When I wrote about creating a standardized web site development workflow I mentioned how the development of the creative brief is a key part of the initial concept phase of a web project.
Consequently, I thought it might be useful to go into more detail about what a web site creative brief looks like and how we use it.
A creative brief is a short (one or two pages), high-level document that clearly outlines the important elements of the web site – including objectives, target audiences, requirements, and so on.
Here’s a more general definition of a creative brief that summarizes its purpose quite well:
A document that outlines the strategic direction for creative development, covering the specific task at hand, the communication objectives and strategy, and any elements that the executions must contain.
Although creative briefs follow a similar format, like any tool, you should customize it to your needs. Here’s a template of what the creative brief I use looks like, with a brief explanation of what each section means.
[Project Name] Creative Brief
Provide a brief overview of the whole project.
2. Current Situation
Describe the current situation – what is not working, what needs to be improved, what is working. Why the project is needed; what is hoped to be achieved.
Describe the project in more detail. What is needed to be done?
4. Target Audiences
Who is the project targeted at? Are there any specific characteristics that these audiences have?
What are the main goals or objectives of the project? What is it that you hope to achieve?
Are there any specific requirements or considerations that must be incorporated?
7. Promotion / Communication Plan
How will this project be promoted and communicated? What is the timing for each promotion / communication and who is involved?
What is the deadline for the project? Are there any milestones that must be met?
9. Project Sponsor
Who is the main sponsor and who will be signing-off the project?
Who is involved in the project from an oversight and team perspective?
Sample Creative Brief
Here’s an web-site-creative-brief-example (PDF 29KB) that uses the above format. We used it when we were first developing our Ways To Help web site.
How to Write a Creative Brief
There’s no single best way to develop a creative brief; for example, sometimes I’ll write the first draft based on conversations with project stakeholders.
However, my preferred method is to get the project sponsor to write the initial draft using the above template. This really helps to get the client to think fully about the project and to clarify in particular their objectives for the web site and their target audience(s).
Once you’ve written the first draft it usually takes a few rounds of review and refinement before the creative brief is ready to be approved.
Why Use a Creative Brief
For us, the creative brief is the core document for the project. It defines the project, enables the project plan to be developed and is the main point of reference during the development process in terms of keeping the project on target.
It enables everyone who is working on the project to quickly understand what it is about and what are the key elements. It also helps us to control scope creep and to focus on the primary goals of the web site (which can sometimes get a bit fuzzy when you’ve had a site in development for several months).
Further Reading on Writing Creative Briefs
- Creating the Perfect Design Brief: How to Manage Design for Strategic Advantage (Peter L. Phillips)
- The Creative Brief: 10 Steps to a Better Project (AIPMM)
- Writing a Creative Brief (Elise Bauer)
- Creative Brief Worksheet (RTF View as HTML) (gotomedia)
- Sample Creative Brief (RTF View as HTML) (gotomedia)
- Creative Brief Chapter (includes example) from Building Dynamic Web Sites with Macromedia Studio MX 2004