If you decided that you wanted to build your own house, you would almost certainly draw up a few plans before you started work. For example, you'd probably start out by deciding where you wanted to build the house and what materials you wanted to use. Then you'd decide what rooms you wanted, what each room was for, how you would access each room, and so on. At the same time, you'd have to think about what furniture and open space you wanted in each room. Things like that.
That's more or less the same approach we take when planning a website for your business. To ensure we know what our clients want from their website, we ask clients to explain all these things, with as much detail as is possible. A Design Brief is our architect plan for your website. We take whatever you tell us, add our own input and then use this to move forward.
We ask what you want your website to do, how and why, who your target customers are, how the website will be linked to your business and who your main competitors are. It's pretty basic stuff but without it we're the taxi driver who only got told "Take me home".
If you have the time and inclination, writing a website design brief (as if giving instructions to us) can help you understand what you want your website to do and why. If you give your design brief to a designer, he or she will use it as a reference throughout the design and creation process. Explaining your website to yourself is a useful process as it makes it far less likely that you'll forget something important!
Start out by explaining what your business does, and then move on to the objectives you have in mind for your website, specific or general.
Ask yourself who you want your website to attract, who they are, where they are from, what they will want to find on your website, and so on. What do you want these people to do when they arrive on your website? These things can affect major factors in terms of how your website navigation is structured.
Think about the things you want added to your website. This might be things like photos and videos that you want built in, or things a designer needs to create or edit.
If you already have a website for your business and want to upgrade it, for example to modernise an old website, replace one of those horrible free websites offered by many host companies or to make an existing website responsive (good for visitors with normal or mobile browsers), explain what needs changing - parts you want to retain, parts you want to remove and whatever you want adding. All these things will help you understand what you truly want, and also help your website designer make them come to life!