The best way to ensure you get what you want from your website, even before approaching a design agency is to start at the beginning do some planning, and take time to formulate a solid brief.

There are a multitude of tips we can offer to help you make sure your site works well, but being able to put together a brief is the best place to start.

In this day and age, it’s a generally accepted that most businesses would benefit from an effective, professionally executed website. Whether it be a ‘bells and whistles’ e-commerce website or just a simple, shop window style site it’s worthwhile making sure the investment you make into getting a website designed and built is spent wisely.

It’s understandably daunting for the uninitiated to write a creative brief. A website brief is a particularly tricky brief to write as not only do you have to consider the visual design side of things, you also need to think about its functionality and marketing. However there are a few questions you can consider that should get you thinking in the right way and by being able to answer them you will, as a result, have the bones of a working website brief. A good website brief will ultimately save you time, money and potential headaches down the line. Any good web design agency should be able to take the results of the points below and move froward with the project.

From our own experience working with clients (most of whom have little experience with professional website design) we find that getting people to think about the following points is a very effective thought exercise.

1. Who are you aiming at? Who are your audience?

Describe your potential website users. What does an average customer look like from demographic point of view? What do they want to see from your site? What are they looking for?

2. What does your site need to do?

Might seem obvious at first, but you need to clearly refine what it is that your site needs to achieve. It will most likely be a combination of things. For example; are you looking to sell products directly? Initiate enquiries? Is the site mainly a brand awareness exercise? Are you looking to build a leads pipeline? Are you looking to create an online following?

3. How do you want to be represented?

This overlaps into brand design, but it’s still applicable. If you have never really thought about tone of voice or copy for your business on a professional level it’s definitely worth addressing it with your site. Your site is the first point of communication you will have with lots of potential customers so it’s important that you connect with them in the right way. A site with the wrong tone of voice will put people off. The way you communicate and represent your business through copy and its visual style is really important. Have a think about the language, feel and the tone of voice you want to employ.

4. The look and feel.

No doubt you have come across sites you love and ones you don’t. Ones you revisit and ones you never want to see again. You want your site to look and feel like a site you love and are proud of. It needs to be an extension of your brand, not only in design but in feel. It’s worth collating examples of other sites you like, take screen shots of nice looking pages and exciting user interfaces you’ve come across, both on desktop and mobile devices. The more examples you have the much easier it is for a design agency to nail the perfect design early on.

5. Consider the competition

What are the competition up to? What are they doing that works? What are they doing that doesn’t work? There is always a good degree of research to be done on this level and it pays off! you want your site to be better than the competition so a ‘covert online discovery mission’ is well worth doing!

6. What content are you going to have?

Content is KING! Without content a website is an empty framework. A magazine without pictures or copy would just be an empty branded, collection of pages, and a site is much the same. Before you approach a web design you need to think carefully about your content. It is the content that people will be visiting the site for. The content you choose will also play heavily into the functionality planning of the site.

7. Technical Features and Functionality

As an agency we suggest the best functionality options for any given site. We would take a client’s brief and look at what the most effective ways that we can achieve our their goals. From forums and blog feeds, to social media integration and e-commerce, each site will require a different combination of features, both off the peg and bespoke to ensure it does what it needs to. As a client it’s worth again, looking at other sites to see what features that include that you, as a user, find useful and engaging.

8. How are you going to manage the site?

At what level are you looking to manage the site? Is this something your team want to take on or is it something you’d prefer a professional web management agency to look after? We are happy to manage sites for our clients but encourage them to be involved with their site as much as possible. A site is in some respects a living organism and the more the content stays active and updated the more effective, search engine friendly and engaging it will be. Think also about whether you want your site to gather data? How often will it be updated? Do you want news feeds on there?

9. Measuring Success

How are you going to measure the site’s success? Do you have sales targets, visitor targets, or inquiry targets you want to achieve? Let your agency know and they should be able to help. We often tweak and refine sites ongoing to ensure these targets are met.

10. SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)

A site with no SEO is effectively impotent. No matter how nice it is, if no one knows it’s there it’s a pointless exercise. SEO is a scalable service and something that is worth budgeting for. We build sites with best-practice SEO in place by default so you will appear and be searchable online. However to more proactively drive traffic to your site it’s worth talking to an agency about the best ways to achieve this. We help our clients with SEO and partner with numerous agencies to deliver effective results.

11. Finally… Know the budget?

By ‘know the budget’ we simply mean, be realistic about what your budget will allow and prioritise the most important goals of the site.  Let’s be honest, if you have a few hundred quid it’s worth looking at DIY options, like Shopify, WIX, and Squarespace. A professional agency is not going to deliver you a site that will do what you need it to for that budget but they may be able to help you with an off the peg solution if you ask nicely! Whilst these won’t offer you a professional level of bespoke service they will get you online and with some design, skill should get you looking professional. They won’t tick all the boxes but you will have a site. If your budget is higher then it’s certainly worth contacting an agency (us for example) and talking through the above requirements with them. Ultimately putting aside a realistic amount in a professional website, built to fulfill your brief, will be one of the best investments you will make in your business. We work with our clients to ensure briefs are tailored to meet their requirements and budget. If a budget is too tight, and not all boxes can be ticked we will create a solution that ensures the most important ones are.

We hope this has been useful! For more information on the above or to look at getting your website done, make sure you contact our team and we can get a solution put together for you.