When creating a new website it can be hard for a client to have any firm ideas as to what they want from the new site and ‘better’ 'simpler' or ‘easier to use’ are hard to quantify.
Of course there are a lot of basic assumptions we can make by “a new site”. They probably want to refresh the visual design, make it responsive, maybe even change their CMS.
But UX designers don’t feel comfortable designing based just on assumptions. We can bring much more value by knowing some things, starting from the brief (we’ll still take some of them as “business assumptions” as we validate what we can with end users).
To get the most out of your brief it helps to know the answers to a few questions:
What problem are you trying to solve?
As a designer gathering requirements, I spend 90% of my energy on this. It’s a simple question but at the beginning of a project it’s so easy to get distracted jumping to conclusions!
Our clients are not used to design thinking, so they can get excited about being involved, being ‘creative’ and collaborative (the other 10% of my energy goes into making it fun!)
It can sometimes be difficult to be objective about your own site which is where we come in; to help steer the conversation so we are thinking from the user’s point of view.
What does success look like?
Tip: the answer is not “a hamburger menu”. Ideally, something quantitative. We ask this so we don’t go beyond scope. We’ll have this at the back of our minds at every design decision, every usability test will be designed around that. If we have to drop features, we’ll make sure that no one, at any point, will drop a feature that is key to this goal. Finally, once the project is live for some time we can measure and decide whether the client just got a new site (ok...) or are making more money (That’s more like it!)
What is the background?
We’ve designed a lot of sites and learned a lot in the process. We can often see a risk coming before our client can. Site changes and rebrands for the company as a whole often go hand in hand (albeit not always progressing at the same speed!)