Writing up a design brief for a web project checklist

It still amazes me to this day how many people approach us with ideas on new projects and all it really consists of is a wild notion that this might possibly be something that could feasibly make some money on the “tin-ter-net” if everything goes according to plan and it all meets our insane expectations.

I immediately tell people to STOP and think before I mention the words “project brief” or “design brief” as this can be scary as it involves writing and some dedicated time.  Stopping and thinking for a few minutes can save everyone a lot of wasted time and heartache. Once you have thought about things, then think about reality and consider what the project will, in all honesty, cost in terms of services, products, skills, time, and effort.

This does not mean that you can put a website on line for 200 dollars and expect it to be a thriving multi-million dollar business in 2 weeks.  Get real.

Now lets say it together.


I don’t blame  people thinking this with all the insane stories floating around about startups from their garages turning into billion dollar companies but it only happens once in a life time, to one person, and in your lifetime, its already happened to Google, so get over it.

Right, now thats out of the way lets look at how we can address the issue of a project brief, from the top and what we should consider.

Photo Credit: Poportis

How To Write An Effective Design Brief

A design brief is a written explanation – outlining the aims, objectives and stages of a design project.

A thorough and articulate design brief is a critical part of the design process. It helps develop trust and understanding between the client and designer – and serves as an essential point of reference in order that all parties may understand these objectives and a more accurate and realistic time frame, deployment schedule and quote can be generated.

Above all, the design brief ensures that important design issues are considered and questioned before the designer starts work.

Below is a guide as to what any design brief should possibly incorporate..

Describe your Company

Start your project brief with a short, honest synopsis of your organisation or company.

Don’t take this information for granted, and don’t assume that other people will necessarily know anything about your industry sector.

Tell yourself:

  • What your organisation does.
  • How long you have been established and how many staff you employ.
  • What your desired niche/target market is.
  • How you fit in to your industry sector.

Describe your Aims

Good ideas can have a huge influence on the success of a company’s marketing strategy – but in order for success to be ensured, clear goals must be set so set these goals in stone by writing them out.

For example, do you want to:

  • Generate sales?
  • Encourage enquiries?
  • Gain newsletter subscribers?
  • Obtain information from your audience?
  • Encourage them to tell a friend?

If your aims and objectives are not this clear, then your design brief has already achieved another purpose… One of most rewarding parts of actually sitting down and writing a project brief is that it helps to clarify your thoughts and can indirectly help to find flaws in what you initially thought was a solid idea.

Who will buy your Product or Service

Detail your primary, secondary and tertiary audiences. Explain if you are looking to consolidate your existing client-base or appeal to new markets.

Detail any demographic figures about your audience that may be useful to the designer. These may include:

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Income
  • Occupation
  • Location

Mind your Language and stick to the points

Currently we only accept project briefs in English so check how it should or could be accepted (that goes for the bank as well when you aim for your loan or your VC funding).

Due to the variety of different languages both our employees, our associates, our affiliates and indeed our clients speak, it is not constructive to focus on producing briefs in another or in a variety of languages so English is used as the “universal” language of the internet.

In regards to the way the brief is detailed, whilst you should write in clear, concise way – there is no reason why you cannot use emotive language to emphasise exactly what you are trying to achieve.

Stick to the facts, and do not attempt to make the brief contain flowery language or adopt terms that you are not 100% familiar with, try to stay away from jargon or industry specific terms in the initial stages unless otherwise unavoidable.

Examine the Competition or give Examples

Providing examples of what you consider to be effective or relevant design can be a great help in writing a design brief.

Make sure to include samples of your company’s current marketing materials – even if their only purpose is to explain what you don’t want from your new marketing materials!

If there is a design style that you particularly like or dislike – then explain why in the brief. If you’re not entirely sure why you like a certain design style, then good starting points include:

  • Colour
  • Imagery
  • Quantity and quality of text
  • Typography
  • The atmosphere that particular designs create

Don’t feel that you have stick to the medium that you are designing for when giving a list of inspiration and influences. If a television advert or music video creates the atmosphere that you want your project to create, then that is a perfectly reasonable statement to make in a design brief.

The more clues you give about your design tastes, the more likely the project will be able to deliver close to your aims. Expecting others to second-guess what you require rarely if ever produces the best results.

Budget, Budget, Budget – Establish one or forget it

Even if you can only provide a ball-park figure, a budget expectation will give the project a more realistic feel and a good idea of the type of solution that will  be provided.

It has been our experience that clients will refrain from stating a budget as a certain amount of trepidation is inherent as these projects are not easily quantifiable, hence prices can range from the incredibly low to the the extraordinarily high.

A ball-park figure allows us all to set the parameters within which we which to work and indeed allows us to recommend specific solutions and you can then expect feasible results with the price range.

Not establishing a budget can have dire consequences and we ask potential clients to seriously consider budgets at the very initial stages of any project. That means you!

Remember that when providing solutions to any given issue there can be multiple options associated with it. these themselves will vary in price and if you want the best solutions in the most efficient time then you have to establish guidelines on the budget allocated to that particular issue otherwise you end up with 100 options and are no closer to making a decision.

Budgets help allocate funds to specifics but they are also the starting point for the whole project and allow the funds to be spread to the areas seen as requiring more focus. Depending on the project described in your brief this will never ever be the same on two occasions.

And that about wraps it up.

This may not seem like alot of work in the list above but believe me, once you start asking more questions and thinking about ways and means of developing, more and more questions will present themselves.  Take it seriously and focus on it with the project brief and everyone will benefit and indeed succeed.  Otherwise, its all just wishes and dreams, and they don’t put food on the table.