Your website is one of the most important online marketing tools you own, so it’s important to get it right. Yet so many organisations don’t know how to brief their web agency when they approach them for a new website. If you’re in this position, we want to help. Download our killer web brief template, fill it out as best you can, and hand it to your chosen agency. We think you’ll get much better results.
Not sure where to start? We can help you fill this monster in, with no obligation to continue working with us. Just drop us a line and we’ll set up a free 1 hour chat to talk about what your business really needs to succeed.
Here’s the breakdown
00:00 - Pants
00:34 - Intro
02:44 - Business
03:49 - Vision
05:27 - Goals
05:48 - Audience
07:30 - Users
10:34 - Website
12:42 - Website goals
13:41 - Old website
14:21 - Content
16:03 - Branding
17:50 - Promotion
18:37 - Deadlines
20:00 - Risks
21:01 - Budget
23:30 - Final bits
25:26 - Anything else?
Freebies and downloads
Transcript Show / Hide
It's a pair of pants.
Pair of pants.
Hi, come on, run.
I'm doing it. I'm on my way.
We're wasting everyone's precious time just for a pair of pants.
Why a pair of pants?
Well, because today we're talking about the killer web brief.
Web brief, you see, brief is a pair of pants. It's a Monkey Monday, isn't it?
It is. You said it wrong. It's a Monkay Monday.
Whatever we call it.
So, uh, this is something we've been thinking about for a while. We've been working with, uh, quite a few other companies when they come to us and sort of say, Hey, I want a website. Um, we often have to flick some switches in their brains to help them build a better web brief.
Yeah, it's really tricky because, um, when someone has made the decision, uh, to have a new website, they often race ahead and come up with, uh, a plan and go, I want something that looks like this.
Yeah. They might draw out a massive site map.
Yeah. Um, an about us page. A contact us page. A something form, just something that looks identical to everything else.
I want my product catalogue to look like this product catalogue over here! And they look at other people's websites and start creating wishlists of things they want, rather than maybe what they actually need.
Yeah. So we're trying to flip that conversation around and it's not about us trying to get better, um, business for us. It's about giving you some, uh, real value in creating a web brief that you can take anywhere and get a better website for your business.
I mean, I, you know, I have a wonderful idea that as we develop this, um, moving forward that if this was just adopted everywhere, I think it would make the whole world of web design better. Uh, I think the web experience for everybody would be better; the people who are getting agencies to build their websites will have a better relationship. Um, we think it's a better approach. So what we're going to do is we're going to blitz through it today. And then I think down the line, we may be going to break it down. Cause there's quite a lot in this document. It's a bit of a beast.
Yeah. So you'll be able to download this document using the link below, or if you're listening to the podcast... the link below...
Search for it, you lazy podcasters.
So let's, let's kick off. Uh, and where do we start, Matt?
We start, I'm going to go through it here. It's actually on this iPad and I didn't print it out today, so that's good. So we've saved paper, everybody.
For people listening on the podcast, Matt is holding an iPad.
So, the first thing, uh, we think it's good to communicate is just stuff around your business. Forget your website, just focus on your business or your organization. So, um, if you haven't already looked at it, check out Simon Sinek's Golden Circle and answer those first three things, three things. Why does your business exist? This finds your cause, your reason for being - very valuable thing to have. How do you like achieve your why message? How do you get there? And the easy bit is, is what do you do ? So nuts and bolts of your business, what do you produce?
Yeah. So give your web designers a nice overview of your company.
And if it's a process you haven't done yet as part of your branding exercise, then you're actually doing a bit of a brand exercise by getting that as good as you can. Look, for the design - for this brief, it doesn't have to be perfect, but it's a start, and it's a really good way of communicating who you are to your preferred agency.
And, um, If you haven't come across all this stuff before you can go back to previous vlogs or podcasts that we've got to explore some of these ideas.
The next thing is a little bit easier than your why message. Your why message is kind of your cause, um, it's who you're helping and why, or, or what drove you to start your business. Um, it should be the foundation of, of all the things you do and how you communicate and market. On the other side of that is your company vision. This is more where do you see your company being in sort of three, five years', in ten years' time? Um, maybe in five years' time, you see that you've opened more premises or maybe your business is a certain size, or maybe you have an idea of what you'll want the structure of your business to look like. Maybe you want to get rid of hierarchical management. There could be lots of goals for your business that are useful for an agency to grasp.
And this is where some agencies might go, okay, your short-term goal is to make a bit of money here or there, and then you're going to have, um, a 10 million pound turnover in five years' time. So they might go, let's just create a quick dirty website that is selling one product. Let's focus on something. And then in two years' time, let's, uh, we're gonna have more money to spend on something a bit different. So they might not start with your massive project straight away.
Yeah. Or vice versa. It might be that you have a very gradual line to get to here in five years. Why not,* why not build the thing now that's serving this five-year ambition. So, uh, it will also help you with budgets as well, which is a real head scratcher for a lot of organizations. How much should we be spending on this, this touch point? So carrying on, uh, with your business stuff - what business goals do you have in place? So a bit of an extension of your vision of your business. What are the individual goals? Maybe they're turnover based, maybe they're, um, uh, based on, um, how much you want to help somebody. There could be lots of different types of goals that you can have, but these are top level business goals. Don't necessarily have to be related to your website.
Yeah. Just to make sure we're going to fulfill those goals within the website.
Um, and this is the final bit really, about the business. And we, we think, again, this should be global related to your business. So describe your audiences, put your audience personas together. Um, there's a lot more detail in the document about how to approach that. So don't just go, Oh, our audience is a man who is 30 to 50. Uh, start exploring the more uh, valuable assets of what that, or aspects, the more valuable aspects of, of those personas. What do they like? What don't they like? What other brands do they like? Where do they live online, where they live in the real world? All these things are cool things to understand.
Yeah, because you might start building a website that is tailored towards where you're going to market this website at, so you might find - um, so I, there's an example of people, uh, like I listened to the, uh, No Such Thing as a Fish podcast, which is very good, uh, but it's a lot of nerds - which I quite like - but things that, uh, advertise on their podcasts are things like Stitch Fix, which is a, a subscription model to buy clothes. And a lot of nerds, probably like me, can't be bothered to go to a shop anymore. So lots of people buy from there. And you might, you might build a website that is, uh, focused on getting traffic from that kind of world, you know?
Yeah. It's an interesting thing to have this written down, um, and understood, because it does affect the website build, but it can also really dramatically affect where you do the rest of your marketing, how you advertise to those audiences. And that's why it's bundled in with the company part, rather than the web design bit. Um, then we get a bit more web designy. What we want to then think about is the users on the website. So they're slightly different to the personas. Uh, you can describe a persona and that's describing who they are. The users on your website, that's almost what they're looking for, what they're doing. Are they shopping? Are they browsing? What is their activity? You can go into more depth if you do a full customer journey, depending on the size of your business and how much detail you want to go into. But the simple thing to do is go, what's their intent? What are they, why are they there, and what are they looking for? Um, so when you sort of break that down, listing the type of user - a shopper, for instance - and then listing the most important things to them when they, when they want to visit a website - are they looking to be able to filter products? Are they looking for a fast, simple checkout, um, listing all those things are really valuable and this, this part of the process should take a long time. You should really spend your time here. And this is the cool part about, um, this web design brief, because what you're building here is a list of requirements that your agency can then go, ah, I understand. This is your audience. These are, this is their intent. How can we now serve a website to deliver what they're looking for? And it totally changes how you would approach the, um, user experience design, um, the flow through the website. And it could even change the site map. It could even change everything that you build and how you approach it. So this is where you can put all of your complicated bits - rather than writing a massive feature list, instead think about the audience and what they're looking for.
Yeah. It's really interesting because you might end up building a completely different website. I mean, I've watched a YouTube video on branding the other day about, uh, the guy was talking about the Pampers website and he was talking about how tricky a job that was because a lot of people weren't going on there just to look at nappies, they were going on there because their kids, they wanted their kids to just f-in sleep. And so they designed the content more around that rather than around the actual products they were trying to sell.
And again, if you think about how you describe what the, your audience is looking for, it could change what the outcome might be. So, um, the traditional, old fashioned or, the instinctive way, lots of organizations go about building a website - they might say things like we want a forum, but is a forum the right thing? I mean, they're pretty old, they're hard to maintain. It's hard to build that kind of community nowadays. It's much better to say we want to connect our audiences together in a meaningful way. We want a community-based, online thing where they can chat. We want them to be able to video message each other. Now that might end up looking like something totally different. Maybe you just need a really good Facebook group - who knows? There's lots of different ways of serving your audience without coming to the conclusion yourself.
Yeah. We'd like a place for online trolls. It's just something to try and think of and trying to avoid, you know.
Um, now we get into the nitty gritty of, of why you want a website. And this can be really fascinating because once you start writing the reasons why you want your website, um, again, there could be other ways of serving, um, the answer to that why message that might not even be a website, which is a kind of an interesting place to end up. Or maybe uh, so, uh, a good example is I had a call from somebody a while ago and they said, I need a new website, I need a new website. And I instinctively went, okay, why do you want the new website? Well, because mine doesn't, it doesn't tell the proper story and I'm not getting the connection I want with my audience. And I asked her what she did. And she said, well, I do thought leadership. And I, I want people to understand what I do and show them my services. I said, well, what's your budget? Well, I don't want to embarrass her in case she's watching, but it wasn't very much. And I looked at her website and it was okay. So I said, well, wouldn't you be better kind of taking this budget over here and just starting to build up a YouTube channel, actually, and promoting that? Take that same budget and promote that over here. You don't really need a new website to do this. You need to introduce yourself and your thought leadership in a video platform where people can find you and experience what you do. So I think that's a really interesting thing is to list why you want a website and what you're trying to do.
Yeah. I mean, if, if you're trying to be popular and you're trying to get in front of a lot of people that is generally not your own website in a lot of places - imagine how many famous people have got their own websites at all. You know.
You mean you don't go to the Bill Gates website?
Uh, well, he's got some - he's got something to think about, but you know, I don't go to the Michael McIntyre or Frank - I can't imagine Frankie Boyle's got a website.
Dunno, maybe he has, maybe we're missing out on something here. What's your favorite personality's website? Put a link below. I don't even know if you can put a link below.
I don't think you can. Just put a link somewhere.
Someone will do something.
Mel, can you find some links that people have sent? Anyway. Next one.
So related to your why, what goals does your website have? So it's different to your company goals, this is the goals for your website, what's it designed to achieve? Do you want your website to bring in, you know, 50,000 pounds worth more of sales or something like that? If it's a base financial goal. Do you want to help connect with your audience or audience better? What goals do you want your website to do?
Yeah, it's got, you've got to make these goals meaningful as well. If you'd just go, I want to have 20,000 visitors, like what difference is that going to make to your business?
Yeah. People get really bogged down with the idea of visitors to the website or, or traffic. Um, but an easy, easy way of thinking about that is what would you rather have? 1 million visitors to your website who don't really do anything or engage with you in any way or 10 who are all ready to buy, and they're all going to turn into a hundred thousand pound contracts. So, um, it's about understanding those meaningful goals.
Yeah. All right. What's next?
Um, okay. Yeah, not a bad idea to list things that are wrong with your old website, if you do have them and also stuff that you know is good that your website does. Here is where you might want to list, well our website's really good at connecting to our CRM, for instance, and we're really happy with that. So again, you're sort of, by listing these things down, you're starting to talk a bit about existing technology that your, um, agencies who are helping tender for this, they will be able to, um, make sense of and provide the correct technical solution for you.
Yep. Good one.
Uh, content - often overlooked. Uh, what is your content? Do you, is it any good? Do you have good content. Do you need good content? Do you need your, your, are you looking for your new website build to have brand new content? Now you've looked at your audiences, do you understand that your content doesn't work well for them? So, um, in short, what is your expectation around the content? Do you have good content? Do you have not enough content? Do you need your web agency to focus on that.
And it, if I was to give anyone any advice about building a new website, I would say build a smaller website, but get professionals to write your content. Even from our experience of building our own websites. I mean, we, before we got a copywriter, who is Mel, who's out there and who's great. Hi Mel. Um, we were dreadful. We would read, I mean, we could, we could get some nice images, but actually talking about what we wanted to talk about. We were just awful at it.
Yeah, it was really well, it was, it was challenging, wasn't it? Because we knew we had a lot of knowledge in the business, so we had different people writing content in different ways. And I guess before, I mean, we're talking many, many years ago now when we were a small team of four people, um, you know, how do you then - who, whose responsibility out of a video expert, uh, um, uh, a web design expert, a backend expert, uh, you know, who who's gonna be responsible for that content? So we shared it and we tried to do it and it did okay. We grew, but is it anywhere near as good as having professionals? No.
No. So definitely spend the money there.
Um, similarly, do you in this, in this, in the process of getting your new website put together, are you looking for rebrand at the same time? Um, again, it can often happen. You have a, um, uh, an organization might say, Hey, we needed a new website. We need a fresh look. We want to talk to our customers in a better way, and we need better content. What they're really talking about here is almost a rebrand. Sometimes organizations go to just an agency that creates websites and kind of expects them at the same time to reimagine everything. But that's kind of brand. So do you have good brand guidelines? Are they established, do they need changing? Are you needing a new website because you're not communicating very well? Well, maybe your branding isn't very good.
So, um, they can often come hand in hand. Uh, sometimes it's not, sometimes it's a technical thing and there's lots of reasons to go down that road.
Yeah. And you've got to set those foundations up properly. So, I mean, a lot of clients may go to a web agency and think that they're trying to upsell by doing branding work, but you need to make sure that everything that's coming out of your company is looking right and feeling right. So if you start on a web design process without that in place, it's going to be, it's not going to fit in.
It's hard. I mean, it's really hard doing web design without a good branding document because you do fall back on old tricks. Well, let's look at this website. How does that look? Ooh I like that bit, everyone kind of contributes by saying, this website's nice, this website's nice. Maybe we can be more like that. And it doesn't really make you authentic or, um, give you a design that's representative of who you are.
Um, maybe your website isn't just a little brochure thing over here that nobody cares about. Maybe it's a site you want something, um, you want it to achieve certain things for you. Hopefully that'd be determined by your your goals over here. And if that is the case, how are you going to promote your website? What are you looking to do? So similarly, um, a thought process for an organization might be, well, we needed a new website, and just how you might overlook content and branding, you might also overlook promotion. What are we doing to market the website? How are we going to market it? Maybe you have a really killer team inside your organization that's great at that already. Maybe you don't need it. So it's, it's definitely, worth thinking about how you're planning to promote it. Deadlines are important.
Um, it helps establish, uh, parameters and goals of when things are going to be delivered. Um, sometimes it can be multiple deadlines as well. You might have a smaller launch and a bigger launch, but it's, it's important to understand, uh, why, why do these deadlines exist? Are they arbitrary?
Yeah, I think you've got, you've definitely got to set a deadline because we've, in the olden days of Rusty Monkey, we did websites where we were like, we're going to build you the website and you're going to put content in, and we'll build the website. And then two years later, it probably still wasn't finished because there's no deadline and people are going, I can't be bothered.
The content dip.
It's really tricky.
Yeah. And I guess there are agencies out there that will either be kind of proactive, tackle that difficult content stuff at the start, or they'll go, Hey, look, here's your template, here's your design. Be free, clients, go away and populate. And that, you know, it's not always easy to do. So, um, deadlines and goals will really help that. Um, so if you don't have one, you should set one. Um, and if you do have one, why, why is it that date? Is it, is it to coincide with something? Do you have a big show coming up? What might it be that determines you want it live by then?
Yeah, it's very much like building a house, so just make sure everyone is on that same track.
Um, what risks are there for, uh, for you and what risks do you see with working with an agency that you're passing this brief over to? So it's good to list them, understand them. And then, uh, as a team you can mitigate against them.
What kind of risks would you say as an example?
There's so many, uh, I think one of the biggest risks is the level of communication, I guess, between the company, um, who wants the website and the agency that's fulfilling it. So if there's not enough communication along the way, uh, they could end up delivering something that you don't want. Um, if the brief is poor, which it shouldn't be, if you follow these rules, uh, they won't understand what you want. If you're really bad at giving people the content they want, that could slow the process down. So there's lots of things that can affect a web build. Um, maybe we should put a list together somewhere of typical risks. Um, but yeah, there are a lot, so it's worth thinking about. Uh, budgets. We put this at the end. We originally thought, maybe we should start with the budget, but actually I think it's a good place to put it at the end of this process, because in going through this journey, you'll start learning what you actually want to put together here. So, after you've answered all these questions, you might, you might be, okay, this is fine actually. We, we need a website to achieve this handful of goals. Our branding is great. We've already got the content. We don't need online marketing services because we handle them in-house. It's a simple, nice, neat thing. It's going to be this. Or you, might've got to the end of this process and gone well, yeah, this is now a bit more challenging than I thought maybe our content isn't good enough. Maybe we do need to look at our branding. Maybe we must consider some budget for how we're going to promote it. Maybe we should set some financial goals that are going to measure our return on investment. So it could really impact, I guess, your budget after you've gone through this.
Yeah. And you might change the scope, having, having gone through this process, you might go, if we're trying to make a, a difference of a million pounds, spending a thousand pounds on a website isn't probably gonna hit the mark and just making sure that the investment relates to what you're trying to achieve.
And of course it can be the other way too. You could set a budget and go, we need a new website. Let's create budget - finger in the air 50,000 pounds. Go away some web monkeys and build this for me. Um, however, if you go down this process, you might go, but we don't actually even need a new website. Let's take that 50,000 pounds and do something else over here with it to deliver completely - to deliver the results we eally want, we don't actually need a new website at all. So, um, it's important to put this at the end, so you understand everything you want to do and then give a value on it.
I think that's a really interesting point actually, because I mean, Seth Godin would talk about the smallest viable market and speaking to the smallest amount of people that will make a difference to your business. Whereas a lot of companies, when they start on the website journey would go, I need to appeal to absolutely everyone. And that will be a very different website to the one that is specifically targeted at those five people over there.
I can talk about that all day as well, but what we're, what we're looking to maybe do down the line is, is break these out into smaller videos so we can talk about each one individually, because there's some really good bits about that. Um, and finally, don't forget those final bits. If you do have good brand guidelines, share them; have you got tone of voice? And share them at the briefing stage, so people understand where you are with this. Um, have you got market research done? Have you done your own online marketing and keyword analysis? Share that. Do you have customer journeys? Is that written down? Share it. Do you have a marketing strategy? Are you looking, uh, for certain goals inside that marketing strategy? Share as much as you can with regards to those key things in your briefing process, and that will really, really help, um, get the most value out of it.
Yeah, it's all about the communication and being open with the agency that you choose to go with, because at the end of the day, when you are creating a new website, you and the agency are a team. You're not, you're not asking for something, they're giving it back. You're both collaborating, collaborating, you're collaborating on something that is going to be really special. So you just need to work very closely with them.
It can be a big investment as well. Can't it? And, um, you want to sort of reduce as much friction as possible there and be aiming towards that common goal. And a clever thing to do as well, I guess, is, is, is you could always, um, do a bit of vetting of agencies to begin with, find, find ones you think are going to be a good fit, do a small project with them. It could even be helping get the project scope together, and that's not a bad thing to do. So helping get this brief finalized and a scope done, maybe even, maybe even the visual layouts stage of the process, all of those things that you see, you could do a bit of stepped work to make sure that you're not, you know, diving into bed with, uh, with someone who's going to charge you 50, a hundred thousand pounds to build something and you don't know what that is. Basically you get your builder to come and build a wall. Does that look all right? Okay. You can do my garage next.
Yeah, build the next bit.
Uh, finally, just anything else. This web design brief is designed to, um, have you think about some really important bits, but you know, you might need a place here just to put some technical consideration or other things that you couldn't manage to slot elsewhere. A good little trick though, is if you're writing things in this anything else bit, think about your user. And can you turn that into a use case back up at the top? Uh, if you do it really well, this bit could be completely blank.
Yeah. Good one. And then the more detail that you can put into this whole document, the better your website is going to be.
Yeah. We hope it's valuable, we hope it helps. I'm going to run round there so they can see the page.
Yeah. go on then. Um, yeah, I'd just like to thank my parents, uh, for bringing me up...
That's enough. Thanks for reading
Or listening. Thanks for everything. All right. See you next week.