What if I tell you more than 45% of the projects posted here on Codeable are skipped because none of our 191 WordPress experts wants to take them?! That's a lot, isn't it?

One of the main reason is clear to us (and developers too): project briefs are poorly executed. Thus, almost nobody wants to step in because they already know the equation:

bad project brief = pain in the ass for the developer/designer

If you've never created a project brief, I know what you're thinking right now:

"C'mon, it's only a brief we're talking about, words that have nothing to do with the end result. At the end of the day, it's all about how good the developers will do their requested jobs.
It's not me; it's them".

Well, you're wrong: it's you. Period. Let me elaborate.

Why do you have to invest time learning project briefing? It saves you money

Working with thousands of businesses gives us an overview on how and where they could improve they're being better at working with contractors and remote experts. And this is what we learned down the road: project briefing is as crucial as the execution of the project itself. Actually, your brief might even be more important since it’s your main way to attract developers and designers to work for you.

For any edits to your project brief, like adding missing or incomplete information, you have to spend time again on a project that should already be completed, preventing you from moving forward to its development.

If you don't make an effort and spend some real time into crafting a useful brief, you'll lose money. And here's how this is going to happen.

When you provide developers with a bad brief:

  • Developers won't take you as a serious client to work with = you'll lose more time, thus money, looking for anyone willing to embark on your ship
  • Developers will ask for new details if you fail to provide clearly them = you'll lose more time, thus money, adding and editing what should have been provided in the first place
  • Developers won't submit their quote because they've already worked with inexperienced clients = you'll lose more time, thus money, and end up working with low-cost "experts" that provide crap

So, learning (and getting better at) how to write and create a WordPress project brief is an investment for your business. But how can you write a kickass, informative, detailed brief? Let me tell you that!

The approach: start from the end results and then reverse-engineer the route

When outsourcing a WordPress project, your work should start from the very end, the end point you’d want to reach, and then move backwards to figure out what you would need to get there.

Think of this example: I want to build a large mailing list to reach out to people and sell my vintage heavy metal LPs. What would I need to achieve that? A page where people could add their email address and be automatically added to a list that I can manage as I like.

In a project brief lingo this would be translated with something like this: I need a landing page with an opt-in form paired with MailChimp to collect prospects' email address.

See what I did? I started from what my goal was and then moved backwards outlining all the steps and elements needed to create what I wanted.

If you're not sure or simply don't know which services, tools or technology would be a good fit, just describe your desired outcome in more details and add some examples to help developers suggest you what they think is the best solution.

Need help writing a professional project brief but don't know where to start? Ask our experts for a consultation to help you out!

The 6 things that should be included in any project brief

  • Goals of the project
  • Budget
  • Timeframe
  • Users and target audience
  • Design consideration and preferred aesthetic
  • Success criteria

Let’s look at each of them a more deeply.

1. Goals of the project

If you're outsourcing some projects of yours, you need to know what you want to achieve and have a crystal clear picture of it in your head. The reverse-engineer approach will play great in supporting your outlining process, even for those minor yet requested tasks that would bring to life your desired outcome.

2. Budget

The budget is all the money you'd want to invest in a specific project you outsource. More precisely, you allocate budget for a project, meaning that you should already have a clear plan in your mind about the "why" and "what" that project is crucial to your business goals. Writing down the budget (or at least a budget range) on your project brief is an effective way to save time.

It's the same as when you go car shopping, and you give a price range to the reseller, so he doesn't waste your time showing you cars you're not interested in (or can't afford, simply).
Long story short: put a number on it.

3. Timeframe

Just as with knowing how much money you're able to invest in an outsourced project, you should also provide a specific timeframe the project needs to be developed and delivered within. This allows the developer to set expectations realistically. Be reasonable, though: if you're one of those who answer "Yesterday" when they're asked when a deadline is, you won't find remote developers and experts wanting to work with you. Forewarned is forearmed.

4. Users and target audience

You're asking an expert to build something for you, whether it's a new website, a landing page, e-commerce, whatever. A crucial information that will help them working their magic out is knowing who you're targeting, your prospects. This way an expert can evaluate several factors (design, technology, etc.) that pertain to specific users and provide you with the best solution accordingly.

5. Design consideration and preferred aesthetic

When it comes to qualitative and aesthetic considerations writing down all preferred elements isn't the most suitable way to share that kind of information, while showing them is a better way. When writing your brief, add resources to leave misunderstandings out the door: try pairing any element of design you'd want with a description or comment. You can pick examples from websites, books, sketches, and anything you shows what you’re looking for. While the project is running, lead the expert with your feedback.

6. Success criteria

One element that often get left out from a project brief is how you will measure the success of the project itself in an objective way: the KPIs. What are the Key Performance Indicators? They're measurable metrics by which a project can be judged as a success (or not) in accordance with the client's primary goal. Some examples of KPIs for web projects can be:

  • Increase brand awareness
  • Generate 10% more traffic
  • Increase newsletter subscriptions.

I like the way Sam Barnes easily put it:

"The key ingredients to a KPI are the ‘before and after' metrics that allow for an equal comparison of numbers to determine success levels."

Before thinking about plugins or features, invest time figuring out your business needs Click To Tweet

Wrapping things together

There's a wrongly attributed quote to former US President Abraham Lincoln that perfectly embodies the key concept laying under any project briefing that goes:

"Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe."

This quote perfectly provides all that's important for a project brief. Before thinking about plugins, features, requests and anything that has to do with execution, sit down, pour some coffee, and invest all the time you’d need to figure out your business needs, knowing you're not wasting it over a bunch of "useless words", rather you're increasing the chance for your project to be great.

P.S.: Are you in a rush and need a WordPress developer immediately? Post your project now and get it done fast!

Quality: The Codeable Differene

  • Raleigh Leslie

    Here is one I see all the time in briefs that should be avoided:
    “This should be easy…” or “This should take very little time.”
    The developer interprets this as “The client doesn’t see the value in the problem we are solving for them with our years of experience and expertise that make the project quick or easy.”
    My advice is to leave it up to the developer to determine how ‘quick/easy’ the task is and estimate accordingly that for you. Instead say “Please explain to me if this job/task presents certain challenges that require extra budget or time considerations.”

    Another one I would avoid is “I can do or did all the easy stuff I just need help with this difficult part I cannot figure out.” The developer interprets this as “So when I complete the ‘difficult part’ and make it look easy because of my experience the client is not going to value it because ‘they should have been able to figure that out.’ which is a lose-lose because the developer makes the client feel dumb unintentionally and the developer’s work is not properly valued for the problem that was solved for the client. Instead try ‘I’m seeking an expert to help me fill in the gaps where my experience falls short on this project to help me get it completed.’ This is better than the other way because the developer knows you’ll value the end result of completing the project.

    The one I LIKE to see in the brief is when the client is open to suggestions from the designer/developer. As in “Here is the end result I’m looking for and here is where I’m at. If you have ideas on the best way to achieve it I am open to suggestions.” Sometimes the client has overthought the problem or gone down the wrong pathway and the developer knows a much better way to achieve their end result from previous experience.

    Matteo your other points are all great too!

    • Thanks, Raleigh Leslie!

      Pretty interesting insights from you as well, thanks for sharing them :)

      I think what we’re talking here (educating the client) is really THE topic when talking about client-freelancer relationship. As a company that stands between and talks with both the subjects involved, we need to make everything we can to improve the way the two work together, whether is via a blog post or as support when clients might need help when creating their projects.

  • Do we need to make the documentation of the project, is it mandatory?