Hi, thanks for stopping by our little corner of the internet. We’re Chaptr, a rather delightful (if we say so ourselves) website design agency based in sunny Southampton. As you’re reading this, then chances are you’re about to brief a web agency to design your new website. Before you do, we’d like to share some secrets to getting the most from your chosen agency. Think of it as our handy guide on how to brief a web agency to build a website that works for you and your business.
In an age when the digital marketplace is king, your website can make or break your business like never before. A well-written design brief ensures everyone is on the same page when bringing your vision to life (which is easier when there’s an actual page to follow). Other brief benefits include:
- It provides the blueprint for your site and your relationship with your agency
- It sets the foundation for getting the most out of the relationship from day one
- It allows for greater focus and creativity, plus it’s easier (and cheaper) to tweak your requirements at this stage than during the build
That’s why your design brief should highlight what makes you, you. Be sure to include what some people (us) refer to as ‘The Double O’s’ – your objectives and your desired outcomes. Investing the time upfront will ensure you get what you need – a website that showcases your brand strengths to the world (wide web). The more you put in, the more you’ll get out. In other words, your brief should be anything but brief. Maybe they should rename it a ‘long’…
“Quick” fix – include your objectives and desired outcomes.
Before you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) the first thing we like to do here at Chaptr is talk to you. We ask questions and then listen. That’s because our experience shows that meeting face-to-face (or via Zoom, Facetime, Teams, etc.) helps build trust, which leads to a more successful partnership.
As well as allowing you to express your ‘Double O’s’, it gives you the perfect opportunity to pin down the ‘Triple W’s’ – who’s doing what, when they’re doing it, and how sign-off will work. (Ok, we admit that’s not quite as catchy). This helps to manage everyone’s expectations, eliminates miscommunication, and sets a smooth course for the journey ahead.
“Quick” fix – chat to Chaptr.
Your brief should answer Cilla Black’s timeless query on Blind Date, “What’s your name and where do you come from?” Ok, so it should include a bit more than that, but it’s important to consider what makes you an attractive prospect to your target audience. As well as detailing what your company does, here are a few important things to consider:
- Your brand’s background, mission, and values
- When it was established and current staff numbers
- Your market sector, your positioning, and your key competitors
It’s also good to note where you are now versus where you want to be. This will help brief a web design agency play to your strengths so you can turn your relationship with your target audience from a blind date into something more long-term.
“Quick” fix – what do you do and who is it for?
It’s also useful to note the reason why you’re kick-starting this project at this moment in time. Is it to tie in with a product launch or event? Perhaps it’s a digital home for your print magazine or to attract the right kind of partners to grow your business. Is it so your site emulates your physical workspace or because you’re a start-up about to launch? Maybe you simply want to replace your old site or want to showcase a recent re-brand.
Shameless plug alert! Did someone mention re-brands? We can help with that too.
Whatever the reason, jot down your likes and dislikes about your current site if you’ve got one. Include details of where it’s hosted if you need the design agency to host and maintain the new one, whether you’re keeping the current web address, and your site’s analytics such as traffic stats, how people come to your site, and countries they visit from.
“Quick” fix – start with “why”.
Have a think about what you want your site to achieve. How valuable is it to your company? Is it your primary shop window? Whilst a decent web design agency will work with you through a UX phase, the brief is the perfect place to outline your site’s navigational structure. For example:
- How many pages are required for launch?
- Do you need special features such as a blog, gallery, and careers page?
Understanding the user journey is vital – what do you want them to do on your site? Your primary call to action could be anything from increasing sales and generating leads to sharing a link or promoting the brand. If it’s an e-commerce site, consider:
- How many products it should showcase and if you need a search facility
- What are the shipping details and check-out system, and do you need discount code functionality?
- Will there be a log-in area? Should it integrate with third-party systems, such as a payment gateway? Should the site be multilingual?
- Does the user need the ability to choose between B2B and B2C services?
Sure, that’s a lot of questions, but considering the activities you’d like your users to engage in will help the agency create what we like to call a ‘site skeleton’ (a.k.a. wireframe) that meets your needs.
“Quick” fix – what’s the purpose of your site?
So, now we’ve covered the background to your brand, it’s time to meet the people who will actually be using your site (not literally – that would take ages). Providing details of a typical user – their age and demographic, likes and dislikes, and how they come to your site – will help shape the UX, copy, and messaging.
So be sure to include any research you’ve done about your target audience or any user feedback you’ve received (good or bad). These small details serve a big purpose – they make your site more engaging to the end-user.
“Quick” fix – put yourself in your user’s shoes.
With over 1.5 billion websites online today, how do you make yours stand out from the crowd? The answer is a winning mixture of functionality and design. If you have a certain design style in mind, such as illustration or photography, minimalist or bold, include examples in the brief. If your site needs to align with existing offline marketing, brand guidelines, or a colour palette, be sure to mention that as well.
As well as including examples of design trends or sites that have inspired you, adding links to sites you don’t like can be just as instructive. And with 1.5 billion examples to choose from, the chances are there’ll be plenty that don’t pass your taste test.
“Quick” fix – start window(s) shopping for website designs.
Do you know why some websites fail to launch on time? No, it’s not due to a dodgy wifi connection, it’s the time it takes to create the content that will be showcased on the site. Your web design brief should, therefore, dictate who is creating what – whether it’s in-house, a third party, or if you need your design agency to help out.
If you are generating copy in-house, it’s time to say hello to SEO. If your precious words aren’t optimised, there’s a chance no one will be able to find your new website as the content affects your site’s ranking. If you need help with content, be sure to include specific words, phrases, and company taglines, as well as details of your brand voice if you have one.
Shameless plug alert! Here at Chaptr, we specialise in copy that converts, so get in touch if you’d like us to help your business grow with messaging that inspires users to take action.
“Quick” fix – SEO is the way to go.
If you’ve got a launch date and budget in mind be sure to pop those into your brief. Being upfront about when you’d like to go live lets your design agency work backward from that date to create a project timeline of what should happen and when. It’s also important to note if you’d like a soft launch or an all-singing, all-dancing, champagne-popping hard launch.
As for budget, consider how valuable the site is to you. Providing a ballpark figure of what you would be willing to pay to get your dream site allows the agency to deliver an achievable project plan of what’s possible in that price range. Oh, and if you’ve got a budget for ongoing support and maintenance be sure to include that too; if you’re going to invest in your website then you’ll want someone to look after it to keep it fast, reliable, and secure.
“Quick” fix – choose your go-live date.
To get your dream site you need to join forces with your dream website design agency, maybe one based in Southampton… So include details of what you expect from your partnership with your chosen design agency. If you’ve worked with an agency in the past, it’s helpful to include details of what went well or, ahem, not so well.
There’s just time for one more ‘Shameless plug alert’. Here at Chaptr, we don’t just build websites, we build relationships. Every website we design is made to knock our client’s socks off (we borrowed that phrase from the back of a tub of ice cream – thanks Jude’s!).
So why not grab a brew, get comfy, and come and sample our wares? Who knows, it could be your dream website design we’re proudly showcasing next.