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  • Chloë Roach

Piecing together the perfect website brief


An illustration of jigsaw pieces on a laptop screen

While there are a lot of agencies out there doing brilliant work, compatibility is critical to a project’s success, so your website brief needs to set the right kind of parameters. It’s not just about finding an agency that ticks the functionality boxes (most agencies worth their salt can do that), they need to understand you and your needs, share your values and produce some stellar work too.



So, here are a few thoughts about crafting a brief that will help you to find your perfect partner. And, trust me, they will thank you for it.

The most important thing is to tell us what you’re trying to achieve and be honest...

Don’t feel like you need to have all the answers

Being unsure of your precise requirements is completely fine. We don’t expect you to have all the answers or tap into the mind of a website developer, designer and strategist. The most important thing is to tell us what you’re trying to achieve and be honest about areas where you think you might need some support. Perhaps you’ve seen something on another website that you think works really well and could work well for you too. Or maybe you have a clear idea of your organisation’s goals and priorities but don’t know how best to support them through the website. Sharing this information helps us to get a clearer idea of what you need and it means we can start problem-solving. Even if you already have ideas and potential solutions, be open to hearing about other options. Trends and tech changes pretty rapidly, so it’s worth keeping an open mind.


Do your research

Take a look around and find agencies whose values and approach resonate with yours. If you’re not sure where to start, ask around your networks to find out who they’ve worked with and whether they’ve had a good experience.


Ask for agencies’ proposals to focus on areas that are important to you and the challenges of the project, rather than asking them to rewrite your website wish list using a thesaurus.

Beware of sharing your website brief with the entire world

While having a lack of responses to your website brief is certainly a problem, having too many can be equally difficult to manage. Ask yourself this… do you have capacity to read through 50 proposals? If you’ve got limited resources, it’s not always a good idea to post your brief absolutely everywhere. It’s much better to ask for expressions of interest first and then create a long list from that, or research agencies that might be the right fit for you. This works better for us too, because it means we’re not spending hours on a proposal only to have a limited chance of being shortlisted. Knowing that we’ve made it to the long list helps us understand that you like what we’re doing and you’re taking our work seriously.


Another way to make sure the project is manageable for you is by setting clear criteria for responses. Ask for agencies’ proposals to focus on areas that are important to you and the challenges of the project, rather than asking them to rewrite your website wish list using a thesaurus. And don’t be afraid to set a maximum number of pages for responses – just make sure you're being realistic and reasonable.

We’re not scary!

I can’t emphasise how important having a dialogue with prospective agencies is. If you’ve sent your brief to a selection of agencies, give them the chance to ask you questions over the phone or on a video call. These discussions are useful for both parties – they help you get to know the agency and consider anything you might have missed in the brief, and they help agencies get a greater understanding of you and your project. Yes, it takes more time, but doing this is worthwhile in the long run.


It’s worth asking yourself a few questions first… Is the brand working well?

Is a new website all you really need?

It sounds like a daft question, but it’s important to consider. It’s not uncommon for us to be approached by a prospective client who thinks a new website will solve all their problems, but it’s worth asking yourself a few questions first… Is the brand working well? Does the copy on the site need to be rewritten? How did the current website end up the way it is? Do you need to put some rules in place about website management and workflow? These are not always comfortable questions to ask, but the chances are, if you avoid them, you’re likely to end up in the same place again – no matter how great the website design and build is.

If possible, give us an indication of timeline and budget

We’re often asked ‘how much will a website cost?’ and I suppose that’s a bit like asking ‘how much does a car cost?’ Well, it depends on what you want. If you give us an idea of what you have to spend, we can tell you our thoughts about the best way to manage your budget. If you’re really not sure about costs, try to be clear about what you want to achieve - especially if you think you might need something complicated. As a general rule, the more complex the functionality - like an integrated CRM system or a complex events-booking system or an entire membership area - the more you’ll need to budget for.

In a nutshell, building a strong, trusting relationship with an agency needs to be at the centre of your web project.

Finally, and most importantly, don’t ask us for initial designs as part of the brief

Why? The number one reason is because we haven’t started working with you yet. Coming up with a design without doing thorough research or getting valuable input from you, your audiences and your stakeholders is a bit like being blindfolded and asked to paint your portrait without having met you. Essentially, it turns design into a guessing game that’s not reflective of the end product. It sets expectations and doesn’t reflect the agencies’ carefully designed processes, which they know gets good results. Sometimes agencies recruit junior designers to produce these ‘initial’ designs, while other smaller agencies don’t have internal capacity, meaning it becomes a case of which agency has the most resources, rather than who can deliver the best work for you.

In a nutshell, building a strong, trusting relationship with an agency needs to be at the centre of your web project. Take the time to get to know them, and make sure they get to know you too. Make sure you both have mutual understanding and respect for each other’s expertise, along with a clear understanding of the project, and together you can create something beautiful!

If you have any website projects in the pipeline that you’d like to talk to Osch about, we’re always happy to jump on a call and say hello. You can drop us a line on our contact page.


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