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The project brief

Client Side: The Project Brief

20 July 2015

Businesses are increasingly looking toward the digital space to provide competitive advantages and to communicate with their audience in strategic ways.

The ability to precisely target an audience, the measurability of digital strategies and the scalability and durability of the solution, among other benefits, make embracing all things digital an attractive prospect. The first and often most daunting challenge is working out where and how to get started, and who to get started with.

While every client is unique there are some common elements that if properly considered will maximise the chances of success.

With that in mind, we’ve compiled our thoughts over a series of blog posts we’re calling ‘Client Side’, with the intention of providing a transparent view of the process and relationship required for a digital project to achieve the best possible outcome for all involved.

First up, one of the most fundamental but often overlooked aspects of a successful project: the project brief. The project brief is vital to formulate your thoughts on the project and also to help align your project with the agency best suited to undertake it. Ideally, you would prepare the brief prior to making initial contact with any agency.

The amount of detail in a brief can vary but in essence an agency will want to know about:


Provide some information on your business, brand and the industry in which you operate. It’s also good to know who your main competitors are and a perspective on how well you feel they are operating in the digital space. Additionally, take a note of any reference websites for the project, even if they are outside your field.

The project

This includes:

The requirements
Are you looking for a website, app, social media strategy, user interface design, or a custom built solution? Alternatively, perhaps you’re instead looking to solve a problem. How can you help your growing user base access your brand in new ways?

The motivation
Are you starting a new business, looking to be more competitive, or is your current presence under performing?

The desired outcomes
Are you hoping to achieve online sales or conversions, lead generation, website traffic? How do you plan to measure success once the project is complete?

Don’t worry if you don’t have a firm idea on all of the above, basic information is better than nothing at all and a good agency will ask questions and make recommendations to help move things forward. A provisional idea on the number of pages or a basic sitemap can also be useful, as will an indication of whether you may need additional services like copywriting and photography.

While it’s important to be as descriptive as possible with your project requirements and the outcome you’re looking for, it’s best not to be too prescriptive, particularly around the overall design execution or strategy. A good digital agency will make their own recommendations based on their experience, and this is a large part of what you’re investing in and should be taking advantage of.

The target audience

Be as specific as you can about who your target audience is. Will you be targeting a niche group or a broad-based section of the market? Are they defined by age, gender or location? Will the target audience be B2B or consumer focused, or a bit of both?

Once you’ve defined your audiences, it will also be important to identify what these users want to get out of an interaction with your brand or products in the digital space. How will it make them feel? What will it make them do? The more information you can provide about your audience and their intentions, the better prepared the agency will be to tailor their recommendations and strategy to maximise audience engagement and return on investment.

The proposed budget and timeline

It’s important to be transparent about your budget and timeline as it will put both the client and agency “on the same page” when it comes to talking through the project requirements, and allow the agency to scale the project to suit.

“I have no idea what a project like this costs.”
Understandably, there can be hesitation to disclose a budget, particularly if you’ve had no previous experience working on a digital project. It’s likely you’ll still have an idea of what you’d like to spend and if communicated it will help guide the scope of the project. Any reputable agency will be transparent about their pricing and cost structures, and demonstrate clearly how they relate to their recommendations around features and functionality based on your budget.

“I have a budget, but I’m not telling you what it is.”
There is sometimes also concern that by revealing your budget you’re showing all of your cards too early and may not get the best value for your money. A good client-agency relationship isn’t a game of poker and should be based on trust – going into a project like this sets the stage for a lack of transparency and a sense of doubt in the ability to provide a value-based outcome. The agency should let you know if your budget is suitable or not, and how the project outcome can be scaled (down or up) to suit your budget and provide the best value.

If you absolutely can’t specify a budget, you can ask an agency to put forward a recommendation. In this case its often helpful to reference a similar sized project and outcome that you are looking for with your project. In this case, an agency will come back with a figure that is likely based on the best possible outcome for the project requirements.

Finding your partner

If you can cover most of the above, you can be confident about starting a meaningful dialogue with an agency and working towards a substantive outcome. From here you can expect a detailed proposal that covers things like features, functionality, cost structures and timelines. It also gives you a common reference point against which to compare the recommendations of various agencies.

In a subsequent post we’ll look at ways to find reputable agencies for your project and what to look for before you get started.

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