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Product Design

Product Design Briefs: The Underrated Tool You’re Not Using

Abby Milan

July 01, 2022

Measure twice, cut once. You know the proverb. It’s about properly preparing so you don’t waste your efforts later on.

We have our own version: Submit a thorough product design brief to your designer, ship a better product — faster.

Ok, so it’s not as catchy. But it gets the message across, right?

A good design brief is worth its weight in 5-star app reviews. Besides telepathy, it’s the best way to communicate your specs, expectations, hopes, and dreams to your product design team.

Even if you’re well aware of a design brief’s benefits, knowing what goes in one can be as clear as bad code. Harder still is knowing what a “good” design brief looks like.

Never fear, webuild is here.

What is a Product Design Workflow, Anyway?

Product designers are skilled in many things, but mindreading is not one of them…yet. Before they get to work on your project, they need to know what you’re looking for. The more clear and concise detail you can provide, the more impactful their design work will be.

From questions regarding the implementation of a specific task to the big-picture goals of your project, your design brief can cover a lot of ground before your designers break any digital ground.

The Only Product Design Brief Template You’ll Ever Need.

A good design brief can save your product from missing the mark. Use this free template to make your own visual design brief.

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Yes, it takes time to create in the beginning. But consider it an investment where you’ll reap:

There are advantages for your designers, too, like:

  • Limited scope creep and a safeguarded schedule.

  • The ability to predict challenges or hurdles.

  • A simpler onboarding process for designers who may be jumping into the project midway through.

Designers and developers alike will revel in less back and forth, where questions like: "How should this work?” and “What are we trying to solve here?" are ubiquitous and frustrations are exchanged like funny memes.

Building the next great product isn’t easy. But a good design brief can make it a lot easier.

3 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Design Brief

It’s not enough to simply fill out a design brief and hand it over to your designer. There are three things you should do to ensure your ROI.

1. Communicate early on, with everyone

When you’re ready to hand over the brief, plan a meeting with your designer and developers, as well as anyone else who will be touching the design. This meeting of the minds will ensure what’s planned is feasible and that any challenges can be spotted and untangled from the get-go.

Another tip: Welcome dialogue and questions from your designers and developers. Their inquisitive investigation and poking of holes is in your best interest for a better outcome.

2. Keep it updated.

Don’t think of this as a static document. Just as your product will evolve, so too should your design brief. So return to it often and keep it fresh, adjusting the brief as your project grows and becomes more acutely defined.

3. Be detailed but concise.

It can be pretty easy to get into the weeds with your needs, desires, and specs. But it’s important not to muddy the waters too much; it should make sense to all your stakeholders. Since it’s a document that everyone will refer to, it needs to be clear.

The Best Details to Include in Your Product Design Brief

You know you’ll never start another project without a design brief, but you still need to know what you’re in for when completing one. After all, a design brief can seem pretty daunting and ambiguous when you don’t know what to include.

It’s best to break out your design brief into sections. Within each section are details and questions you should be sure to include. Illustration in blues, purples and oranges of woman surrounded by images of text, pencil, ruler, faces and tablet

A Company Overview

Give a summary of your company. It will help your designers to relate the product to the bigger picture and tap into what makes you tick. Plan to include:

  • The product owner’s name and main stakeholders the designers will work with.

  • Company name.

  • What does your company do?

  • What makes your company unique?

  • Describe your company in five words.

  • What is your company’s mission?

  • What are your company’s values?

  • What is the size of your company?

  • Where is your headquarters? What time zone do you work in?

  • Who is our direct contact for the project?

Illustration in blues, purples and oranges of pie chart, line graph and goals written on a board

Project Overview and Scope

Like needing a map before a road trip, designers need to know what to expect when taking on a new project. Providing a project overview and asking scope questions will help them deliver what you’re asking for.

  • What would you like your design team to do?

    • What needs to be done? Why?

    • Do you need help with a project from start to finish, or do you need adjustments and feature help with an existing design?

  • What is the problem you’re trying to solve?

    • For example, your retention rates are low so you want to gamify your app to retain more users. Or maybe you want to simplify your app or add multiple new features to ramp up your MRR.

  • What are your goals and objectives for this project?

    • What would success look like? For example, maybe you want to launch version one of the app by Q4.

    • Are there any metrics that are important for the designers to know about and track?

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Audience and Market

Designing a product without knowing who you’re designing it for is like driving blindfolded. It’s essential for everyone — especially the designers — to be able to put themselves in the shoes of the user.

  • Who are your competitors?

    • What differentiates you from your competitors?

    • What do your competitors do well? And not-so-well?

  • Who is your demographic?

    • What is the age, education, relationship status, occupation, income, hobbies, likes, and dislikes of your users?

    • What problems are your users trying to solve with and in relation to your product?

    • How else (besides using your app) do your users currently solve that problem?

    • What devices do your users use, and in what context?

  • What kind of feedback do you get from your users?

Illustration in blues, purples and oranges of man and woman using a laptop and another woman holding a tablet surrounded by ruler, text icon and graph

Design Requirements

Design requirements are the guardrails for a design team. Laying everything out about your specific needs gives your designers a crystal clear view so they can hit the ground running while also setting expectations.

This section’s details are key. If your other requests throughout the brief don’t match these needs, your designers will have a tough time delivering what you’re asking for.

  • Do you already have a design system in place?

    • Are there design components in Figma your designers should have access to?

    • Do you have branding assets or do you need help in creating those?

    • Do you have copy? If not, do you have a plan for when/how it will be written?

    • Do you have an image library or approved images to share?

  • Will your external design team be working with an internal design team?

  • Describe your ideal design vision

    • Include examples of what you like and don’t like.

  • What other design requirements should your designers be aware of?

    • What is your design aesthetic?

    • What are your device and responsive needs?

Illustration in blues, purples and oranges of hand holding pie charts, including images of calendar with check marks, clock, pencil, bell and dollar sign

Product schedule & budget

We get it. Discussing a budget can feel awkward, but it’s necessary to have a good understanding to know what constraints everyone will be working with. Luckily, schedules are a less awkward topic to broach.

  • What is the timeline for this project?

  • What is the budget for this project?

  • Is there room for flexibility in the budget anywhere?

  • What internal company deadlines should this project be aligned with?

  • What key milestones should your designers be working toward?

  • Do two-week sprints and asynchronous reviews work for you?

  • Will you need to consider costs for research and/or testing?

Illustration in blues, purples and oranges of woman holding a pen and clipboard, surrounded by gear icon, clipboard, pencil and documents

Deliverables

Receiving your deliverables can be as exciting as an upcoming four-day weekend. Don’t let your expectations sour by not spelling them out in the design brief. Specifying what physical items you’ll anticipate at the end of each stage of the project cuts down on frustration for both parties.

  • What are you expecting the designer to hand off to you, both along the way and at the end of your partnership? For example:

    • Low-fidelity designs

    • High-fidelity designs

    • Prototypes

    • Design systems

    • Design notes

Isn’t it exciting to think how giving your designers a list of your desires and expectations can get you lightyears closer to your dream product? A good design brief is all it takes. Now, check out our Figma Template and go spread the best new proverb in product design. And if you’re looking to work with a design team for your next project, we’re ready when you are.

The Only Product Design Brief Template You’ll Ever Need.

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