This week we’re welcoming back Matt and Chris for season 2 of our Monkey Monday vlogs. Today they’re talking about how to brief a design agency for a website - specifically with regards asking for speculative design work.
This vlog is part of a series on web design and planning - check out our other videos:
Here’s the breakdown:
What is speculative design? (00:42)
Why do companies ask for speculative design? (01:09)
What can you do instead? (03:23)
We hope this will help businesses and design agencies to work more productively together to produce the best possible results. You can read our article about speculative design work, too.
Hit subscribe for more inspiring content from the Rusty Monkey team, and leave a comment with your ideas of subjects you’d like us to tackle next.
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Transcript Show / Hide
I can’t get my leg up.
Hi, I’m Matt.
And I’m Chris.
Welcome back. I hope you had an amazing summer.
Yeah, this is a Monkay Monday.
Yeah, we’re back to not being able to pronounce our own thing.
So, we’re going to get straight into it. We wanna talk web design briefs again. We’ve got a few of these, so check them out. The reason we talk about these is we want you to be able to go to any agency and make sure that you ask them the right questions to get the best possible result out of that web design brief.
Yeah, and often we get requests for speculative design, so what is it? It’s people coming and asking for a part of design work to see if we’re any good or not. So it’s sort of starting the project before you’ve actually briefed us properly.
And it’s completely natural and it seems like the sensible thing to do. So we’ve tried to explore why it’s a fairly typical thing, why companies go down this process, and most of the time we believe it’s a lack of understanding of the creative process. So in their heads it’s kind of a sensible thing to ask for, to say, ‘Come to us, do some visuals, to show us that you understand the company.’ It could also be maybe that they’ve got some low trust in web design agencies, or creative agencies altogether, so maybe they’ve not had a good experience, or people haven’t understood them well enough, and they think that one of the best things to do would be to see these examples. Which comes to the last bit really, is, ‘Hey, this is a good way to filter out my chosen agencies here, because it’s the easiest way of doing it. They all present you something, I pick the one I ‘like’ the most.’
Yeah, if you don’t like something, or it doesn’t look visually pleasing, then they’re out the door.
Yeah, so there’s quite a few issues with taking this approach. The first few things are that, one of the problems you’re gonna have is you’re showing a lack of trust straightaway, and that’s not a good relationship to start. You’re basically saying to your shortlisted partners, ‘I don’t know that I trust you to be able to design what I want you to design.’ So a really good tip is if you’ve already looked through some of the creative agency’s work, and you don’t really gel or like their approach or like what you see, you probably shouldn’t really invite them in in the first place. And there’s a few other things that are wrong here, so you’re going to end up paying for it somehow. All design agencies are gonna start absorbing the cost of doing all this creative work for nothing. You know, it’s gonna inflate design and creative agencies’ fees across the board. And, lastly, you’re really probably not getting very much of real quality at this point either. You’re not engaging the collaborative part of a creative process. You’re just asking for something to be brought to the pitch. And you’re sort of setting up a little bit of a beauty pageant. You’re sort of just going, ‘Hey, show me something shiny - I’ll pick the shiniest thing.’ As opposed to saying, ‘Hey, let’s work together and properly understand what we need to do.’
So, ideally, you’d want to be paying for your design work, and in that way you’ll get a proper brief through, the designers will go away knowing what your company is about, and they’ll produce something relevant.
They’ll be more engaged as well, won’t they. They’ll be more focussed on doing it because it’s genuine work, it’s not work to gain work.
Yeah, exactly. And another thing you could do is potentially swap some services of equal value. So if you own a hotel, for example, you could invite some design guys in to experience your hotel for a couple of days and then give some work. So give them experience for free and they’ll give you something back for free. A bit of bartering.
Give three nights to each designer at your hotels around the world, something like that? That could work. Really though, what we would probably recommend is instead of trying to get design work produced as part of your pitch, it’s probably better to make sure that you’ve understood the agencies, had a look at their work, and then ask them these three simple questions. The first question is ‘Why does your agency build websites?’ And what you’re gonna get from that is a good insight as to whether or not they’re going to be a good cultural fit for you guys. So, I dunno, an agency might say, ‘We believe that webshites should be really - webshites! - webshites should be really cheap.’ Maybe that would be that type of company. And maybe that’s what you want, maybe you want something really cheap, and you want to gel with somebody who just can farm out really easy websites and do loads of them. But maybe they might say, ‘Oh, we’re a web agency who, we really care about the environment. We make sure all our web hosting is on carbon neutral servers,’ and maybe that means something to you. So you’re gonna get a real better idea of whether or not they’re a cultural fit that share your beliefs.
Yeah, and then the next you should ask, ‘How does your creative process work?’ You want to find the company that you really wanna work with, and their creative process fits in with the way you want to work as well. Different website companies work in completely different ways, and you need to find the people that you’re gonna gel with and you’re gonna come up with the best website for your business.
And it gets past this problem here of not understanding the creative process. So once you understand how a web design agency approaches their work, you’re going to determine whether or not they’re gonna be a good fit of how you work as well. And finally, and this is probably the most important bit in a way, is rather than asking them to try and design something over here as part of your pitch, ask them to bring you, or send you, some stories that mean something to them. They can send you a case study, they could ask you questions and say, ‘What part of this project are we doing for you? What do you want to see examples of, what do you want us to tell a story about?’ So if it is a brand story, or a good will story, or a very technical demonstration, you could ask your agencies to do that sort of thing. And by asking these questions, you’re going to get a much better fit, and you’re gonna find a much happier result of everything.
Yeah, and it’s also not necessarily about aesthetically showing you some examples of some nice looking websites. You want a website that actually makes a difference to your business. So you need stories about how an eCommerce system has worked and got more sales in, or how it’s integrated with a Facebook campaign. You want more things, rather than just a, ‘That looks nice,’ or ‘That doesn’t look nice.’
So great, so when you’re putting together your brief, this is one small part of it. Maybe ditch the idea of speculative design, unless you wanna pay for it or swap the services, and instead ask some questions that are gonna bring some value back to you and have you a good understanding of the kind of people you’re gonna be working with. There’s some other web design brief vlogs that we’ve done in the past about not including site maps and doing all this other stuff, so check those out as well.
Oh yeah, customer journeys.
Customer journeys, yeah, so hopefully once we get through all of these we’ll be able to give you a really round package of how to do the perfect web design brief. That’s what we’re working towards.
Yeah, very good. Alright, that’s it for today, and we’ll see you next week.
Yes, goodbye. Karate chop!