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Starting with a Basic Brief Easy Website Planning

In this episode we will show you how you might interact with a client to develop or discover a project brief.


Let's talk about the brief. The brief is sometimes created by a client. Sometimes it's created by you and it all depends on how you sort of do business and your process. You might be doing this for a client. Of course, you might be doing this as a student and it's for a project and you need to break down the brief or you need to create your own brief.

So sometimes you don't have a brief at all, like nobody makes a brief. And you just kind of verbally talk about things and it's really confusing. So at least put down a couple of words, or a paragraph or two, that gets you started so you know what everyone's talking about, and you can agree on the feature set or what this thing might actually become.

And so I've written a quick brief here for our sample project that we'll be covering in this series, which is a fitness website/app. And it's a mobile responsive website, is our intention here. So here's the brief. A fitness app where users will be able to track the food they eat and the exercise they do. They will be able to compete with their friends and win badges, AKA achievements. There will be ads related to fitness foods and work equipment.

There's a sample brief, right? Sometimes briefs are really long and sometimes they're really short and they don't give you that much information. This is actually packed with quite a bit of information, but we need to take it and break it down.

So, when I work with clients, sometimes it's just this. I sit with them for an hour and before I even write a proposal or anything like that, I give them that hour free. And I say, "Okay, tell me what this is. Brief me on it. Give me the elevator pitch." And they'll say something similar to this. They'll say a couple of sentences that are sort of intertwined with very important things that they have in mind, but they may not be able to get it across all the way.

Well, other times I work with clients and they have pages and pages of information that I need to go and read through to understand. And they've done a lot of this work already. We're going to assume that, in this case, we're working with a client and they have some money, but they don't know exactly what this is. They have this really good idea, they say, and they want to create it. And they need a proposal and they want to know how much is this going to cost them? And, the works.

So here we have our fitness app. How do we go and break this down? So, during that meeting, I would start to ask them questions. And sometimes that's me doing role-playing. And what I like to do is, during a meeting, I try to be as, I guess you could say, as dumb as possible. And perhaps that's not the best thing, is as dumb as possible, but really not assuming anything, right? At a certain point, I'm going to start to make assumptions because I'm going to have to, and then I'm going to validate those assumptions with the client. And then eventually, with the target market. But right now I got to sit there and just say, "Okay, hear them out, essentially. And don't judge them and their idea might be ridiculous. It might be a really good idea. You don't know."

So I sort of look at it and I say, "Take me through it. How you imagine it would work." And that's, at a certain point again, I sort of shift this over to starting to drill them with questions, to understand how much have they really thought this through and how they envision it? So let's do that for this brief here.

So I say, "You have a fitness app and it's going to track this, right? This is..." So I would start saying, "Do you have a domain? Do you have hosting? Do you have a market already? And if you do have a market, how much money are you spending on marketing? And how successful is this going?" In this case, we would say that the client doesn't have a market. They maybe have a group of people. Maybe they have a lot of Instagram followers, and they're interested in them. And you could say, "That's kind of a market, but it's still a big jump from those people are subscribing to you until, 'Hey, I want you to join on my platform and do this." But we'll say that they have that. They have some money put away. So, they have a budget for this and they want to create this thing.

And we'll say they have a name already, or maybe they don't even have a name yet. Again, that's not going to be too important to us for this series. Okay. So I would say, "Okay, how do you imagine a user discovering this experience or this website?" The client would then say something like, "Well, they would find it in Google." Or they might say something like Facebook or Instagram, depends on how familiar they are with social media and social media marketing.

So we'll say that the client, I said, "Well, how would you reach out to them?" I'm going to jump ahead a little bit and say, they'll probably run Instagram or Facebook ads saying, "Change your fitness life forever." Some sort of tagline with it. And so, a user would click on that and they would be taken then to the website and on the website, they would see a big hero image, probably. And some texts and sort of information about you needing to take some sort of action. Or it might show a grid of videos or a grid of exercises or something about food. We don't know yet. It's still very, very open.

Again, this is sort of role-playing with a client. And then, you would sign up because you would then fill in your email address and a password, or maybe you would sign up with Facebook. And then, you would be taken to your own sort of dashboard in which you could create exercises and you can track your food. And maybe there's somewhere you can add friends and you might spend 20 minutes or so on this. And then, you would log out of the website or just close your browser window and you would go on.

The next time might be a couple of days later. You log back into the website with the login that you created the first time. And you may notice to do that because you got an email blast that was sent to you that says, "Check out this latest feature." Or you haven't added food in a while and you would then get to that screen or your dashboard and you would take some sort of action. So that's just a little bit of role-playing.

And eventually, that would lead to something like a journey map. I'm not going to talk too much about the journey map because I want to stick to the brief. So from here, we can start to break things down, right? We can role play. We can ask questions. There is no stupid question or dumb question during this brief initial scenario or situation with a client. You need to ask everything that you don't know because you don't want to build it, like make it a proposal and bid on this job without knowing enough on the project, or at least that initial scope, to be able to understand.

You might naturally do sort of a mini proposal where you would just do a little bit of process and get in for more information so that you could then actually create a more formal proposal. Then, during that process, you could get paid for that little bit of process work that you're going to have to do ahead of time.

Sometimes with clients, I give away that process work for free. And some people are like, "Ah, whoa, whoa, whoa." Well, I do that because, one, I like helping people. And I also want to make sure that what I'm bidding on is accurate. And I really understand it as well as the client that I'm working with understands it.

So, there's our brief. We're going to take this brief now and we're going to break it down into user stories. User stories are like features and I want to break down what user stories are and all of that in this next episode.