Briefing Web Developers: 3 Communication Mistakes to Avoid

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This post is adapted from our free 35-page guide for marketing managers – How to Brief a Web Development Agency: Part One.

Download your copy today and get more expert advice on managing web build projects that deliver ROI.

Three things to think about:

  1. We live in a world that’s constantly connected.
  2. It’s never been easier to talk to one another.
  3. With modern communication technology at our disposal, we can talk to each other at a scale that would boggle the minds of our forebears.

Why, then, does communication so often break down in business?

Or, to look at it another way, why do results often not meet expectations?

These questions often have the same answer: Because it’s all too easy to become complacent when outside experts are handling the handiwork.

But nobody is a mind reader. Even the simplest project requires regular communication between manager and facilitator to be a success.

Web development projects are far from simple.

If you’ve managed a web development project before, you might have experienced breakdowns in communication between yourself and your web development agency. And you may well have ended up with a website that didn’t meet your expectations.

So how can you ensure that you end up with a website that not only looks great, but delivers on your key marketing goals?

The ‘easy’ answer is to talk more. But in practice, we all know this is often far from simple. We’re busy people. We’re expected to juggle several projects at the same time. All things considered, picking up the phone and ‘touching base’ often becomes a luxury, rather than a habit.

The practical answer is this: Make sure your plans for communication are laid out from the start. Define your communication strategy when you write your web development brief, just as you would outline your design requirements, budgetary constraints and marketing plans.

To put it another way, don’t fall into these traps…

1. Setting Unrealistic, Immovable Deadlines

Unrealistic deadlines lead to corner cutting.

Sign reading: "No Corner Cutting". Source: Brent Ozar at Flickr.

It seems obvious, but it’s easy to forget when the pressure is on: there’s only so much time your agency can devote to your project. They have other clients with equally demanding projects to deal with.

As a marketing manager, it’s important to understand that spending too long in one phase will mean other things get pushed back. If any phase of the project exceeds its original scope or timescale, you can’t expect the original deadline to remain fixed.

For example, if design sign-off takes one week longer than expected, then the target live date needs to be extended by one week.

Inevitably, somewhere along the way, your website will suffer if you haven’t allowed enough time in your brief to get it right. So make sure you build in a target live date that’s moveable.

2. Not Giving Feedback in Time

Your web build project should be a two-way conversation. You expect prompt delivery of proofs and works-in-progress – and your web development agency should expect you to provide feedback on these concepts so work can continue at a swift pace.


On a similar note, you should be prepared for challenges to crop up, and for concessions to be made – just as you’d expect your web developer to respond positively if your brief changed halfway through the project.

If this communication breaks down, your project can stagnate. Not providing feedback – or not providing it quickly enough – can impact on deadlines. Not allowing for flexibility and compromise can cause a project to descend into confusion and animosity.

The best way to avoid this is to build guaranteed windows for concept delivery and feedback in to your brief. If you’re both clear on this from the start, there’s less chance of communication breakdown, project inertia, and frustrations.

3. Not Requesting Appropriate Project Management Tools

Nowadays, there are countless tools available to assist with web build project management. And it’s crucial to ensure you’ve requested implementation of these tools, as web development projects tend to be far more complex than they used to be.

An Excel spreadsheet will not provide the level of collaboration and organisation necessary to handle a web build effectively.

Here are some examples of tools you may wish to request, depending on your project’s scope, needs and budget:


BugHerd logo.

A collaborative bug-testing/ feedback tool that allows you to make simple, plain-English annotations on the project-in- progress. These are then converted into full bug reports for your web developer to act upon.



Smartsheet logo.

Collaborative project management software that displays project progress in an easy-to-understand spreadsheet. Includes support for file-sharing, calendars, Gantt charts and resource management.



Basecamp logo

Basecamp is perhaps best described as a closed social network for project management. It allows users to upload and share project assets, take part in discussions and track milestones.


Other Posts in This Series

Technical Mistakes to Avoid

Conversion and Design Mistakes to Avoid

SEO and Content Mistakes to Avoid

Budgeting Mistakes to Avoid

Planning and Scoping Mistakes to Avoid

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