If you want to outsource website development to a software development agency, first, you need to know how to write a project brief that describes your project, its main goals, desired features, budget, etc.

Depending on how detailed your brief will be, the more accurate quotes you will get. That’s why, in order to collect meaningful proposals and estimations from a software development agency, you need to master your project brief.

Working with different types of clients like startups, small businesses, agencies, and production houses, we’ve come up with a list of best practices that clients might have while outlining their project to an outsourced software vendor.

Based on our experience, we’ve put together this project brief template. After reading this, you will be able to better outline:

  • Your project’s scope
  • Its main objectives
  • The complexity of it
  • Primary functionalities
  • Its timeline

and, therefore, make a better first impression with your potential clients. But before we start, let’s quickly recap what a project brief is and what it is not.

What is a project brief (and what is it not)?

So how to write a project description and what it is? A project brief is a document that outlines the big idea of your project. It is essential for a software developer you’re about to work with to find the right people for your team, to understand what the project is about: what do you want to accomplish building it, what audience it is going to reach, what are your timeline and budget for it.

This way, a development company has more information about the scope of work and is able to suggest better-tailored solutions. For you and your company, a good brief leads to better proposals and, as a result, saves time and money. The important thing to bear in mind is that a project brief is not a technical specification. The latter will be created by the developers to fully cover the technical requirements of your project.

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Why do you need a project brief for website development? 

Whether you're a new business in need of a website or a well-established one looking for a rebrand, crafting a project brief is a crucial step for your website development. 

A website project brief is important because it helps you communicate clearly to others about your needs. It also gives them something concrete to work towards, which can sometimes make it easier to agree on pricing and scope. 

But remember, they might not share the same vision, so it’s essential to provide them with enough clarity so they can give you a feasible proposal. 

A website brief is essential early on in the development cycle. It serves as an outline of what you need to accomplish for a specific audience. A well-written brief will help everyone understand your vision and keep them on target throughout the project, giving you all the tools you’ll need to create something meaningful and impactful.

The benefits of using a project brief for website development are:

Efficient collaboration 

You can present your idea and the scope of your project to the outsourced team of developers and specify what they will be working for. With an initial brief set, your developers can know several essential details right from the start, which will help them communicate your ideals through their work more effectively.

Ensured brand compliance 

Don't expect your developers to know what icons they should use, the color schemes they should incorporate, and whether the website interface should be minimalistic or bold from that one call you made. A project brief will ensure the developers can refer back to important details throughout the project and ensure brand compliance.

Timely task completion 

Going back and forth to exchange information will continue to delay your project. A project brief will play the role of a clear outline set with milestones that your website development agency should work on.

It will help them do things on time and avoid excessive revisions or, much worse, developing everything again for missing essential details.

Clear goal setting 

A website brief is structured to meet your organization's goals. This means that your agency or team of developers can eventually use it as a source of specific goals that they should achieve during the development process.

It will also allow them to strategize their development process accordingly to avoid inconsistencies.

Criteria for evaluation 

With everything in place, from brand guidelines to project timeline, your project brief for website development will act as criteria for evaluation on both ends.

You can use your brief as a checklist to make sure everything you asked for has been delivered. While the agency can use this brief to track and validate their progress until the very end.

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Who should write a brief? 

We're no strangers to helping businesses with their project briefs. It's a given that these aren't the easiest things to write, and if you've never written a brief before, you'll need help. 

However, most of the input needs to originate from you, the business owners, or someone on the marketing team of the company in question. You may already have an idea about what you're looking for, but in any case, you need to get those thoughts down on paper. 

Not all ideas are worth pursuing, though. What matters is whether you can answer the following questions:

  1. What problem are you trying to solve? 
  2. Why does it matter to your customers?
  3. Is there a brand aesthetic you should follow?
  4. How should the content layout convey your brand identity?

To put it simply, anyone in your company can write the project or a website design brief as long as they have enough exposure and experience to know the inner workings of your organization. 

The planning should always start with the business owner and the writing can be relayed to an expert in the field. It's because nobody can state organization goals better than the owner and a content strategist is someone who understands your company goals and how to convey them clearly, and they are usually well versed with all aspects of digital marketing.

5 steps to create an effective website project brief or "how to describe a website?"

A project brief for your website development team should convey your ideas and some essential facts about the type of website you wish to develop. 

If you’re doing it yourself, try to keep your brief simple and concise. Remember, you’re trying to be clear in your own mind as well as in theirs. Don’t get bogged down in details and technical stuff. Make sure your brief gets to the point quickly yet provides enough detail for the agency to interpret what you mean.

Here are 5 steps that cover everything you must deliver through your project brief and keep it as 'brief' and on point as you can:

1. Write a project summary

First, you need to introduce the team of developers to your project. An overview should consist of the big idea, business goals, target audience, competitors websites etc. Such a project description for website developers gives a specific idea of what you want to accomplish with your project, so they are able to find better technical solutions for you. Instead of writing that you want to build a website for your side project, explain what it is about.

Let’s take teamdeck as an example. It is a SaaS tool we’ve developed at our company. If we wanted to outsource its development, we’d describe it as a resource scheduling calendar and a time tracking tool meant for project managers to schedule and track team members throughout multiple projects. As you can see, going from “I need a website for my side project” to a more specific summary makes a huge difference.

2. Define the complexity of your project

Websites differ when it comes to their complexity. You may want to create a static website, a CMS-backed solution, an editable and dynamic one, an eCommerce, or a web application. If you don’t know yet which one is the best for you, try to answer these questions:

  • Do you want to edit the content? If yes, you may want to add a CMS (Content Management System) to your website.
  • Does your website include user interactions? Login areas or forms are an example of such a thing that your site visitors will need.
  • Do you plan to integrate it with external services? Think of things like third-party integrations: e.g., using a Facebook or Gmail login option.

If you have a site map or user stories created, hand them to the developers, as they will also help estimate the complexity of your project.

3. List the features you want to implement

Now, as you’ve described the big idea of your project and its complexity, try to list the features that you’ve come up with. You can divide them into the “must have” and “nice to have” categories, so the developers will know which ones are crucial to you and which are optional. It's also important to specify what website design features you'd like and write down the requirements for the UX/UI.

Also, the estimation of the costs and time will be more accurate. It’s a good practice to create the most important modules first. You can test it with your beta users, show it to stakeholders and clients, and perhaps pivot your initial idea if needed.

If you are not able to come up with a list of features, you can write user stories instead. They are the non-technical descriptions of what you want to achieve as the user or administrator of the website you are about to build. For example, site visitors as users might want to be able to create custom reports and export them as PDF files.

4. What is your timeline?

Is there a clear due date that you need the team to deliver your website project? Setting a timeline will help programmers to determine what is possible to accomplish in a given time and what is not. Another thing is setting a deadline for estimations.

Remember that creating a proper and accurate estimation can take up to two or three working days and often requires a couple of people to create. Be realistic about the time any software development agency will need to come back to you with a proposal, and the results will be better for both sides.

5. What is your budget?

Finally, make it clear how much money you are willing to spend on the website project. Setting clear expectations about the budget will help everyone involved in the project to better evaluate what can be achieved.

On the other hand, don’t hide your budget from a software development company, as actually knowing it will help you save money. If you share your budget with the team, they won’t be able to hide an extra grand here and there (not that it is something we recommend software developers to do).

Instead, they can have a realistic assessment of what they can deliver for that figure. At Apptension, our estimations come with a breakdown of an exact number of days, sometimes hours, each feature needs to be implemented so that you know our rates.

Once we send through the quote, we offer a walkthrough call with our project manager and Tech Lead, so together with our client team, we can challenge all the assumptions and make sure we deliver the best value for the money.

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Describing website project – conclusion

When writing a website development project brief, you must be specific about all these points mentioned in this article. The key is to make sure that after reading it, your software vendor will understand what the project is about, what it consists of, and what is the timeline and budget.

The better you communicate your expectations and project outline, the better answer and estimation you get back from the software development company. We hope that after reading this blog post, you have a better idea of what is a great website design and project description.