What is a website brief or scope?

Chapter 1

Next Chapter


A website scope of works is a document that can fully explain your business needs and requirements in a practical way for use by designers and developers in quoting and building a website.

A website scope is simply a blueprint for success. It’s a thought out set of drawings and specifications that allow you to get to a result exactly as you want or better.

The foundations of any good web project start with proper planning. A website brief should be extensive enough to provide answers to almost every question a developer or business manager might ask about your project.

Do you have a template?

When I ask new prospects about a Brief for their new site the most common question I hear is "Do you have a template I can use?"

Many companies have some form of a list of questions or even more advanced documents but few if any are available that help the client provide the developer a useful brief up front.

We hope that by providing a sensible template and process to complete it more clients will be able to think through and better design what they want and need for their business and in so doing help get a better result from the development teams they engage.

Learning to scope and brief what you need for your business will greatly improve your business website and will naturally start to include many principles that lead to these more extended areas of online marketing.

Where does it fit in?

When you start looking at the process of building a website and what you might need to do make it a high performer for your company you will find there is a myriad of 'specialties' or areas to consider, and everyone is selling the perfect method to fix it!

Advice is everywhere:

Articles, tools, ebooks, courses, training programs and agencies all exist to show you how to market your business better. This will include all sorts of areas including Conversion Optimisation (CRO), Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), Pay per click Advertising (PPC), Lead Pages, Usability / User Experience (UX), Customer Experience (CX) the list goes on.

The Problem:

All of these are vital in the ongoing marketing of your business, especially as the site gets more mature and you understand how to manage it better.

The biggest problem is that in many ways this is treating the symptom not the cause.

These focus areas are often applied after the fact when all of the work is already completed and the site already built, and then you start to hear responses like this 'Our CMS won't do that,' when you want to make a change for the better.

You also can't afford to apply a tactic to your site simply because of a new ebook or blog you read without understanding the impact to YOUR business. You need to have a roadmap/guide about your site that allows you to make smart decisions on what can and can't be implemented or more importantly what should or shouldn't be applied.

This Complete Guide to Website Planning aims to understand your long-term needs as well as immediate needs now at the beginning of the process and during the lifetime of your site.

You become the architect of your new site and get to design how it will work!

Design is a plan for arranging elements in such a way as
best to accomplish a particular purpose.

Charles Eames

Become an Architect

Let’s relate a website scope to something many of us can understand. Building a home.

The role of the architect in building a home is huge, behind the scenes, they have helped to determine need, practicality, wish list items, costs, and numerous other items and lay them all out into a schematic and plans that can be used by others to create the result for the client. They will engage other specialities to help as well.

When someone asks me to give them a ballpark figure for their website I often respond with this question:

Do you want a one bedroom simple studio villa or a two story five bedroom McMansion?

Both can be considered homes but the cost and time to build them both will vary massively.

The style of each will be significantly different and what the end expectations are will also be hugely different. That question just touches the surface as there are many other issues that you need to consider.

The materials, will it be block, wood or steel? What type of roof, internal walls, finishes, paint colours? Every one of these decisions impacts how successful the project is on completion. Understanding the detail of a project whether it be building a home or a website before you start is a proven method to be successful.

Learn from Grand Designs

If you have ever watched a show like Grand Designs then you know how easy things can, and do, go wrong, causing cost blowouts, requirements changes late in the piece and dissatisfaction from the owner.

When you see a Grand Design project with major issues, you can usually find at the core one or more of the items listed.

In many cases starting a construction project without an adequate plan leads to poor results.

While it isn't always the case and many web projects run smoothly without any plan the majority would and should be better if better planning was involved.

A successful web project is very similar and has many of the same components to it and potentially many of the same problems that can occur.

Builder Problems on Grand Designs:

  • No experience
  • Not taking on board professional advice
  • Trying to do complex work themselves
  • Not using an architect
  • Not setting fixed parameters
  • Lack of compromise on items that lead to cost blowouts
  • Poor choice of builder
  • Not getting appropriate approvals or simply not following them
  • Not enough research/investigation

A scope is simply a blueprint for success. It’s a thought out set of drawings and specifications that allow you to get to a result exactly as you want or better.


Imagine getting a fixed price building contract without architects plans? Imagine being able to set a realistic time frame for the project or order the materials if you don’t have any detail on what it is you are building.

And yet…

This is exactly how many people approach their website developments.

  • Asking for quotes about a redevelopment before finalising what they want
  • Providing the equivalent of the electrical engineer drawings to explain the house (technical & functional requirements)
  • Providing the time frame up front before locking in the exact needs
  • Choosing the Builder without reviewing how they can deliver on the needs and wants
  • Picking up a theme for one purpose and trying to squash it out as something completely different.

The Solution

At all times through this process, imagine you are about to build your dream home or your next home, and you have experience in what didn’t work previously or what wasn’t quite right, but now you want to get that ideal home.

This time, you are going to work through the steps, plan out clearly and simply what it is you really need and put you and your builders in the position to make smart decisions from the start.

This works for a simple 5-page advertorial or mini site as it does a large corporate 1000 page site.

No plan = guess work.

Let’s go make a plan that gets you great results!

Chapter 1

Next Chapter

BUY the entire guide as an ebook or paperback


Buy the Guide


Available on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Barnes & Noble and other great bookstores

Free access to the Website Planning Guide Facebook Group with any version you purchase