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How to brief a UX agency

Livia Thimotheo
Reading Time:
4 minutes

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!) 

Who are your users?

Because we’re user experience designers, we need to know who your users are. If personas are included in your budget, we’ll create personas based on research. If not, we’ll take your word for it. Either way, we need to validate the designs with people other than our colleagues or clients to make sure our own biases are not in the way of great design.

Who are your competitors?

We’ll take inspiration from them. Learn from their successes and their mistakes and put you ahead of the game. Normally we add some of our own favourite projects in the mix, even if they’re not competitors, to make you stand out from the crowd.

Who are the main stakeholders?

When creating the brief it is essential that you advise ALL the stakeholders who may wish to have an input on the designs. If they’re decision-makers they need to be involved from the beginning. It wastes time (ours and yours) on a project if people who weren't aware of what was happening now need to make changes.

Thinking about these questions before approaching an agency can help you get a lot more out of their pitch, enabling you to make a more informed decision on who to work with and, hopefully, a great result at the end.

If you are thinking about starting a new project and would like to chat about these questions, feel free to give us a call on 0207 977 9230 or email us on

Livia Thimotheo

Livia is a UX Designer at Dock9. She's worked in digital products in the financial sector including applications, websites and chatbots. The Design of Everyday Things was her first design book and it completely changed the way she sees the world.