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Creating a project brief that is useful to the developer, and serves as a beneficial exercise for the client, is an under appreciated skill

We often receive project briefs from potential clients – and while we appreciate the time & effort that went in to preparing them, many of them lack the actionable, insightful information we need to effectively collaborate on a project. We believe then that it’s important to take the time to consider the information we require before discussing a project with a potential partner. And sometimes, it was easier to say what we didn’t need …

Thank you for that list of technical requirements – responsive, mobile first design is certainly important. Please understand though that specifying target load times or page size / weight is not helpful. There is no way to know what media is coming to us – and if we need to have video on the home page, there may well be no way to meet your target. We are though, happy to discuss how we can optimise site performance and the technical aspects of the build so that we end up with the most highly performant site possible.

We also, always, recommend beginning a project with a detailed discovery phase. Hiring a development firm is a point of huge risk for your organisation – but a discovery phase can go a long way to mitigate against that. Let’s work together to figure out exactly the best way to move forward – we’ll look at your goals, your current performance, your frustrations and places of joy in your current offering. Together we’ll figure it out – you don’t need to do this alone.

We’ll take it as read that you want to do well in search engines – we’ll explain how we’ll build the site to be well optimised for search, and that consistent performance requires consistent effort. If you’d like to consistently do well in search engines, then it is most likely that you will need to be consistently investing in search engine optimisation.

Receiving a client website project brief

Okay, it sounds a bit like I’m badgering you … lets move on to the things that can help make a really good project brief:

  • tell us a little bit about your organisation. What’s the history, how has it developed, what values does it represent – and how do those manifest today?
  • what do you want to achieve for the business? Not just with the website, but overall – how are you looking to expand your offering digitally, are you increasing the range of your offering, are you expanding internationally? What are the goals – what does success look like for your business in the next year, 3 years, 10 years?
  • what problems, what challenges, are you facing right now? How does your new website fit in with meeting those challenges?
  • who are your competitors? If you’re a charity, you’re competing for every donation – but who with, and what is it about their digital business that makes you envious? What of yours makes them envious?
  • who is your target donor or customer? Have you developed personas for them? How many different customer groups do you have, and how do they respond to your current marketing efforts? How engaged are they?
  • what is your current marketing plan? Is it going to change with your new website – is the website a part of a new marketing plan? How do you communicate with new & existing customers – the messaging, materials, channels, etc.
  • what systems do you have in place that you need to integrate with? Do you have a CRM system – if not, can we help you add one? Do you use marketing automation? Does your donation platform need to integrate with your accountancy package? Think about the systems you have across the business – how would you like the website to help pull them together?
  • then, what websites do you like – and why? What are other people – both within and outside of your own sector, doing well that you admire? What can we learn from businesses outside of your sector? And what things do you very much dislike in those sites?

So there’s a lot there. I think the main point is: we don’t expect you to know everything – it’s unlikely you know as much about the digital side of your business as we do, and it’s unlikely we know as much about your donors, customers, internal processes as you do. So let’s collaborate. Let’s learn and work on the project brief together. You’ll get better results and a more satisfying collaboration – as will we.