7 July 2021
  • Industry Insight

How to write a brief for a new website or app.

Writing a brief for your development project can seem like a challenging task.

What needs to be included?

How much detail do I need to go into?

How do I communicate my ideas in an effective way?

An initial brief is an overview and list of features for your product – it outlines what the product is and what you would like it to do.

ELI5

ELI5, is a handy acronym to use when starting on your brief. It stands for ‘Explain like I’m five’. If you search ELI5 + ‘a complex subject’ online, you will find short and concise explanations for complex subjects.

Don’t take the ‘five’ part of ELI5 too literally, but work to simplify and clean your brief so that the product you are hoping to build can be explained to someone outside of your normal social and economic circle concisely and clearly.

If you can’t describe your product idea within a few minutes, it needs refining.

A good brief should;

  1.  Introduce the product and what it does
  2.  List the desired platforms (i.e. Android, iOS, web… if you know them)
  3.  Contain a list of features
  4.  Outline your desired timeframe
  5.  Mention any budget constraints or considerations
  6.  Touch on your business strategy.

If it helps, start by writing down all of the ideas in your head. Categorise them. Then cut, cut, cut until you have a concise product description and list of requirements.

Here is an example brief:

Name of project: CoffeeFoam

Intro: CoffeeFoam is a new application with the aim to make finding your nearest coffee shop easier. It should work on both iOS and Android platforms using GPS to find the user’s location, giving directions to the five nearest coffee shops. Data should be sourced from Google Maps.

We hope to go to market within the next 12 months. This project is being funded by our successful barista magazine, ‘Foam’, and, once launched we will be looking to raise funding from angel investors. Once momentum has been gained, we will look to allow coffee shops to display sponsored promotions within the application.

The initial phase should cost no more than £40,000.

A full branding exercise should be undertaken, with logo, brand colours and full guidelines as the deliverables.

Must-have Features:

– Ability to sign up with Facebook, Google and email address
– Profile area to reset password, update name and other personal details
– Ability to view a list of five nearest coffee shops, based on GPS location
– Ability to get directions to the coffee shop of choice
– Ability to share coffee shop details with a contact on my phone

Desirable features:

– Ability to leave a star rating for visited coffee shops (An average star rating should then be shown to other users)
– Ability to add photos

Why this brief works?

  • It is concise, easy to understand, and includes the necessary information an agency would need to decide if they can work on the product.
  • It sets out clear expectations of what the application must be able to do to be successful.
  • It includes scope for growth – desirable features and hints of future development work that could follow in the future.
  • It covers the technical aspects.

Don’t worry about including every tiny detail in this document, you can save that for a scope of work document, which you will sign with your chosen agency later.

Writing a product brief need not be a stressful experience. Follow the basic outline above detailing your concept and requirements, and take it to agencies ready to get the ball rolling on your development project.

Download our free and helpful Application Brief Template.

Pete Heslop

Managing Director at Steadfast Collective, Pete's key focus is on building a team of smart creatives who build community-focused web applications.

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