to prepare, so don’t ask for it back in 2 days' time.
In his time Brian has worked across a range of digital disciplines - design, content production, project and account management, UX and of course making lots of tea. Today, Brian heads up the digital agency, Un.titled.