Creating the perfect project brief

by Bernie Johnson
01 Jun 2009
8 min read
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Creating the perfect project brief

Preparing a brief for your companies’ website project doesn’t have to be a painful exercise; here are a few simple and proven steps to make it easier for you.

When was the last time you went to the doctors, sat down and said to her – “look Doc, I’m really busy and in all honesty I’ve got no time to even be here, let alone to tell you what the problem is – so just do what you have to do quickly to make me better.

The fact is, that unless you explain in detail to your doctor exactly what the problem is - you won’t get far with them, or at the very least you’ll end up with a misdiagnosis and be worse off in the long run.

Well, it’s the same when you sit down with your digital agency and expect them to build you an all-conquering, feature-rich website, without first providing them with a structured and thought-out brief for the project.

Preparing a brief for your companies’ website project doesn’t have to be a painful exercise; here are a few simple steps to make it easier for you.

1. Identify the single key objective for your website.

Ask yourself, “What is the problem that I’m trying to solve here?” Are you wanting to use your new website as a source of new business for your company? Or is the site simply a tool to support the branding and positioning of your above the line marketing efforts? Will the site be transactional (…are you going to sell stuff online? ….will customers need log-ins and secure account access? will you be tracking inventories and sales? ….will you need to plug your website into 3rd-party software and systems?)

2. Pick 5 of your favorite business websites and list the things you like about them.

These don’t need to be sites from your industry, but it’s a great way of articulating to your agency exactly what features, functionality and look and feel you’re after.

3. Identify your target audience – Segment, Target and Position.

Ask yourself “Who do I want to be visiting my website?” Like any marketing efforts, it’s imperative that you go through the process of segmenting (what groups or industries do I want to reach out to?), targeting (who exactly within these groups will visit my website?) and positioning (what is the branding and messaging I want conveyed on my website to these people?)

Online is no different to traditional marketing in the need to first identify and assess your target audience. It’s critical that you can identify and communicate to your digital agency the different segmenting variables for your customers such as geographic and demographic (age, industry, income, behavioral patterns). All too often you see company websites launched which contain misaligned branding and disparate messaging which serve only to confuse visitors.

Keep in mind that you have only a few seconds to engage a new visitor to your site – so keep the core message simple, punchy and on-brand.

4. Plan a high-level site-map

This doesn’t have to be hard and should only take you 10 minutes. The site-map will list the different content sections on your website (“Home”, “Company Profile”, “Products’, “Services”, “Contact” etc). One of the key drivers of online engagement is usability – to put it simply, usability means how easy it is for visitors to find exactly what they are looking for on your website, quickly and intuitively. Your agency will work with you to maximize the user experience; however planning the initial site map should be a collaborative process between you and your agency. Identify the primary website and navigation elements that you would like to see on your site – it doesn’t matter if you’ve never planned a site map before, as you can easily change this later. Most agency Content Management Systems deployed with websites today will give you control over the navigation of your website (so you can easily add and delete pages to your website once it’s live).

5. Pick a project budget that’s realistic

The old adage that you pay for what you get is no truer in website projects and the digital industry. As a guide, here are some indicative costs for different types of corporate website projects in Australia:

  • $15K - $30K: Very simple corporate website with basic features, and functionality. Sometimes referred to as a brochure-website. Investment would often include a basic Content Management System (CMS) single-user license.
  • $30K - $70K: More advanced functionality and features, eCommerce websites, more advanced transactional websites. Investment would include moderately sophisticated CMS, multi-user license.
  • $70K+ $150K: Heavily-trafficked, large corporate websites with custom database and CMS development.
  • $150K+: High-end enterprise level websites needing custom database and application development and 3rd-party system integration. Investment would include extremely sophisticated features and functionality in the CMS along with a multi-user, multi-website license.

Now that you’re ready with your website project brief, the next crucial step is to research different digital agencies to find the agency that best fits with your company. You should select a minimum of 3 agencies and meet with each of them to run through your project and present your brief. Ultimately, it will be the agency which offers you the most added value that you will partner with - but having a well-prepared website project brief with avoid the potential for any misdiagnosis!

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