How many times have you sat down in a hairdresser’s chair and said, “Surprise me”? Not often, I’ll bet. All but the most adventurous (or foolhardy) have at least a minor plan when they have their hair cut.
Now, why would you subject your website to the same risky random results? Any time you’re planning to launch a new website or overhaul your existing one, have a plan. In the biz, we call this a project brief.
There’s no real right or wrong way to write a brief, as long as you capture information and make it easy to deliver information to a web developer. One risk is to make the brief too, well, brief. Err on the side of too much information, and then you can edit down what’s superfluous with a web professional.
There are a few items that you should always include in a project brief, however. Here are a few:
Some organizations are understandably cagey with this information, but know what you have to spend and what’s reasonable for the site you want. Make sure to share this information with your developer, at least a general ballpark. A budget of $1000 will get you a very different website from one that costs $10,000. Tip: No website is free. Even the free ones.
If you absolutely must launch a website in time for a big event, to fulfill a grant requirement or for some other reason, note it down. Look a year into the future and plan for any deadlines, vacations or other scheduling requirements that might affect development.
Put into a paragraph what you are and what your organization does. This will help you focus your needs with the website, and it will help any developer better understand how you work. It’s also useful if you include ways you differ from others in your industry.
It goes without saying to leave out the jargon, right?
Next, provide a profile of the people who you serve. These are the people who visit your website – or who you wish would visit your website. Note their age, location, gender, website connection speed – whatever you can do flesh out who will be using your website. People who fit the 60-80 age range use websites differently than those in the 15-25 age range.
Sites you like, and a few you don’t
Start a list of the websites you’ve seen that you really like. Maybe you like the color palette or layout or some kind of functionality. Any time you see a site, add it to your bookmarks so you can pass this information on.
Similarly, make a list of the sites you don’t like. This can give a web developer valuable insight into your preferences as well.
Your primary tasks
List how you’ll be using the site on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. This can help you budget your own time when it comes to managing the website, and it also helps prioritize the information on your website.
Your visitors’ primary tasks
What things do you want your visitors to do when they come to your website? Put yourself into your audience’s shoes, and make a prioritized list of the things you want them to do when they’re at your site. This might be registering to volunteer, donating money, picking up event information. It can be helpful to ask your audience what they’d like to do at your website.