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What to include in your briefing document for a new website project?

Words byPiers TincknellFebruary 17, 2017

What really should you be including in your website specification document? With every project there is a high level of planning that is involved and also a need for your development partner to know as much information as possible to make their ability to quote / deliver a real possibility.

We have been part of a RFT (Request For Tender) quite a few times and most of the time the requirements that the client asks for are either way too detailed or not detailed enough. Follow this handy guide to ensure that you are sending across enough information to allow for a potential partner put together a realistic quote based on your specification.

However you should always expect for there to be another round of cost review once the final website planning / scoping has been completed with your potential partner.

 

Give some context

Include an overview of who you are and where you have come from. Outline what has been the driving force to decide to develop a new website. Make sure at this point as well you clearly state which website the studio will be working on and any associated pieces that you will expect the studio to be part of.

Add some history about your organisation, how long you have been operating and how large you are at the moment. If possible also add in where you would like the organisation to go in the future.

How would you like to work?

Add in a paragraph on approach, explaining how you would like the project to be handled. Would you like a collaborative type approach or very much someone tell you exactly what to do and how things are going to go. Laying out this approach will help for the studio to shape their programme of work accordingly. This approach summary can also tick off a few technical elements by stating which systems you might need to work together. For Example you might want a WordPress Website to link to a WooCommerce Shop which is also integrated with MailChimp. Outline this here in the approach and also explain how your different parties on your side are able to work together. If the shop manager is based in Berlin and the Website Manager is based in London then make this clear so that the studio knows how best to approach this.

Website / Online Strategy

Outline your objectives for the website and what plans you have in place going forward and how the website can help you to achieve this. If you plan is to go down a content marketing route then the programme of work would be very different to an organisation who relies on membership subscriptions. Again try to tie in as many different platforms as possible, you might think it is not important but it really is vital to give the studio as much clarity as possible about which technological systems are being used, which ones may be merged together and which ones are going to be redundant in the future. The words “oh we have this other database” always throws us hundreds of questions which could easily be covered if they are known about straight away.

In this section it is also handy to try and say what will happen as a result of making these change.

Methodology

If you want an agency who work in an agile methodology you really should state this upfront as for some teams this might not be applicable. Another thing to highlight here is how much time you have as an organisation to feed into the project, if your capacity is 1 day per week then the whole project will take longer than if you can assign 2 / 3 days per week to get work done. Outline as well who the working group will be for the organisation and how often they would be able to meet in person or remotely with the project manager from the studio.

Brand

Outline your brand values and what makes you stand out. If you don’t have any again put this in so that the studio knows exactly what they will have to work with. This section can then be categories into.

Graphic Identity
Colours
Typography
Photography
Logo Use

Also at this point you should mention if the scope of work applies just to the online aspect of the project or if you would expect the studio to work on some offline material as well. If you have a rand guardian then again feature them in here so the studio can see their work.

Technical Specification

When we get a brief come in I always pay particularly close attention to this section. It is what will make or break the ability to put together an accurate estimation of costs.

Things to make sure you cover off are:

Core platform requirements.

  • How long do you want it to last
  • How much emphasis on mobile design / useage
  • Open Source Technology – are you happy to use this
  • What browsers does it need to support

 

Content Requirements.

  • AA / AAA accessible? Read more about web accessibility here
  • Video Embed
  • Social Embeds
  • Audio Embeds
  • What kind of content will be living on the website, articles, journals, research papers?
  • Are you hoping the content can easily be pushed to multiple platforms?

 

Content Management System Requirements.

  • Can it be Open Source?
  • Do you have a CMS in mind?
  • What was the previous CMS
  • What level of user management does the CMS need to support
  • Are you willing to pay for an ongoing support contract
  • Are there any CMS platforms that you do not wish to use
  • If any particular CMS requirements are needed then add them in, EG, ability to edit images within the CMS, do users need to be able to update their own information

 

Technical Relationship Requirements.

  • What level of communication do you wish for
  • How often would you like to meet up post launch
  • Do you wish for the supplier to keep you updated with latest technology updates
  • Do you require hosting

Website structure

It is always very valuable to receive an idea of how you wish for the new website to be structured, this helps studios look to see how many different custom post types might be needed and also can help to work out how many templates your site will need to function.

Budget / Timeline

It is very difficult for a studio to put together a programme of work without knowing what your budget is. Even if it is a rough ball park this is much better than nothing at all. Knowing if a project has £10,000 or £100,000 with shape very different proposals. This is very important to include. The same with the timeline, if you have a hard deadline to hit then please include this, if you do not then again highlight this as the studio will flex their work accordingly.

Highlight marking criteria.

It’s only fair to tell people what you will be marking the documents against. You should be marking RFT’s against some form of criteria to ensure the process is objective and not subjective.

Contacts

Add in who is the best point of contact for the project and ensure they have time put aside to answer a lot of questions in the build up to the deadline.

Summary

The more information and effort you are able to put into your RFT (request for tender) then the higher quality responses you will receive. This does sound quite straightforward but website projects are very complicated and often very important information can be glossed over which is not the clients fault, they just didn’t realise that the other database hidden away was the one where all the valuable information was stored.

Speak to Piers

If you need help putting together a RFT

Contact
Profile picture ofPiers Tincknell

Piers Tincknell

Piers is a co-founder of Atomic Smash and heads up the user experience design and project management in the studio. He is also the best contact for any new business enquiries.

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