Completing your Website Brief

It's time to bring it all together into a brief for your project.

Compiling the Documents

Now is the time to do a final check and create a document that will provide anyone quoting or working on your project a complete picture of what you want and why you want it.

In your final brief, you are going to bring together a series of pages and documents that step through the background behind the project, the research completed for the project, your goals and targets for the project and all of the detail you have put into the scope pieces.

This chapter completes the core of this guide and will give you more than enough information and knowledge to proceed through the development stages.

The future chapters of this guide are intended to provide people, without the previous experience in getting their website built, more information on choosing their development team, the technology to use, being a good project manager and client as well as seeing the project through to a satisfactory ending.

If you have reached this stage, you should congratulate yourself. You have invested time that many others don't. You won't be someone that wonders how their project got away from them. You will be able to see a successful project through to completion.

compile brief documents

Your Finished Brief

When you bring it all together your Brief/Scope should include the following items:

  • Introduction
  • Goals
  • Audience Outline
  • Must-have Requirements
  • Research Summary
  • Sitemap
  • Scope document
  • Wireframes
  • Content Outline

Keep in mind that this document has many people that will likely need to use it.

It is your master plan for your site, the brief for your design and development team, a guide for your content producers, an approval document for key stakeholders and much more.

It needs to have a clear structure that anyone who needs to can follow and get a comprehensive understanding of the project.

1 The Introduction

This written introduction should explain for anyone reviewing the project answers to the questions:

  • Why is this project happening
  • What expectations are there for this project
  • References to any existing materials (e.g. existing websites)
  • Key contacts and stakeholders from your business related to this project.

One page is probably more than enough to outline these most important points. While the objective of this scoping process is to provide more detail about your project we want the readers to be spending time on the main detail and not going through repetitive content in each area.

2 Goals

This page or two of content should come directly from what you prepared in the Goal Setting chapter. As you went through the scoping process, you have probably refined the wording and specificity of the goals.

Review them and include them here. It is worthwhile to include a statement about goals and their importance for all concerned. i.e. That all decisions made are meant to create a purpose that achieves these goals; anything else is a distraction.

Set the guidelines up front then if your suppliers or team get distracted by shiny gadgets or options you can consistently bring them back to the question:

"How does this help us achieve our goals?"

3 Audience Outline

How much content you have in this section will depend on how in depth you have gone in building audience personas, and how much research you have done.

It would be ideal that you devote several pages here to provide top level summaries of your audience and provide full detail as part of supplementary documentation when required.

In initial reviews by prospective agencies or design teams, they may be happy with the summary level detail, and it will help both parties get through the first round of selections. They may or may not need to see the full detail until they have been commissioned.

If you only have one or two audience profiles and a very clear history of serving them, then you should outline them clearly here, and make sure everyone understands who this site is for.

4 Must-Have Requirements

In Chapter Five you listed out any specific requirements you need this website project to have for your business.

These need to be outlined here and reference where in other scope documentation that the full detail exists. This page or two should highlight everything that needs to be included and enough information to make it meaningful.

For example, Our existing user forum http://community.businessdomain.com will be retained and key topics will be extracted and displayed on the page in our new sitemap '12.1 Community Topics'. Full API and Feed information are provided in the Scope Documentation. The existing version of this can be seen at http://www.domain.com/oldpage.

This summary of an item will alert everyone to enough specifics without getting bogged down in technical elements. These should be handled further in the document.

Highlight everything you know must be included.

5 Research Summary

When presenting what you have learned by conducting research, you won't need to display and outline everything you did and went through unless you are unsure as to the conclusions your research provides.

Ultimately the research should create some clear information that guides each of the scoping phases, including determining the architecture of the site, content needs, functional requirements and design needs.

In this section, you want to detail the key learnings, and messages that shone through in your research that have guided the rest of this brief. The readers of the brief should be able to get a strong sense of why decisions they will read about later have been made, what problems they need to solve in reaching the goals and what they need to reference when you get to approval and testing stages.

6 Sitemap

Depending on the size of your site, you may have a one-page sitemap or multiple pages. If you used a tool like draw.io or visio, then export them as image files or pdf pages and include these into your website brief document.

Ensure each page of the sitemap is labeled and include text references to sub-pages where relevant so readers can easily make the connections between the different maps. Check your numbering is correct and every item in the scope is included.

7 Page Scope Document

Whether you include this in your brief document or not will depend on size and software you used to create it.

If you used Google Sheets, you can make a copy which is Read-Only and share that link in this overall document. That way you won't have a bloated document to send.

If you made it in Word or Excel or similar tools, then PDF it and included it in the final documents. You need to make sure each tab/page scoped is included, and any notations are shown on each page.

8 Wireframes

You will need to export all your wireframes as images or pdf documents. If you have it all in Balsamiq, you can export the entire project in one go, which saves a lot of time.

If you create a PDF, then you can merge this PDF file into your master PDF if you intend to have it as one document.

Alternatively, the wireframes can be stored as a separate file, and referenced in the main brief document. If you have a large number of wireframes, the export will be a large file so storing it separately will be helpful for those that need to access it.

9 Content Outline

The Content Outline should add some detail to the scope document in explaining more about the type of content production, who is producing it or if you need someone to do this, references to any Content Style Guides you may have and expected production timeframes for the content.

You should also include the Content Master Plan.

This will allow everyone to see the size and shape of all the content requirements and to understand the importance of content in your project.

It won't be considered an after thought.

The Brief

brief success plan

If your site is going to be over ten pages or more this brief will now be quite a lot of documentation.

Creating an online folder for it all that can be shared with any prospective developers will make good sense, e.g. dropbox, drive or similar. In the folder, you can place each of the main files and the overall guide that makes up the brief.

This way the summary brief outlined on this page will be the Initial Document, and will reference the other large documents.

When you have brought this all together, you will have done what many people never invest enough time into. You will have built a full blueprint and guide for your web project.

You now have the keys to your success. You won't be leaving the critical decisions up to your developers; you will have provided the design and content teams with a plethora of useful information that allows them to do their job - produce - without having to manage how to get enough requirements out of you.

Not only will you know what your end project will ultimately be like when completed, but it will also be completely purpose driven, easy to quote and put a project plan to because there won't be any missing pieces or ambiguity.

If you find an agency or developer that can't give you a fixed price and a timeline to build this project I would suggest you probably have someone you don't really want to work with.

What's next?

This completes the scoping and briefing side of this Guide. This is the main content we wanted to produce to help you build a better website and be more successful with your online projects.

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