The Website Design Creative Brief: What Your Designer Needs to Know

Why do you need to put together a creative brief when planning for a website (re)design?

The way the creative mind works, there isn't just one magical pathway to your new design or any single “best practice” that applies to all websites universally.

Website design is a sequence of problem-solving that—through information, context, analysis, and data—leads to your unique creative design solution. The better and more accurate the input, the better and more targeted the output will be.

On the flip side, overloading your designer with more information than she needs can be counterproductive.

So, what does that mean when putting together a brief for your creative team?

Like my Italian grandmother used to say about the thickness of an eggplant for parmesan… not too thick, not too thin. It needs to be just right.


6 characteristics of a good website design creative brief:

  • It defines the scope of the project.
  • It clearly and concisely sets out your expectations.
  • It gives a clear picture of who you are as a company and what that might look and feel like to your customers.
  • It highlights for the designer the areas of greatest importance.
  • It helps the designer create the best solution for you.
  • It results in more effective and more consistent branding.

Having worked on both the client-side and the designer side, I’ve learned how to write concise briefs.

What follows is a snapshot of what I’ve found useful to include.

Providing answers to the following questions will help set your design team up for success.


1. Who are you?

Provide your designer with a half-or one-page summary of your business:

  • Who you are, and what you do
  • Background information and/or the story your business wants to tell
  • Details about any relevant products and services
  • Your company's elevator pitch and other key messaging points, so your designer understands exactly how the company positions itself in the market

2. Who is your audience?

Include a paragraph or two about the intended audience. Be specific if you have more than one audience and if specific products or services apply to each.

It isn't necessary to dive into what type of milk they drink or their favorite band, but do provide standard demographic information and preferences pertinent to your business or industry.


3. What are you trying to achieve?

This is where you dig into the whole reason you are redesigning your website. You'll want your designer to know:

  • The goals and purpose of the redesign
  • Anticipated results (site visits, conversions, new customers)
  • Your key messaging

4. What does your brand look and feel like?

Think of it this way... what your site looks like should make the user feel something. What does that mean to you? I recommend writing down:

  • Three words to describe your company's personality or culture
  • One thing you want a visitor to remember when they leave your site
  • What makes you unique or different from your competitors

Branding is a very powerful design tool. So include any information the designer needs in order to ensure they are maintaining the authenticity of the brand you've built.

If you are rebranding, provide a list of things that can’t change (like a company logo and color palette) and the things that can (fonts, graphics, imagery, copy).

In addition to your creative brief, set up a Dropbox so the designer has access to the following items:

  • Style or brand guide—if you have one, now is the time to share it.
  • Images and graphics that you own that are available to use
  • Brochures and content (anything that will be available on the website for download)
  • Logo files (original vectors)

I also find it helpful to supply a series of links:

  • Websites you like and why
  • Websites you don’t like and why
  • Key competitor sites

5. Do you have a sitemap?

This is a topic all on its own. For the sake of the creative brief, provide detail as to whether you will be providing the sitemap or if your design agency is to prepare this for you.

If you will provide your own sitemap, include a summary of your header and footer elements, such as links, top-level navigation, secondary navigation, calls-to-action in the header area, and the contents of your footer.

Your designer will need to know exactly what pages will be included in your site and how a visitor will get to them. Attach separate documents detailing your sitemap.

Include all existing and new URLs and distinguish between ones you will keep and ones you will need to redirect.

If your design agency is going to prepare your new sitemap for you, provide any suggestions or insight you have to get them started.

Your agency will then be able to pull a current listing of all of your URLs and develop an optimized sitemap strategy for you.


6. What is the scope of work?

It’s important to outline in your creative brief what you will be providing and what you would like your creative team to do for you.

This may include:

  • Website strategy, including sitemap
  • Messaging, copy strategy, and copywriting
  • SEO and optimization
  • Site design and UX design
  • Imagery and photography
  • Site development and launch
  • Post-launch monitoring and maintenance

7. And the nuts and bolts...

Provide all technical information about your site...

  • Where it will be hosted and what platform it will be built on (don't forget to include your login credentials!)
  • Third-party sites that it needs to be linked to
  • Other languages it needs to be translated into
  • Portals or password-protected sections
  • Social channels and links
  • Anything else that speaks to unique technical aspects of your site

In closing…

It may seem like a lot of information to gather and compile into a cohesive document, but doing this work upfront will streamline the creative process and enables your designer to not only focus on your unique website solution but also get it up and running faster!

Piecing together a website design creative brief also provides a great opportunity for you to think critically about your website design project and what it means to your company.

Any other tips you have for creating a design brief? Any questions about this process? Feel free to leave them in the comments below!

Free Download: Website Redesign vs. Refresh – Sizing Up Your Digital Makeover with 12 Decision Factors

Annette Sparks | Creative Director & Senior Graphic Designer
About the Author
Annette Sparks, Creative Director & Senior Graphic Designer