If you are briefing a design team you’ll find that by committing your ideas and expectations to paper helps make the process more efficient. Sure, writing everything out is a bit of a pain to do, and its much more fun to just get into the visual design process. But when you get initial designs back, you can refer to the brief. Try not to react subjectively: this design is totally cool or I hate that colour. Check with your brief to make sure that these concepts make sense against your objectives. If they do, but you realise that there’s a key point that you didn’t cover it off, now is the time to revise and follow up with a conversation with your design team.

If you’re the design team getting a good brief is everything- it’s the start of a productive cycle of discussion and iteration about what the site will be. Without it, you’ll run into awkward situations when a new person joins the team, or you realise that what your client initially said in that meeting has absolutely no connection with reality. This process is not about butt covering- it’s about moving from a vague idea to something firm that everyone understands. It’s about moving away from I’ll know what I like when I see itto everyone going in the same direction.

What it is that you want your site to be?

To establish an overall vision for your site, ask yourself these questions:

1. Who is the target audience?

Is your site aimed at people with lots of internet experience or beginners? What age group are you targeting? For example, if your target audience is mainly older people, you might want to make the font sizes on your site larger.

2. What is the site’s positioning?

Do you want your site to make you look like a big established company, or an exciting newcomer? Do want to have international appeal? just as you position your company in the market, so you should position your web site, and make sure it appears the way you want it to.

3. What is this project’s size and scope?

Although general practice in negotiations is to withhold your target price from vendors who are pitching for work, in the case of web sites we recommend the opposite. Because web sites can cost anywhere from a few thousand dollars to a few million, It’s important to tell your web design company your rough budget for the project so that they can pitch appropriately. It’s possible to create a very effective design even on a small budget.

Does your site brief fit in with your business objectives?

Web sites can perform many business functions, from basic branding to serving as your primary sales channel. What are your business goals for your site? Is your site primarily for acquiring new customers or rewarding existing customers? Is the main purpose for branding, or to transact sales? Your answers to these questions will affect the layout and architecture of your site, because you want to make sure to highlight the most important areas so that customers can find them easily.

What are you capable of?

Finally, it’s important not to commit yourself to more than you can handle. If you launch a large site or a busy user forum, make sure you have the resources to maintain the content and keep it fresh. There’s nothing worse on a web site than News that is a few months – or years! – old. Customers will assume that you’ll look after them with just as much attention and promptness. So if you don’t have a dedicated content manager or the resources to update news and blogs frequently, it’s probably better to leave them out and stick with more timeless material.

image credit: Expert Infantry