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How to write a web design brief (with free downloadable template)

A design brief —  aka the outline of the design work to be done, the process, expectations, and timelines — is an important aspect of any kind of design project, including website design.

However, designers rarely have a say in the brief creation process because it is usually the client's responsibility to prepare the brief before handing it over to the designer.

The main problem with this approach is that not every client knows how to write a good web design brief, or why writing one is even necessary.

In such cases, it falls on the designer to educate the client on why a website design brief is important and the elements that must be included in one.

Below, we’ll guide you through all the details you’ll need to communicate to your clients concerning website design briefs, starting with their importance.

The importance of a web design brief

As alluded to earlier, a website design brief is critical for understanding a project's scope, its exact deliverables, critical components, and what the customer hopes to achieve through the project.

It will give both the client and designer a clear understanding of the entire design project, from the workflow to the expected outcomes to the budget and everything in between.

Here are the primary reasons designers need a website design brief, and why a client should create one:

1. It saves time

The initial scoping of a project typically involves multiple meetings and a lot of back and forth. Everything is generally a bit of a mess, and it can be difficult to keep track of each project requirement and how exactly the scope was developed.

A brief condenses all the conversations into an elegant and comprehensive outline that helps the designer move forward with the project with a lot more ease.

2. It keeps both parties in sync

Scope changes are quite common as projects progress. A clear and well-defined website design brief makes it simple to address any changes in scope or requirements that may arise during the project.

For example, if all the parties involved in the project know what was initially decided, it will be easier to track the required changes, as well as how these will affect things such as timelines, work plans, and the budget.

The web designer will be able to keep up with what’s expected of them throughout the project and the client can determine if the work is being completed according to what was agreed on.

3. It motivates the team

Website design projects are often elaborate, involving multiple legs of work such as sitemap and wireframe creation, UI design, content creation and uploading, and site testing. Designers will also likely have various deadlines and feedback cycles.

A good website design brief allows the client to express their needs and gives the designer a good feel for the client’s goals and requirements. This clarity will likely result in a more engaged team — both on the client and designer sides — that is inspired to meet the project objectives.

The anatomy of a website design brief

When the client understands the importance of a website design brief, you can then take them through how to write a web design brief, outlining all the elements that make for a good website brief.

1. Company description

This is the first fundamental step in the briefing process.

Information about the industry the company is in, as well as company history, size, staff, locations, market positioning, and competitor information, will all help the designer understand what the company is all about.

It’s also a good idea to give an overview of the services or products that the company provides and the overall mission of the company.

While this may look like a broad ask for a design project, each component is absolutely essential for the designer to create a site that’s geared toward the company’s goals.

2. Project purpose

Next up, the brief must include the project's purpose. This will primarily involve examining the problem that the company is attempting to solve with the website design, i.e., where problems are occurring in the sales funnel and how the web design will address these.

Increasing brand awareness, leads, and sales are some of the possible goals of a website design.

If the company is redesigning their site, it’s important to include a clear summary of what’s wrong with the existing site, what’s working, and the improvements that must be made.

It's a good idea to start this section of the brief with a concise summary of the project (1-2 sentences) and then go into more detail about the expectations and success measures.

3. Target audience and users

In addition to helping meet company goals, a website also serves to meet the needs of the company’s target audience and users. As such, it’s important to include a section on them.

As straightforward as it sounds, it’s important to include as many details about the target audience and users as possible. This will include a section explaining who the website is for, and a section for demographic information such as age, profession, and location.

4. Project scope

The project scope identifies the web design requirements so that the designer knows what to include or leave out on the site.

Some of the top things to include in this section are:

  • How big of an overhaul the web designing will be (is it just designing a few pages, or something bigger?)
  • How many web pages are needed
  • What features and functionalities will be included on each of these pages

The client needs to be as specific as possible on this section since it’s what the designer will mainly use to create a quote for the project.

5. Logo requirements

If the design involves creating a new logo, the client must spell it out. That’s because logo designing is usually billed separately in a web design project. If the client is keeping their existing logo, this also needs to be clarified as a large portion of the website will be designed around that.

Depending on the situation, the client will need to provide files of the existing logo or let the designer know that they want a new one.

6. Branding

Clients often don’t fully appreciate all the various branding details that go into building a great website.

For example, a brand-new website without any previous brand guidelines or a robust visual system will require some branding. Moreover, if existing branding isn’t working, it will also need to be changed. This may include creating new assets or updating the existing logo, color palette, typography, photography, and other visual elements.

Doing this will require more time, effort, and correspondingly, more financial resources. Therefore, the client needs to specify if they are looking for a brand overhaul or something less extensive, as well as who will be taking care of the branding process.

7. Content requirements

Content is another element that sometimes gets overlooked, but it’s important to clarify. The designer’s job is to, well, design the website not create content.

Content needs to come from a separate source, whether that’s from the client’s or the designer’s side. If the task of sourcing a web copywriter falls on the designer, this will incur an additional cost, which must be agreed on by both client and the designer.

8. Maintenance

Maintenance may not necessarily be part of the web designer’s work, but it’s important to look beyond the finish line when creating the site.

For instance, a designer may be required to provide ongoing support with maintenance and customizations. This will need to be accounted for in the project scope and budget.

9. Timeline

A brief explanation of the project’s timeline will suffice at this point. The client needs to provide no more than a rough list of milestones and a final deadline — the details can be fleshed out later.

10. Budget

Although the designer will provide an official quote, any budgetary expectations the company has should be included here. This will give the designer a starting point for their quote and an idea of how much the company is willing to invest in the project.

11. Point of contact

Finally, the client needs to assign a person who will be the primary contact person for:

  • Receiving information and questions from the designer
  • Getting information to the person/people authorized to sign off on each key stage of the project
  • Facilitating feedback cycles (i.e., collecting feedback from the client side and communicating it to the designer).

Having a contact person will help streamline the project considerably.

Using a website design brief template

Nailing the various components of a design brief will allow the client to provide all the information the designer needs to undertake a successful web design project.

But you don’t have to create a brief from scratch, because we’ve got you covered. Click below to access a website design brief you can start sending to your clients right away.

Take your design skills to the next level

Getting the brief right is a crucial part of any web design project. Nonetheless, it’s only one part of the equation to becoming a great designer.

Playbook provides access to a wide range of resources that support designers who are taking on difficult and elaborate projects such as building websites. Check out our guide to growing your career as a junior UX designer to learn more about UX — an integral part of website design.