Creative Briefs for the Website

Our Marketing department frequently uses a Creative Brief to plan the marketing and promotion process for events, services, and other stuff the library does.

Marketing and our web team meet weekly, and are part of a team we call our Creative Group (we’re big on team-based planning at the library).

So when we started redesigning our website, our friends in marketing suggested we use Creative Briefs to figure out some goals for the website, and the idea worked wonderfully.

Here’s what we did: we looked at every major section of the website – areas like About Us, Blogs, or Research – and went through our creative brief planning process for each.

We focused on these areas:

  • Purpose – what’s the purpose of this section of the website? For example, one purpose of the Research section is to connect customers to our databases.
  • Goals – slightly different and more specific than Purpose. Here, we set goals, like “We want a 20% increase in database usage in 2 years.” Or for our About Us section, it might be something like “we want fewer calls asking for our phone numbers” (since we now list out everyone’s phone number).
  • Primary Audience – Who’s the target audience? We try to choose 2-3 targets, usually based on market segments from a GIS study we’ve done (with help from Civic Technologies). This could also just be simple targets, like “the Kids pages focus on kids 8-12 years old.” This way, you can then focus the design and content on that target group.
  • Why Viewers use section – answer this question for the target audience – “Why would I want to go there?” For example, for the research section, the answer probably isn’t “because I want to find EbscoHost.” That answer focuses on the library. Answer this question by putting yourself into your customers’ heads. Do that, and the answers, more likely, resemble these: “I need to do research for my paper” or even better, “I want to get an A in History” or “I want to increase sales in my business for next year.” Then focus your design so those types of questions can be answered.
  • Tasks section accomplishes – This one is a bit more library-centric. What can you do here? List it out, then design those tasks to be as easy as using a light switch.
  • Content Requirements – What content do you need for this section? This isn’t a list of tasks – instead, it might include directions, explanations, links to more information, etc. You should also include any graphics needed here, too – graphics should support the content, and help make the main content easier to use.
  • Functionality Requirements – All the web stuff goes here – i.e., for a blog, you should list things like RSS and email subscription functionality. For the kids site, maybe you want things to move around on the page – list those ideas here. Basically, anything your web wizard needs to build.

Going though this process was great – it gave us some goals to shoot for on each section of the website, and helped make our redesign efforts more focused.

Here are a couple of articles with more info on creative briefs:

Anyone else use this or similar tools? Tell us what you do in the comments!

photo by insomnia

Writing an Experience Brief

Designing the Digital Experience was reviewed!I just realized that I mentioned using an Experience Brief in my book and in some of my presentations, but haven’t explained much about actually writing one. Since it’s something I want to do for my library’s website, I decided to do some “how-to” research on writing experience briefs … here’s what I found.

First of all – what exactly is an Experience Brief? It’s related to the Creative Brief, from marketing land. A Creative Brief is used to succinctly describe all the stuff the creative group plans to do to promote a new product. An experience brief uses that same concept … but helps define the experiences a customer should experience while using your website.

An Experience Brief is summed up by 8sharp: “The Experience Brief goes beyond “look and feel” and asks, “What is the experience we want the user to have?””

37signals’ ebook, Getting Real, gives another brief taste of what an Experience Brief is all about. “So what should you do in place of a spec? Go with a briefer alternative that moves you toward something real. Write a one page story about what the app needs to do. Use plain language and make it quick. If it takes more than a page to explain it, then it’s too complex. This process shouldn’t take more than one day.” They don’t really mention writing an experience brief … but writing a one page story about what the app/website needs to do IS a way to focus completely on the experience of the site/app.

MJ Braide goes a bit further in Get More From Brand Strategy Part Two: The Experience Brief. Here are some relevant quotes from the article:

  • “The Experience Brief is designed to help focus on the experiences that have the greatest impact on those that matter most to you. It begins with an inventory of the major interactions with whomever you consider to be your most important audiences.”
  • “For each of the most important groups, target experiences are defined that are closely linked to the brand promise. Important: this is about THEM not about YOU. It is the impressions, feelings and beliefs that you want to occur in THEIR minds, through what you do.”
  • “As with the Creative Brief, the Experience Brief is then used by every division and department of the organization to inform service standards, interaction protocols and whatever else the playbook demands, based on your strategy and the economics of your relationships.”

Finally, some words of advice from Advertising Age – What Are You Packing Into Your (Creative) Briefs?

  • Think simple. The more sophisticated the brief, the simpler it should be. The more glissandi and grace notes the piece has, the harder it is to play.
  • More spaces to fill present a greater opportunity for bad poetry. Avoid theoretical definitions; keep the language at the 8th-grade level.
  • It’s been suggested that you’ll know you’re onto something big when you can pitch the story in under 30 seconds. Can you deliver an elevator speech for your product? Are you writing it to be read?

Hope this helps! ANyone have anything to add? Do you know what goes into writing either an experience brief or a creative brief? Ever written one? Please share!