A well-written brief provides the foundation for a successful website project. Whether you’re asking several agencies to respond or you already have a preferred supplier, it is worth making the time to capture the project background, needs and ideas in a single document. It will also help to ensure you have internal buy-in for what you’re trying to achieve.
This list isn’t comprehensive but as Hands Up we’ve had hundreds of potential projects sent our way, so thought it was helpful to summarise what makes a good brief from an agency perspective.
Background on your organisation
Write a brief summary of who you are, with a mention of how your online presence fits into this. Keep it short but include links to more information where relevant.
Why you want a new website
What are your drivers for wanting a new website? Are they internal or external? How do they fit into your organisational objectives? Reasons such as:
- Reducing costs
- Improving efficiency
- Increasing donations
Who the website is for
Your chosen agency should ask you questions about your target audience, but is helpful if you can include a little thinking in your brief. Try to identify 2-3 of your most important audiences, and for each one make a note of:
- What you know about them (age, location, knowledge of your issues and your organisation etc)
- Why they might visit your site
- What you’d like them to do
It might be helpful to set this out in a simple table.
What does success look like
This is a question that rarely gets enough consideration. You’re about to spend valuable funds so you need some way to measure impact. For many indicators it will be helpful to compare the before and after – meaning you should start tracking now. At the very least you should ensure that you have analytics software (like Google Analytics) enabled. Potential indicators of success include:
- Bounce rate
- Percentage of users completing a donation or action journey
- Site loading time
- Staff time updating the site
In addition you should build in time and budget to conduct a review three to six months after you launch the new site, so you can see what impact the new site has made.
If you’re able to list all of your requirements (technical and otherwise) in one section that will make it easier for an agency to respond to.
Try to add as much detail to each as you can. For example rather than just listing ‘Events’ it is would be helpful to know if you need a calendar, events bookings, user submitted events, categories etc. Examples that you’ve seen on other sites are good too.
A common mistake is to focus on new functionality and not to list functionality offered by the current site. Whilst you’d expect an agency to spend time looking at your existing site, it is worth listing any current functionality you need to keep.
If requirements can be grouped as essential and desirable that is also helpful.
It is helpful to understand the reasons behind any given timeframe e.g. is there an external event that the website needs to be ready for? Be realistic about what will be an achievable timescale. While you might want your new site ASAP there are drawbacks to rushing – as upfront research, testing and feedback windows all get compressed.
You should always include a budget in your brief. Without one it is difficult for responding agencies to judge the scale of the project, and can lead to wasted time on both sides if the budget is much lower (or higher) than an agency’s estimate.
What you want from the agency
It is important that you clarify the next steps and process including:
- The number of agencies you’ve asked to respond
- Who to send responses too
- Deadline for responses
- Process that follows – e.g. inviting shortlisted agencies to meet / present
It is also helpful to say a little about what you’re looking for in an agency e.g charity experience or experience with a particular CMS (like WordPress or Drupal)