How to Brief Your Digital Agency

So, you’ve read our ‘How to Find the Perfect Digital Agency’ (if you haven’t, you should!), and now you’re ready to take the next step into the deep dark world of web design and get a Digital Agency to build you a website. It’s not really deep or dark. But where to start?

We’ve compiled a few questions you need to be asking yourself and the Digital Agency. Along with a couple of bits and pieces, you need to have prepared for before you get down to the nitty-gritty. Plus a bit of information to hand, so your Digital Agency know’s you mean business.

The first thing you should be asking yourself (because it’ll be one of the first things the Digital Agency will ask you) is…

Who is your target audience and why do/will they use your website?

Your target audience will affect the features and functionality of the site. It will help you identify the key features the site must include and that it can do whatever it is you want / your target audience wants to do. Don’t go overboard with outlandish idea’s, just keep the kind of features that are most likely to appeal to your key audience. You can always add more features to the site afterward if needs be.

Also, knowing who your target audience is will help the designer best figure out the approach your new sites look and feel. This can include photos, colours, font size and style, the layout and a lot more. Ultimately, you’ll want to tailor the design of your site to appeal to your target audience.

If you know who your audience is and what they’re looking for, you can create content catered to their expectations.

Knowing who you’re after has many implications when it comes to driving traffic. You need to find out what kind of ‘keywords’ your target audience will type into search engines. This is imperative if you want to drive traffic from a search engine. If your target audience is people with little familiarity with your mission, you’ll want to avoid the use of any jargon they may not know. However, if you’re looking to appeal to people with in-depth knowledge in your area of expertise, don’t patronise them by not using industry-specific terminology. Your Digital Agency might offer SEO, in which case, you needn’t worry about keywords etc. because they’ll be able to find that out for you.

Knowing who your target audience ensures that the Digital Agency doesn’t make a tech-based website with dynamic data and a crazy UI when all you need is an ‘about us’ page and some opening hours…

It’s important to know why your target audience is using your website; is it just to see the information on your company or is it being used to purchase items or services? If it’s the former, your Digital Agency doesn’t need to worry about the extra code and plugins that would be needed for the latter.

Questions to ask yourself are:

  • What are you trying to accomplish with the website?
  • Who needs to visit the website in order for you to accomplish these things?
  • What do they care about?
  • How much prior knowledge do they have about your organisation and mission?
  • Is there any important or defining demographic information?
  • What will they see as the reason for visiting your website?

 

If you have multiple audiences, you can repeat these questions for each.  But try to be selective, tailoring your site to the audience most likely to help your organisation fulfil the goals you’ve outlined for the site. Have you defined the key target audience for your non-profit’s website?  If so, how’d you go about doing it?  Did you find it helpful?  If not, do you think it would be helpful in your circumstances?

Who are your main competitors and what makes you different to them?

You might be wondering why it’s important to tell your Digital Agency who your main competitors are and it’s not just so they can be #teamyourbusiness! Knowing who your competitors are, and what they’re offering can help your Digital Agency make your website stand out amongst the flock. It will enable them to work out where your competitor’s weaknesses are and improve your website where theirs are failing.

Agencies need to cut through the crowd by using a different approach to their competitors. I think content marketing that surrounds your area of expertise is a great way to achieve that.”

– David Chaffney, Smart Insights.

Go online, check any interactive parts of the site to see if you could improve on it for your own website. Is the information they’re offering free of charge? Is it easy to find?

Business websites often give much more information that businesses haven’t traditionally revealed – from the history of the company to biographies of the staff.

Use a search engine to track down similar products/services, find out who else offers them and HOW they offer them.

What’s the project background?

No, not the pretty sunset from your holiday to Magaluf in 2012, or the lovely tree’s you can see from out of your office window. But, the background of the project you’re working on. It is one of the key characteristics of a project to explain why the project was initiated, what the prerequisites are, and what results are supposed to be obtained at the successful completion. The project background should provide a detailed description that includes as much context and background as possible. It should be an overview of your business and it should define the scope and scale of the project and its deliverables.

Creating a clear and unambiguous background of a project is one of the most important actions to be taken at the very beginning to ensure the success of the project at the end. The clearer the background is, the more accurately and understandably the project will be spelled out.

A Project’s Background is a formal document containing a common description of what is expected to be done within the project, what prerequisites for the project are, and how to produce the expected amount of work. The document is to be created prior to the implementation process to make a foundation for further goal setting and implementation.”

When you develop a background document for your project initiative, you need to think about the following information and ask yourself these key questions:

  • Are you building something new or are you looking to redesign something that already exists?
  • Why are you looking to have a website built? Is your company expanding? Are you branching off from another company? Are you just starting out?
  • What is to be addressed by the project, e.g. what is its primary focus?
  • A list of prerequisites and key reasons for launch
  • A very common description of how to perform the project
  • A plain explanation of the desired outcome
  • And most importantly, what ‘problem(s)’ did you face that necessitated this project?

An important question to have answers to when faced with your Digital Agency is:

What are your project objectives?

A website is a core offering that will be central to your business, but (especially if your business is e-commerce) a website is your business. Goals reflect the overarching purpose of your project, while objectives highlight the granular methods in achieving that goal. So, consider what it is you actually want to achieve; is it to drive more traffic to your website? Are you looking to drive more revenue from your website? Do you need a whole new website for these things or just improvements to your current website?

Consider S.M.A.R.T. Goals and Objectives:

S is for Specific
Be specific about what you want, make it well defined and clearly understood.

M is for measurable
– 
Tell your Digital Agency how you plan to measure the result of your goal or objective and tell them how they will know when it has been accomplished.

A is for Achievable
Ask your Digital Agency what resources they have, to accomplish the project goals and objectives.

R is for realistic
– 
Discuss with your Digital Agency about whether your goals and objectives are a reasonable way of proceeding. For instance, a project goal may be achievable, but not realistic, if it is not aligned with business or organisational goals. Check that they can be achieved.

T is for Time-bound
– 
Goals and objectives must have a deadline, otherwise, they will be continually deferred, delayed or denied – and perhaps all three! See ‘When do you expect the project to be completed by’ (below).

With those goals and objectives in mind, question what you want the

Key Project Deliverables to be?

Do you want just a website? or do you want branding done too? Maybe a mobile app? Have a think about what it is you’re looking for. Most Digital Agencies will be able to offer these services to you or will be able to suggest someone if they can’t.

When do you expect the project to be completed by?

Don’t be shocked if they turn around and tell you they can’t create a whole new website within a week! It’s a digital agency’s job to create websites for people and businesses. If they are busy it’s a good indication that they’re in demand. So hopefully they’ll have other work on at the same time! If what you need to be done is urgent, tell them, they might be able around your needs. But they will usually give you a fair timescale to work towards. And even if they dedicate a team solely to your work, they’ll want to be thorough, so you can have a great website. Be realistic with your expectations – if anyone tells you they can make you a whole e-commerce website in a week, don’t expect anything good.

Hosting: do you require it?

If you do, check that this is something that your Digital Agency offers. You can host your own website, but usually, it’s cheaper to let your Digital Agency host it for you. They normally already have a high-spec server with other websites on it. If they don’t offer hosting, ask them who they would recommend, or look into it for yourself. If you already have hosting, tell your Digital Agency what your hosting environment is like.

What are your agency requirements?

What are you looking for in a Digita Agency? Ask yourself who you would like to work with. Nothing when it comes to websites happens with a click of your fingers. You’ll be liaising with this company more than you realise. Think about the Digital Agency you’ve chosen and decide if they’re the kind of people you want to work with.  

Now for the biggest, scariest question.

What is your budget?

How much money has been allocated to your project or what are you comfortable investing? Like I mentioned earlier, websites can become your business. It can be the go-to point for anyone interested in your product or service. My advice would be not to skimp on something so important to your business. Let the Digital Agency know how much your budget is. If you’re asking for more than you can pay for, they’ll usually find a way to accommodate your needs.

It pays to know your business inside and out. By being able to answer these questions, you’ll  go into a meeting with your Digital Agency feeling confident and prepared. Plus but this knowledge is useful to have in your everyday business life. If we’re your chosen Digital Agency (thanks!) get in touch and…

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