Create a membership website design brief (free template)

by Andy Pearson in March 19th, 2018

This guide is designed to help board members and staff of charities, social enterprises and membership associations to navigate the process of commissioning a website redesign, in particular how to prepare a good website redesign brief. 

The best website brief examples describe succinctly your specific needs and resources and clarify the key questions you want suppliers to answer in their responses. 

What a good brief can achieve

  • Consolidate your requirements and priorities
  • Help providers of membership website software to advise you on the suitability of their products
  • Attract interest from the very best consultants, designers and agencies
  • Rule out inappropriate software or design approaches without having to talk to lots of different organisations
  • Provide a helpful reference even once you've agreed who you are working with

Read the guidance notes that follow and download the template at the bottom.

What to include in your website design brief

1. Background

Write a short paragraph with background about your charity or membership organisation. State your mission in a single sentence, if you can, and describe what sort of charity, social enterprise or association you are and the field you work in. Also provide information about your size, turover, staff team and number of members / supporters, etc. These kind of metrics can often help software providers or agencies to quick advise you whether you may be a good fit for their offerings. 

2. Objectives

You ideally already know what you want your website to achieve so it's a great place to start with your brief. 

Keep it short and just mention your key performance indicators (the numbers that matter to you, like total donations). No need to include a lengthy audit or lots of current performance statistics. These are important but not at this stage in the process.

3. Reason for planning a website redesign

Here you should explain why you have decided that now is the time to overhaul your website. Indicate the main shortcomings of your existing website. Is it hard to edit, not mobile-friendly, overloaded with content, aesthetically out of date, hard to navigate etc?


We have simplified our membership model and want to reflect these changes in our online system. The current system is difficult to work with so this is a good incentive to review the whole platform. 

4. Current website

Here you should describe your current technical setup. 


Our current website is based on Drupal version 7 and is integrated with a CiviCRM membership management system. The system was developed in 2013 and is currently supported by [company name]. 

5. Other systems you use

Try to cover all systems that might be relevant including email marketing, accountingdatabase, etc. Explain whether you expect these to interface with your website and if so, to what extent. Deep integration of systems can be expensive so it’s good to be specific on your expectations for this. Some membership software like White Fuse offers a fully integrated suite of tools for email marketing, event management, etc. In order to evaluate these kind of tools it is helpful to not only consider the tools you currently use but also how you use them. For example if you make heavy use of automation tools in your current email marketing platform this may make moving to an all-in-on membership platform more difficult. 

6. Timescale

Explain any particular circumstances driving the timeline. Resist the temptation to dictate a specific timeline if you are just keen to get something ‘as soon as possible’. In that case, just make it clear that you want suppliers to set out their typical timelines. 


We are planning a large conference at the end of the year and we would like the new platform live before then if at all possible.

7. Content

Explain what types of content you publish, and how often.


Blog posts once per week, reports once per month, around 15 events per year. 

8. Transactional functionality

You will most likely want some transactional or interactive functionality on your website. This could be signing up for a newsletter, making an enquiry, booking onto an event or making an on-site donation. Be as explicit as you can about the actions you want your users to be able to take. Focus on your needs and avoid prescribing specific solutions as the supplier may have alternative ideas. 


  • We have a membership of 1,000 and get about 10 new members per month.
  • Members must be able to join online and then access restricted resources and event discounts on the website. 
  • Members of the public sometimes donate. It must be easy for people to make both one-off and regular donations on the website. 

9. Your budget

If you don’t know your budget you should probably do a bit more research first. 

  • Disclose your budget. Don't waste time speaking to suppliers you can’t afford. 
  • Ask suppliers to show the cost of ownership over a four year period. 
  • Explain your cashflow preferences (paying up-front vs spreading the costs). 

10. Staff resources and decision making

Describe your team and their stake in the website redesign project. Answer the following questions for the reader of your brief:

  • Who will be involved in the project, what expertise do they have and how much of their time will be allocated?
  • Who will be making the decision on which supplier to select? How involved will they be in preparing this brief document, reading responses and talking to prospective suppliers? 

11. Understanding of best-practices

You should trust your supplier to follow industry best-practices with regard to things like accessibility, SEO friendly structures, security and device optimisation. It’s worthwhile understanding these yourself to some extent so you can discuss them but don't feel like you have to include descriptions of these in the brief document. 

12. Your questions

List the key information you want in response from suppliers. Don’t prescribe the exact format in which they should reply because the best suppliers will have their own proposal templates. 


Please provide information on:

  • The website content management technology (proprietary Software as a Service vendor or open source like Wordpress, Drupal, etc.)
  • Approach to passing data between systems (website and event management systems to central contact database, etc)
  • Example case studies using the above technology
  • Hosting, support, maintenance and feature updates
  • The total cost of ownership including setup and ongoing costs
  • Your approach to data protection
  • Who the project lead will be
  • What the project process looks like and how long it normally takes
  • Your backup and emergency access procedures
  • Contract length and any other commitments
  • What happens if we want to cancel and/or export our data
  • How we access support and any limitations within quoted prices
  • How much control we will have over content management


Here’s a quick reminder of some of the key points so you can review your brief document before sending it.

  • Keep the background short
  • Focus just on your top KPIs
  • State your requirements simply
  • Focus on problems, not potential solutions
  • Disclose your budget as best you can
  • Explain your decision-making process
  • List your questions clearly in one place
  • Don’t prescribe a format for responses

Download membership website design brief template

Download our free website design brief document example. 

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Download the website brief template

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