We’ve put together the following aide-memoire for producing a web development project brief. Not all questions are relevant to all projects but should provide a general framework for all such projects.
By no means does every question need to be answered, but the more questions that are answered, the more accurate a quote can be. If you don’t know the meaning of a question, then we can help with clarifying – but it could well be that it doesn’t apply or is overkill for the site in mind.
What’s the website’s core message or purpose?
If for a business, how large is the business (headcount or approximate turnover)?
What are the goals for the website? These could include brand awareness, increase sales, mailing list signups, generate leads and sources of enquiries.
What’s the customer problem and solution in a nutshell. How does what you do solve their problem?
Who are you talking to (as both organisations and the individuals in those organisations)? Do they come from a particular industry or sector? What part, if any, does the product or service play in their lives? Are they buying this product or service or service for themselves or a third party? Do they know the brand? How do they feel about it and why? Do you have any demographic information on the audiences?
What’s the product or service you’re offering on the website? How is it different (manufacture, design, distribution…). Do you have any case studies or testimonials?
What competitor or partner websites do you like or dislike? Why?
What do you currently do to promote yourself online or offline? What has worked in the past and what hasn’t?
Is web accessibility a particular concern (e.g. for partially sighted or hearing impaired visitors)?
If the web development brief is to replace an existing website, then consider the following:
What’s the URL of the current website?
How long has the current site been in place?
Who designed and built the website? Have they been involved in supporting the site since its launch?
Who’s responsible for managing the current site internally?
Do you have any analytics data to suggest the level of traffic the website is receiving? What proportion of users are from desktop and mobile? Are there any older browsers that show a significant visitor base?
Can you let us know any details of the current hosting package?
What’s good about the current website? What’s worked well and should be retained?
What’s bad about the current website? This could include design, CMS flexibility, security, etc.
Have there been any recorded instances of attempted hacking or exploitation of vulnerabilities (successful or otherwise)?
Who will be supplying text content for the website? Do you work with any copywriters currently, for this or any other project?
Roughly how many pages of content are expected?
How many page templates (i.e. different content types) can you foresee? Please list these.
If any translations are required, who will be supplying these?
Are any right to left languages (Arabic, Urdu, Hebrew, etc.) likely to be required?
Are the content authors familiar with optimising content for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) purposes? Would you benefit from SEO consultancy and ongoing support?
Do you have any current site architecture in mind? A simple diagram can often help significantly.
Who will be managing the site day to day? How often will it be updated and with what type of content?
If moving from an existing website, how much content will be migrating in the same format? Will it be possible to provide a mapping document to detail where the content used to be and where it would live in the new site.
Are you working with any designers (web or otherwise) currently for this or any other project?
Does the site have an existing brand and brand guidelines? If not, does a brand need to be created?
What tone of voice should the design reflect? Formal / relaxed etc.
Is there a look and feel that you have in mind for the website?
Are you averse to repurposing an off the shelf CMS theme, or would you prefer entirely custom design?
Are there any particular style User Interface (i.e. buttons, form elements, etc.) you’ve seen elsewhere that you’d like to replicate?
Who will be signing off creative and what are their personal tastes? Are there websites that they particularly like the style of?
Is there an image bank available? Would you prefer to use stock or custom imagery? Do you prefer if the image style is more abstract or photo-led?
You may be totally in the dark about this section, so don’t worry too much if the terminology is confusing. A good agency should be able to assist with fleshing out this part of a web development brief.
Are there any personal or organisation preferences (or dislikes) for the technology platform for the website e.g. WordPress, Drupal etc?
Do we need to build on or improve any existing technology or code? If so, as much detail as possible will be required. This could include copies of the source code (e.g. Github/Bitbucket) repository access, documentation on the environment or package requirements, details of any Continuous Integration (CI) deployment tools, domain DNS/nameserver access, hosting and database access (including cPanel, SSH .pem keys or password restricted shell access, or FTP as a last resort!). If you don’t have any of these, then contact details for the previous developers are a good place to start.
Do any new domains need to be purchased for the website? If not, who has access to the domain control panel or DNS nameservers
eCommerce – do you intend to sell products or services through the website? Does this need to be a fully featured shop (product options, basket, checkout, etc.) or can a simple widget suffice? Do you have any existing payment gateways or merchant accounts in place to take credit or debt card payments? Would you like to offer PayPal or any other payment platforms? If nothing is in place, is a business bank account setup.
Any online map integration, including geocoding of addresses, route planning, finding local branches, etc.
Any member area or community tool, including account management, login, password resets, etc. As much detail about these as possible is very useful.
Blog and news areas, including categorisation, tagging, multiple authors, etc.
Events and calendars, including any integration with third parties like Eventbrite.
Site search functionality, including autocompletion of search terms.
Mailing list signup, e.g. Mailchimp, Campaign Monitor etc.
Any additional integrations with third-party platforms, e.g. CRM (Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, Insightly, Capsule, etc.)
Video embeds (YouTube, Vimeo, native HTML5 files)
Does the site need to be available as a Progressive Web App (PWA) i.e. can be installed as an icon on a smartphone, appearing as an app.
Open Graph and Schema tags to improve social sharing of content
Do you wish to supply your own website hosting? If so, will you or your suppliers need guidance on what to supply? NB. if we are not supplying a hosting platform, then this invariably does make things more complicated and a cost may be incurred for doing so. If not, do you have any preference for hosting supplier e.g. Amazon Web Services (AWS), WPEngine, etc.?
Do you have any preferred supplier for email deliverability from the website (e.g. Sendgrid)?
Do you wish to have an SSL certificate for the website (i.e. https://). Our advice is to definitely have one! Is this for a single domain, multiple or a wildcard (i.e. works for multiple subdomains)?
How many people will need to be trained on the CMS platform? Will documentation be required for a later date?
Is there a goal Google PageSpeed score?
Are there any older browsers (e.g. older than IE9) that need to be supported? Does this need to be full compatibility or will graceful degradation be acceptable?
Is the site likely to encounter unexpected sudden influxes of traffic? If so, will load testing be required and can you estimate the likely potential traffic to plan for?
Is the site likely to require penetration testing at a later date or on completion?
What digital marketing do you have in mind for the site? Is this something you’ll be managing internally or looking to source externally? These could include:
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising
Banner advertising on related websites
Does the Google My Business profile need setting up and connecting to the website?
Will you need the Google Search Console profile set up?
Does the site have any associated social media profiles? Are there any that need creating?
Do you need Google Analytics setup, including the configuration of goals, funnels and event tracking?
Do you plan to do any A/B testing or other content experiments? Would you prefer if this is managed from the CMS, Google Optimize or any other platform?
Are there any marketing automation or analytics platforms you’d like to install (Hubspot, Hotjar, Albacross, etc.)?
Would you like to include a chat widget? If so, do you have any preference? If uncertain, are there any chat platforms you use internally that this could be connected to e.g. Slack?
How would you like us to handle the maintenance of the site in the future? Would you be happier with a regular support retainer or pay for ad-hoc support when required?
What is the likely Support Level Agreement response time required for urgent fixes and assistance? Does this need to be available 24/7?
Are you likely to need further design, copy or marketing support as well as technical support?
Project requirements change throughout. How would you like to handle these? Options below:
Don’t deviate from the plan. Stick to the original deliverables and timeframe. Anything else can be deferred to a wishlist for after the initial project.
Where possible stick to budget and timeframe, but give us the option to descope other requests if new priorities arise.
Estimate and document all requests in change controls for approval.
Agile methodology – we’d like to receive a rough timeframe and cost when things change. Every week, we’d like a summarised list of all the new items, total cost, and timeline impact.
Allocate a contingency budget for additional requests.
Who will be involved in the website project from the client side? Where are they based, what’s their availability like and how do they prefer to communicate? How long is feedback gathering likely to take?
When do you need to have the website launched? Does it need to go live in coordination with any wider product or campaign launch?
Has a budget been assigned for the project, or does a business case need to be made to allocate budget? Is there a budget for ongoing support and maintenance? Has hosting cost been considered and budgeted for? Is there a wider digital marketing budget as well for supporting services (e.g. SEO, CRO)?
Are there any project management systems you prefer to use with suppliers, e.g. Trello, Asana etc.?
Legal and Data Protection
Do you have any legal advisors who would produce or contribute to these documents?
Is the site likely to handle or store personal data? If so, have you considered your organisation’s internal commitment to Data Protection and GDPR regulations?
A core part of a web development brief is explaining how you’d like to be responded to. Don’t make it harder for the agency than it needs to be!
When and how would you like to hear back from the agency/agencies pitching for the work? (Be reasonable, proposals can take several days to think through). Should this be a written formal proposal or is an estimate sufficient? Will there be a pitch stage?
How many agencies will you be approaching?
What are the deadlines and milestones for appointing a supplier and when do you hope to break ground on the project?
Who will be responsible for signing off terms and contracts and what are the usual timeframes for achieving this?
Writing a web development brief is hard!
Plenty to think about! Do let us know below if we can help with developing your web development brief (or even being able to quote for it afterward!).