It might seem obvious what you need to include in your website design brief. There needs to be an introduction giving background information about your company, followed by sections for such other subjects as your existing site, the basic aims of the new site, any reference sites, your budget, website content, technical and maintenance considerations.
However, the project brief is also when certain mistakes can creep in, based on persistent myths about what an effective website design entails. Here are just some of the frequent errors that you should steer clear of in putting together your project brief.
Your customer – remember them? This is the person that you are designing your site for – not your colleague at the golf club. So many clients will approach a website designer with the idea that their site should “look something like” the site of Apple, Ferrari, Rolex or another big name – whether or not their own target market even vaguely resembles that of those companies.
Your website design brief should not be shaped in any way by your own ego or tastes – what your customers require and expect to see should be your focus.
Whether you like it or not, all sites – including your own – are governed by certain usability principles, as outlined by seasoned experts in the web usability sphere.
With customers spending most of their time on sites other than your own, they will form their expectations based on those sites. Deviating from those rules will therefore simply make your own site harder to use. Users love consistent sites – it means that they can predict what will happen as they navigate. To please and retain these users, don’t just be different for the sake of it.
Have you thought of how wonderful it would be for your site to have a Google-style search facility, or a means of displaying similar products to those recently viewed by your customer, a la Amazon?
If so, you might just be treating your website design brief like an idle wish list or ‘pick and mix’ bag, rather than a professional document detailing the core features that your site really does need. Don’t get obsessed with levels of functionality that your website can do without. That’s before you even consider how such fripperies could drain your web design budget.
The term ‘above the fold’ refers to the fold of a newspaper, the notion being that the most important content is best placed above this fold – on the upper part of the front page – to be better appreciated by the viewer.
In web design, this principle applies to the part of the page that the viewer can see as soon as they land on it, without needing to scroll down. So many statistics have provided a false impression of the importance of the ‘above the fold’ principle, such as usability expert Jakob Nielsen’s indication in 2010 that 80% of users’ time is spent looking at information above the fold, and only 20% below the fold.
What is misleading about this statistic is that users actually largely linger on the upper part of the page simply due to the presence of the main navigation elements there. Once these users do find what they want and click onto another page, they do routinely scroll.
With a web design brief that cuts out these surprisingly widespread missteps, you can expect an end product that caters much more precisely for your target customers and most importantly for you, delivers the utmost return on investment (ROI).