Brief IconThe Design Brief

Just as with traditional software development, the design of a website starts with a document called the brief. This is a written description of what the customer wants and expects from their prospective website.

Sometimes this will be a very informal document, giving only a rough idea of what is needed. Sometimes it may be very detailed, including precise information about the fonts and colours that are required.

It is vital that you, as the designer of the website, have a clear and accurate understanding of the customer's requirements. Therefore your first task in the design process is to perform a detailed analysis of the brief.

Analysis IconQuestions...

There are a number of key questions that you should be able to answer, based on the material given in the brief, and you need to learn to identify the important information. Sometimes you may need to discus further details with the customer if the information in the brief is not detailed enough.

At the end of your analysis should have a clear idea of the answers to the following questions:

    1. Who are the target audience for this web site?
    2. Is there a clear expected age range?
    3. What is their expected internet literacy?
    4. On what criteria will the client judge the site a success?
    5. Will the site be publicly accessible or is it on a corporate intranet?
    6. Does the client have an existing image to which the site must conform?
    7. Does the client have existing digital material?
    8. How regularly will the site be updated?
    9. What kinds of interactive features are required?
    10. Will the site need to take payments?
    11. Will the site collect and store personal details?
    12. Will the site carry advertising?
    13. Has the client already secured a domain name?
    14. What are the time scales for the project?
    15. What is the budget for the project?

This is not an exhaustive list, and you may well be able to come up with other questions for specific projects. The analysis stage is a good opportunity to look for potential problems with the scope of the project. In some circumstances you may need to go back to the client with questions to clarify any omissions and ambiguities.

An Simple Example Brief

The following is a example of a brief for an apparently simple site.

Treble Clef Icon

The Overtly Educational Orchestra Brief

The Overtly Educational Orchestra is a small collective of musicians working together to provide music education across as wide a demographic as possible. We have worked in settings from primary schools to prisons, providing a fun, hands-on experience of creating music for people with little or no previous experience.

We have just secured a small grant and we would like a web site to show case our work to prospective clients. The design of the site should reflect the fun, interactive nature of the work we do and, as far as possible, appeal to as wide a range of web users as possible. We have existing logos and promotional material that we can provide to give you an idea of how we present in our existing publicity material.

Specific features we would like included are:

  • a page for each member of the collective, detailing their personal musical joys
  • pages showing videos of some of our workshops
  • a contacts page listing all the ways of contacting us, including a link to our Facebook page
  • a page of comments from previous participants

Also, we occasionally perform more traditional concerts, and we would like to be able to include information about these events and the recordings that we have done over the years. If possible, it would be nice to be able to offer our CDs for sale, as we hope this could become a useful source of income to fund our educational work.

Treble Clef IconFinally, two of our members are presenting a workshop at a conference on the use of music education to develop social skills in young people. This conference is in two months time and it would be great if the website was ready for that presentation.


Consider the information given in this brief. How many of the questions can you answer? What further information might you require from the client?

Make some notes and then compare your analysis with the sample given here...

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