Having a professional WordPress website created
Written by Finn Ruijter, 28 January 2020

Why a website briefing can no longer fit on one A4 sheet

Need a new website? To make your needs and requirements clear to potential Internet agencies, draft a website brief. Not so long ago, you were encouraged to keep that document especially as short as possible. With the second decade of this century upon us, website briefings call for a different approach.

This article previously appeared on Frankwachting.

Again, why a website briefing?

From the client’s perspective, website briefing serves several purposes. First, such a document creates internal clarity. Before putting anything on paper, all noses should be in the same direction. That does not mean, by the way, that a website briefing presents an unwavering plan. In a dynamic world, changes are inevitable. A website brief is there to lay a solid foundation for the final agreement, which may vary in details.

The client also achieves something else with a website brief: by providing all web agencies with the same information, it is easier to compare their proposals.

It is nice for the Internet agency to know that the same briefing (and not a modified version) went to other agencies. It creates a level playing field on which all players have an equal opportunity to score.

Finally, the briefing gives the agency an initial indication of how a collaboration with this client would go. It shows how real the client’s ambitions and requirements are and to what extent there is room in the schedule and budget.

When to write a website brief or not

A Web site briefing helps you and the Internet agency keep a project on track. One can often tell from the budget how big such a project is. A simple themed website generally requires less functionality than a mission-critical website with links that a multidisciplinary team works on. As a rule of thumb, for a budget of €10,000 or more, a website briefing is recommended.

Website design is discussed in group.

To write is to delete, but…

About five years ago, there was still the idea that such a project plan should preferably be concise. If the briefing fits on one A4 sheet, great! (That a multi-page appendix was needed to explain the points on that A4 sheet was mentioned in passing). Any ambiguities would be clarified during a personal interview.

The effort to get thoughts down on paper concisely and powerfully is noble. We know it from the world of recruitment: try printing your resume on one side. Or entrepreneurship, where you are challenged to put your business plan on one A4. Writing is deleting, and distilling information down to its essence is a true art. But even if you are such an artist, the chances are minuscule that you can shorten your website brief to such an extent. Besides, the question is whether you should want to.

Your briefing deserves better

Anno 2020, you no longer have to pain yourself to reduce that website brief to the minimum. Because in the end, such an abstract raises more questions than it answers. One of the goals is to compare Internet agencies, and that’s a lot harder if each agency has a different view of your needs.

Such an important project as a new website simply deserves better. A good briefing consists of many parts on which you don’t want to compromise.

Discuss website briefing.

Structure of a complete website briefing

An Internet agency does nothing more than build websites. The basis for this is a website that the client is completely comfortable with: in terms of design, structure, user experience (UX), features and so on. The website briefing is meant to express expectations in that area.

Therefore, it is better to write a brief that is over-complete than one that the web agency can interpret in different ways. Does this mean writing a 25-sentence essay? Definitely not! 5 to 10 pages at most should be sufficient.

From the perspective of the Internet agency, the following chapters are, in our opinion, indispensable in a good website briefing.

1. Company information

A briefing begins with information about your company or institution. You tell very briefly about the history of the organization and its mission. You introduce the Internet agency to your range of services and/or products and share your vision for the future. At the end of this introduction, which you divide into separate paragraphs for clarity, make the connection to the new website: what will be its task and what are its objectives? When is the new website a success for the organization?

2. Principles

In this section of the website briefing, you explain the “ground rules,” the basic requirements for the project. Here you can think like loading speed, SEO and easy management. This is also the chapter where you can put your web design ideas. It helps if you don’t just stick to vague terms like “fresh” and “modern,” but give examples of websites that appeal to you (and explain why). How long does it take for SEO to work?

3. Technical requirements

What hard, technical requirements are there? For example, is it about one website or an entire network? Are translations needed? What level of accessibility(WCAG) for people with disabilities do you want to meet? Do you want to link the website to one of your systems – for example, the CRM?

4. Planning

By the time you get to this point, you have (if all goes well) already filled an A4 sheet. In the planning section, let us know what milestones there are and what deadlines you have in mind for them. Obviously, the first milestone is selecting the agency, and the very last step in the list is going “live. By the way, it is nice for the agency if you show that there is some slack in the schedule. Perhaps you forgot a step?

5. Budget

Important for an Internet agency is an indication of the budget at hand. A tight budget may mean that not all your needs can be accommodated at once. You will then have to make choices with the web builder. A generous budget provides opportunities in terms of additional services such as online marketing and further development. In the world of Internet agencies, the choice is vast. A budget indication thus also helps determine the consulting direction of the solution.

6. Presentation

You should think of a Web site briefing as a kind of tender: you are inviting certain parties to bid. But it’s really not just about price. You ask web agencies to give a presentation that allows you to get to know them better, see to what extent they have experience with similar projects, hear what their vision of your brief is, and feel if it “clicks. This section of your briefing will let you know when and where you want that presentation, how long it should be, and which people from your organization will attend.

The longer, the better?

By incorporating the above points into a brief, you can easily end up with 5-10 pages. And that’s not a bad thing at all, as long as the structure is clear and allows the agency to quickly “jump” from one part to another when preparing the presentation.

That you do not want to tire a stranger with a 40-page document should be obvious. But on the other hand, a serious Internet agency really does have the patience to delve into an equally serious website brief.

Download useful resources: website briefing checklist, white paper with examples or website briefing template

Have you started a website briefing yet? With our website briefing checklist, you’ll quickly know if you’ve incorporated all the required items. Would you also like to have examples that you can adapt to your specific situation? Then download our website briefing white paper [+ template].