How to Write a Great Brief for Your New School Website

So, you’ve been tasked with purchasing a new school website and you don’t know where to start...

Good news! This blog will help guide you through the website brief building process and make sure your new website is the success you want it to be!

Setting the scene

As a website design company, we’ll need to know a bit about your school to get a feel for how we should design your website. A good starting point is to list the following:

  • A couple of paragraphs about your school
  • Your Values/Mission statement
  • The 4 W’s
    • Why is a new website needed?
    • Who is your target audience?
    • What will the website be used for?
    • When is the new website needed to be live?
  • Describe your school using five or ten words (e.g. academic, modern, technology based, etc.)

Your existing school website

If you have an existing website, then you need to answer the following questions:

  • What’s good about your current website?
  • What’s bad about your current website? (i.e. old colour schemes, out-dated design)
  • How long ago was the site built?
  • What percentage of your online traffic is from smart phones and tablets?
  • Who is responsible for updating your school website?

To understand your needs any design agency has to know why your current website is no longer suitable. Make sure to detail everything that could be relevant, the more information we have, the better!

Your new school website

Now you need to examine what you want from your new website. A good starting point is to consider the following:

  • Outline your aims for your new school website (e.g. to increase parental engagement, increase awareness, Ofsted compliance, promote school events, etc.)
  • Who is your target audience? Has this changed from your old website? What are your demographics (e.g. children, adults, social class, location, etc.)
  • How will your target audience be accessing your website - using their phones, tablets or desktops?
  • Is your new website part of a re-brand, or a new vision launch?
  • Is there other school advertising and promotion taking place that your new website should tie in with?
  • What are the unique selling points for your school?
  • List a few of your competitors’ websites
  • List a few websites you like, include specific features and functionality you like for each.

Your budget

Outlining your new website budget is important. Have no doubt, you’ll receive more accurate quotes in response. If the agencies you contact know what your budget is and are all working to the same brief, you’re likely to get comparative prices, which is good, right? Then you can compare apples with apples.

  • What is your budget for design and development of the website?
  • Do you have a budget for ongoing support and maintenance?
  • What is your digital marketing budget for the next 12 months?

Look and feel of your new website

Your school website should be an extension of all your offline media, advertising or branding. It’s always helpful to be given a prospectus or other marketing literature (e.g. flyers, adverts etc.) to help us get a feel for your school, so include them with your brief.

For us to have a good idea of the kind of school website you want, it’s worthwhile noting three or four websites that you like - not necessarily school competitors or websites related to the education sector, just give a few examples that you like the colour schemes of, the navigation, or the interactive elements.

Content for your new website

Start thinking about how you want to populate your new school website.

Resist the urge to duplicate your existing content into your new website - if your current website is letting you down in some way, the chances are that its content is no longer up to scratch. Having thought about your target audience, take the opportunity to review whether your content still meets their needs and is relevant.

Don’t put this off until the end of the project - start thinking now about how you’re going to produce your new copy. Do you have the resources or skills to create and supply the content to go on the website? If the answer to these questions is no, you’ll need a website copywriter - we also provide this service so ask for a quote if needed.

  • Do you have the skills and resources available to carry out a content audit of your existing website?
  • Who will be responsible for writing content?
  • Can you provide any brand guidelines (preferably incorporating details on tone of voice, phraseology, etc.)?
  • Do you have any imagery, photography or videos?
  • Can you provide your logo and corporate identity pack? Ideally in a vector format such as .eps, .pdf or .psd?

Technical requirements

You should outline any special technical requirements that your school might have:

  • Do you already own the domain?
  • Should you be catering specifically for text only browsers, audio web browsers or Braille readers?
  • Do you have any integrations to current systems you’d like to explore?
  • Is your website likely to be targeting people with special needs? I.e. limited mobility, hearing or sight impairment, learning difficulties etc.
  • Consider the analytics of your current website - do you have a particularly high proportion of mobile users?

Maintenance

The ongoing maintenance of your school website is an often overlooked aspect of any website design:

  • Who will be responsible for the on-going maintenance of your website?
  • Do you have the resources and time to maintain your website in-house?
  • What happens if that member of staff leaves the school?
  • Would you prefer to arrange for us to handle your school website maintenance?

Promotion

You are investing in a new school website, so you want people to see it, right? Now you need to detail how you’ll promote it.

Digital Marketing

Digital marketing of a school website is often overlooked when considering a school website brief. The promotion of your website, in terms of increasing visibility in search engines (SEO) and generating more engagement is vital to the continued success of your website.

There are a number digital marketing activities you should consider:

  • Social media campaigns
  • Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
  • Pay-Per-Click (PPC) and Display Network adverts (image and rich media adverts on relevant websites) - paid listings you see in search engines
  • Email marketing
  • Content marketing - i.e blogs, video content, newsletters, social media
  • Affiliate marketing
  • Offline promotion
  • Your website can also be supported by an offline marketing strategy, perhaps consider some of the following activities:
    • Flyers
    • Prospectus
    • Signage

You might be thinking “Why do we need to know about offline promotion?” This is crucial if your communications are to be consistent across all your marketing channels. The decision making process is complex, people view products and services across a variety of devices and channels, at different times of the day. You need to ensure you capture their interest and engage with them at the right time, on the right channel.

Conclusion

You should finish your website design brief with a short conclusion, outlining what you want back from the website design agency. As a rule of thumb, at Concept4 we provide a full Proposal, detailing how your school website would be built, its layout, the costs (initial and on-going), the timescales involved and any assumptions and conditions that we’ve made.

Don’t forget to include a timescale for your proposed new website and a deadline for your Proposal - be realistic; a considered Proposal can take three or four days to prepare, it’s just not realistic to expect a comprehensive answer in 24 hours.

Good luck with your new website design brief and don’t forget to include Concept4 on your list of agencies to Tender for the development work…

If we can help you with writing your new website brief, just give us a call on 01282 612222.

P.S. Did we mention great photography helps make great websites! We work with trusted school photographers who can help bring your school to life.