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Websites are a bit like houses...

website planning

Although some people are perfectly happy to start work with nothing more than a hammer and a rough idea of what they want to do, most people would agree that if you want to build a new house, it's better to start with a proper plan...

First you decide what you want the house for, where you're going to build it, how many rooms it needs, what each room is for, how you access each room and so on. Next, you have to think about what you're going to put in each room. Once all that's done, you can start thinking about what colour the walls and carpets will be.

So, an effective website is a planned website! Before we get started on the design, we ask every client to provide a website design brief. By that, we mean a description of your aims and objectives, a description of what you want the website to do. Depending on your needs, the description doesn't always need to be long, but the more information you give, the better.

As a minimum, you need to describe what you want your website to do, how and why. It is also very useful if you can explain who your target customers are, how the website will be linked to the rest of your business and who your competitors are. This knowledge will help your website designer to ensure that the site, and the page contents, are structured correctly.

describing objectives

Writing a website design brief...

It's probably important to say that there is no maximum length for a design brief. Whatever information you give will be useful, because it paints a picture of your needs. The things that your designer thinks are most important will be cut and pasted into a file for reference throughout the design process. The more you say, the less likely it is that you will forget something important!

Where to start..

Start out by telling us something about yourself and your business. You don't need to write an autobiography, just enough so that the designer understands a little about you. Next, tell us what the objectives are for your website, whether they are general or specific goals, what you want the website to do, and how you want to benefit. From experience we can say that in explaining these things, clients almost always include information in a design brief that they forgot to include in their page contents, so it is a useful exercise.

Who are your target visitors?

Before you open a shop, you will have an idea, maybe a picture, of who your customers will be. The same should apply to a website. Your whole website, the text it contains, the images you use and even the style of the website needs to be created with your target customers in mind. For example, if you have a cattery, you're almost certainly looking at cat owners in certain towns or areas that surround your business. Say what those areas and towns are. What do you think your customers will be looking for and what will they want to know about your business and facilities? Having identified your target visitors, what do you want them to do? Again, using a cattery website as an example, do you want people to contact you online or make online bookings, or do you want them to come and visit your cattery? These things affect how your website is structured.

Things to be used in your website..

This might include a multitude of items. Some will be things you plan to supply, like photos and videos. Others might be things we need to create or edit. If you want it on your website you need to tell your designer about it!

For example
  • Do you have a specific colour scheme you want us to us, perhaps to match your existing marketing? If so, tell us which colours to use (provide the HEX code), how and where.
  • If you have a logo you want us to use, tell us how and where you want us to use it, and if alterations are possible or required.
  • Explain how you want us to use your business/company name, registered trademarks, brand names, and so on.
  • If you are providing your own images for use on the website, provide the images with the brief and explain what they are for (and if possible provide a text description of each photo).
  • If you don't have any suitable or appropriate images, are you planning on hiring a photographer, or do you want us to use stock (generic) images?
  • Provide ALL the text copy that is to be used on the site in clearly named files (for example, 'front page', 'about us page' etc) with any instructions.
  • If you want your site to be multilingual, specify this clearly, including which languages are to be used.
  • If you want us to have your text translated for you, specify the language(s) in the brief and attach ALL the text that needs translating with clear instructions.

Upgrading an existing website?

If you want us to design a replacement for an existing website, give us details of the existing website, and then answer these questions as well as you can.

  • Why did you decide to replace the old website?
  • What things DO you like about the old site?
  • What DON'T you like about the old site?
  • What DOESN'T the old site do that you want the new site to do?
  • Do you maintain your existing site or does somebody do it for you?
  • Will you deal with maintaining and updating the new website, or does somebody else do it for you?
  • How often do you expect to update pages, or add extra pages to the new site?
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