Matt Jones Matt Jones | 18 Sep 2016

We appreciate that this is not an easy job which is why we wrote this article which will help you to:

  • Tell designers what you want
  • Define your audience
  • Communicate Business Requirements and KPIs
  • Describe a Proposition / USP
  • Provide useful creative examples

Getting your brief right is incredibly important. It gives a direction to your creatives, defines the scope of work you need to complete and helps to decide the experience and skills required to meet your vision and ambitions. What makes a digital design brief perfect is when you give enough freedom for creatives to think but enough structure for crazy ideas to be qualified out before they take up too much time and budget. I hope you enjoy reading the below and good luck!

How to: tell designers what you want

Use simple English. If it is a website redesign, tell them. If it is a brand-redevelopment, tell them. If it is a range of things, tell them.

Bulleted lists or short sentences work best. Not convoluted sentences which talk about the brevity of brand, issues in tone of voice and brand governance, the need for a ‘fresh approach’ or a ‘re-engagement with the end user’, using the latest web design techniques and technologies etc etc. The most important thing is to clearly state what you want. If there is more to tell by all means do so but somewhere in your document make it easy to understand what you are expecting.

How to: define your audience

Depending on the maturity of your marketing plan this is either really easy, or really hard. Documented personas like the one below are really helpful in understanding who the end user is and what they are trying to achieve:

For businesses who do not have personas or customer research any anecdotal information you can provide on end customers and stakeholders is really useful. In B2B environments this can be as simple as job roles, reasons for visiting the website, what influences buying decisions etc. In B2C environments it can be more contextual, based on what your typical customer looks like: age, sex, interests, etc.

How to: communicate business requirements and KPIs

We have found that most web projects fall into three categories: customer acquisition, customer retention and business efficiency.

Clarity on the commercial drivers of your project are essential. It is wrong to assume that we the creatives should know that you want more sales or leads. Sometimes an improvement in user experience and order handling can drive business efficiency that delivers ROI through increased profitability. Either way clarity on what the business expects to achieve, even if that is just to move to a different technical platform, is always valued.

How to: describe a proposition or USP

Creatives might sound really in touch with your marketplace and business but the reality is that you know it better than them. Working and experiencing an organisation or business gives you a tremendous contextual knowledge of how you sell and market yourselves both through your marketing and on the ground through your people. We encourage our clients to share this information with us during planning workshops with stakeholders from across the business.

Things that we typically cover are; value propositions, accreditations and partnerships and what these mean to customers, how your services/products are presented, how you rank on quality and cost against competitors and the proof that what you offer is valuable.

How to: provide creative examples

It is important not to ‘solutionise’ or be too blinkered in your thinking. Most users don’t want an experience which is identical to your competitors with different brand colours. Instead think outside of the box... what nice touches and resources can you offer customers that your competitors can’t or don’t.

Having said this, style over substance is a complete no-go in a digital design brief. Insane animations and strange left-field imagery might all sound very creative but the reality can be like watching a video of yourself dancing in a nightclub the next day. You are not Michael Jackson and it isn’t appropriate for you to dance like him anyway.

Summing Up

The key to creating a perfect digital design brief is to be as clear in that everything you have included is what you want and that the brief is representative of what the business needs. It is all too easy to rush your brief out of the door and actually an extra day or so polishing/tweaking the content can be really useful. That needs to be tempered with the fact that you are not designing the final solution, you are simply briefing it in.

Finally….As a final checklist before you send your perfect digital design brief to your creatives make sure it has answered the following:

  • What does it look like? (have you documented the full scope of what you are trying to achieve?)
  • Who is it for? (are the stakeholders identified?)
  • What does the business expect to achieve? (have you told the creative the commercial objectives which will ultimately be used to judge the project)
  • Have you provided enough contextual direction? (Do the creatives know what propositions and visual preferences they have to work with?)
  • When do you expect delivery? (Assuming your design brief is tied to other projects or work it is important to tell your creatives that you expect delivery by a certain date!