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The importance of a comprehensive project brief.

A brief is a crucial first step in understanding the client’s requirements and aims. Without a complete brief, you’re likely to miss the mark, which begs the question…

If a comprehensive brief is important, why are companies providing partial briefs in their tenders?

There could be many reasons for this, but often they tend to fall into the following categories:

  • They client is unsure of what they need. They have visions of how the site should look and what it should do but are unsure on how to bring it all together. Their hope is that talking to the agency will help to clarify this.
  • They don’t understand the complexities in building a website. Unless your client has been through a web build before, they may not know what to assets they need to provide. These clients soon realise the importance of a full brief as you begin to ask questions about the project they didn’t know needed to be asked.
  • They don’t want to influence the agency’s pitch too much. It’s important that the client isn’t too prescriptive in the brief on how things should be done, but they need to be clear on what they want to achieve.

Whilst it is possible to build a website without a full brief, it’s far from easy. Not having a detailed brief means that you’re guessing the requirements for the project. As a result, it’s likely you won’t meet their expectations, or propose a solution they can’t afford.

With a bit of encouragement you can get the client to deliver a better brief, but you will need to help them. Explain why a succinct brief is key to the delivery of a successful project:

  • The briefing process helps the client define the goals of the website build. By having defined goals and outcomes, the client and agency can work together to arrive at an appropriate solution.
  • A brief helps the client to understand why the site cannot be designed in isolation of their marketing strategy. By ensuring the website is a key component in their marketing strategy, the client will identify features that will be required on the site. For instance, as part of their social strategy, will they need twitter feed integration and social sharing buttons?
  • A brief can identify responsibilities early on. When working with a new client, it’s useful to know the lines of responsibility. Knowing who can handle different areas of the project will prevent confusion between the client and agency.

If your client has provided a minimal brief, it’s at this point that you can prove your value, helping them come to some realisations about what they need and want.

By talking to the client, whether face to face or through Skype, you can delve deeper into their requirements. Ask them exploratory questions and get them to expand on their thoughts behind certain decisions. These conversations are also known as “talking to the bear” or “rubber duck debugging”. This is the process of describing a problem to someone else in the hope of arriving at a solution.

By describing their current website problems, the client builds out the requirements. At the same time, you gain an insight into their preferences and can get immediate feedback on ideas.

Finally it’s the job of the agency to be the expert, so be forthcoming with suggestions, advice and knowledge. Unless you show the wealth of knowledge you have, the client will find it difficult to appreciate how much help you can offer, and how much they actually need you.