A lot of planning goes into creating a charity website. In this post I want to talk about writing a website brief in order to inform a website design agency and facilitate the creation of your charity’s great website.
A number of questions arise when thinking about a website brief; what information to
cover, how long should it be, what does the website agency want to know, what do you want to achieve from writing a website brief – to name but a few.
Several parties are usually involved in developing a new website and it is important
that all the people involved understand what to expect from the project.
In many circumstances the website is the marketing focal point for a charity. It can be
the easiest portal to refer an audience to for more information. There are key elements that need to be included on a charity’s website and a clear website brief will help ensure that nothing is forgotten.
Where To Start
Start with some research. Find out how similar charities operate online. What do they
do well or not so well?
Look into several website design agencies, speak to them, look at their portfolio and
experience etc and ask them questions that will help you think yes our charity could work with them.
If opportunity prevails then get some feedback from your users and see what they
have to say about your existing charity website. Feedback is a good way to understand how your audience use your website, what areas are popular and establish what they like or dislike about the website. All this and looking at the website statistics can all help define the website brief.
The Website Brief
I don’t think the length of your brief is very important. What is important is to make sure the fundamentals of what you need to communicate about your project are covered.
Here are a few pointers on what to include in your website brief:
A website design agency will not know anything about you. Use this window to introduce your charity and explain a little about your background, what you do, who you support, how you collect donations, target audience, mission statement, branding etc.
Budget & Timescale
Communicate your budget and timescale for this project. It is tempting to see what the web agency quotes but believe me when I say it saves a lot of energy on both sides if you have an indication of budget and timescale beforehand. This way you know if a website agency can take on your project, meet your deliverables and aim to complete the website in your requested timeline.
If there are key decision makers that the agency will be liaising with, briefly introduce
them, especially the name, title and contact details of the main person(s) that will be overseeing the website project for your charity.
Choosing a website design agency can be like an interview process. If there is a selection process i.e. submission of tender/proposal, create an example design and an invitation to present, include this information in your brief along with the relevant dates/deadlines.
Existing Vs New
Provide some background on your existing website. What you like about it, what you dislike about it, what works, what doesn’t work.
Explain to the website designers what the purpose of the existing website was and why
you think it is time for a change. This is where you could include relevant feedback obtained from your website users.
Let the website agency know, the vision for the new website, the aims and objectives,
any new directions that the charity is heading in. What your users and your team/staff want from the website is also informative.
The Design Specification
This is where you discuss how you would like the website to look, feel and appear. What colour scheme do you like; do you have an organisation logo? Are there specific
branding guidelines that the website agency needs to adhere to?
Think about where you might source images from for your website, do you have a
collection to use already, do you need the agency to source them for you and/or
will you need to hire the use of a professional photographer?
A visual impression is a great way of providing examples of what you like. Look at other websites, within your sector, competitor sites or similar organisations and see how they present themselves. Provide examples as a guide so that your website agency can envisage more clearly what your charity is looking for.
You would be surprised how interesting it is to know what a client does not like too. This gives the agency an understanding of points to avoid or work around. So do not be afraid to highlight what you don’t like.
The Website Structure
The website structure shows how all of the pages will be laid out. It is important to try and establish a site structure as this will not only help the web agency but you too in
understanding, where the best place will be for information to go and what content needs to be compiled for each page.
Think about which pages will be your top level pages and then if they will have subsections. For example: the about section might have subsections i.e. about the
organisation, meet the team and mission statement.
Functionality & Technical Specification
Make a list of the functionality you would like on the website. For example a Content Management System (CMS) is quite vital to many charities as it means they can manage the content in house and avoid paying for every change that needs to be made.
How will you showcase any images, video & audio clips, do you need a payment page,
donations button, slide shows contact or registration forms, forums, membership
areas, location maps, social media tools and so on.
If you have an idea of a particular platform you want your website to be developed in
feel free to say so. Many charities opt for OpenSource platforms such as Drupal or WordPress which are very current, have built in CMS systems and are scalable for the future.
It doesn’t matter if you do not know the exact technical terms, a simple explanation of what you require will be helpful to the website agency and they can work with you to find the relevant solution.
There is no value in creating a new website if you have not considered how to promote
it. You should think about your online promotion strategies. Online promotion covers
things like SEO, PPC campaigns, e-mail marketing etc.
The Future – Maintenance & Development
Maintaining a website is very important. Keeping a website current keeps your audience interested, encourages them to return to the site, invites new visitors and basically keeps your website alive. What are you plans to develop the site further?
Have a plan in place in case the there is a fault with a site or something isn’t working as well later down the line. Does your website agency offer a maintenance contract? Do you have someone in house that can manage any issues albeit aesthetic or technical? Don’t rule out that things can go wrong, it’s best to have a contingency plan in place to avoid the panic if it does.
The areas raised in this post should try and be included in the brief as this will aid for a smooth start to the process.
Don’t worry if your website brief raises a few questions from the website design agency. This is good as it means they want to clarify and make sure they understand what you are looking for in your charity’s new website.
The brief should not only provide guidance as to what your charity is looking for, but it
should provide food for thought. Leave room for suggestions, have some space in the brief to be flexible.
The agency you choose to work with will make suggestions and recommendations and
may know something that works better than what you originally requested.
Remember, the website brief is your charity’s guide to help everyone read from the same page.
Why not get in touch with your thoughts on a website brief you have worked on. Or send us your website brief and let us help you with your website.