In case you are wondering why you need to ask the client a set of questions when taking a website project, here is the reason why.
Website projects usually involve two parties. The client(s) and you, the designer. The client basically has a rough idea of what they want. So, they will just lay a fuzzy idea on the table leaving you to flesh out everything else. And since getting a new client is exciting for just about anyone, you might be tempted to dive in without asking for extra information.
A few days, weeks, months or even years down the line, the client calls again with complaints of missing elements or features that don’t do what they expected. The conversation usually becomes a tug of war comprised of weighty accusations, with the client pointing fingers and you playing defense.
You argue that they did not ask for a specific feature and their answer is that it was your responsibility. In truth, the client is always right. It is very much your responsibility. In as much as the client needs the service, they understand little of what web design entails. Therefore, it’s up to you to broach the subject.
By doing this, you will be in a much better position to deliver on their requirement, hence saving face. If you are wondering which questions you need to ask before taking on a web design project, take a breather because we have your back covered.
Below are 12 important questions you need to ask a web design client seeking your services. Not only will the questions get your homework done, they will also work in your favor as far as making the client your new best friend goes.
1. What Does Your Business Do?
There is a huge gap between what you think the client does and what they actually do. If not well tackled, starting on a project without knowing what the client does results into problems. The kind of problems that cause migraines and that kind of thing.
In light of this, ensure the client gives you a little overview of what they do long before both of you sit in a meeting. This will prepare you psychologically for the nitty-gritty details that will be discussed during the meeting. Additionally, you will be in a better position to get the perfect features to marry their business with their website.
It’s better to get the business details right rather than suffer a disconnection with the client when the project is done.
2. Do You Currently Have a Website?
If the answer is no, move on to the third question. However, if the answer is yes get them to tell you the things they love or hate about their current website. Needless to say, you will be surprised the things clients will tell you upon your asking. You just might get the info you need to kill off your competition but I digress.
This exercise will help you figure out which features you need to include or remove on the new website. Secondly, the client might probably have approached you with the intention of having their current site redone. Therefore, it’s good to know what they exactly want with their new site.
3. What Do You Want People to Do On You Website?
This question takes into account the long term needs and desires of the end user. Note that there is a lot a user can do on any given page on the client’s website. It is ideal we break the needs of the user into two categories; the overall goal and the mini goals.
Under overall goal, ask the client to tell you what they think the website can’t do without. These are generally the main actions that grow their website, hence business. On the other hand, the mini goals entail the actions each page might lead to.
Balancing the above two gets you a sweet spot between the users’ needs and what the clients wants. Thus, you achieve a design that is engaging to users, which results in a functional website that works for your client.
4. What Is Your Marketing Strategy?
Every business website needs a marketing strategy. If you remove website promotion from the equation, how else can you grow the number of web visitors? Remember, getting numbers isn’t enough, you must get to the right audience – your target audience. Get to your audience via targeted marketing and you’ll grow your business.
Marketing is a major aspect of website design, but one thing web designers often forget is marketing doesn’t only involve advertisements. As a matter of fact, marketing comprises of good visuals, effective navigation and these 5 principles of usability among other things.
Get the client to tell you what their marketing strategy is and their biggest challenges. This way, you will be in a better position to build an intuitive design that supports the client’s long-term marketing goals.
5. What Are Your SEO Requirements?
SEO is another key factor in driving traffic to a website. If you are still wet behind the ears, SEO is short for search engine optimization, which simply means tuning up your website to woo traffic from search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo! among others. Boy, I Googled the last two to ensure they still exist.
If you’re building a website on WordPress, there are plenty of SEO plugins at your disposal. Just remember SEO goes far and beyond using plugins. There’s also the question of creating SEO content but again, I digress. Often, we forget that search engine friendliness should be done while developing the site and not after.
So check if your client needs help with search engine optimization. If so, start by optimizing their website grid for search engines. How? By creating a responsive website that looks and works well on all devices. Google absolutely loves responsive websites that work on mobile devices because the volume of mobile searches surpassed desktop searches just the other day.
6. What Are You Local Business Requirements?
The hell does this even mean? Ask the client about any localized requirements involving the business itself. The client might want to target their local neighborhood and only that, but you won’t know unless you ask. Does the client plan to reach a global audience?
Does the client’s business have branches? If so, do the branches offers different or similar products. And where are these branches located? You should look to determine the composite requirements of the website (in terms of location) so you can include them in the design.
Or as Henry of Localize says:
The key to good localization is to make sure that your website works and looks just as good as it does in its original language. The user experience should be equal in all languages. – 9 Tips for Website Localization
7. Do You Any Special Hosting Requirements?
Inquire if they have a domain name or hosting account already in place. Most of the time problems related to hosting and domain names end up slowing the site down. Plus you’re better placed to suggest the best hosting for the kind of website the client needs. A simple personal blog needs less power than a big magazine site for instance.
Additionally, getting a domain name and hosting a website requires extra cost. Since the client expects to see a live website, it might prove troublesome when you bring up these costs later on. So, to be on the safe side broach the subject as early as possible to ensure the client makes the necessary arrangements.
This way, you will be able to finalize the project within the agreed time frame and move on to other things.
8. Who Are Your Competitors?
When discussing the client’s business, make sure to ask about their competition. Ask also whether the competition has a website. Additionally, what makes them the competition? Learn as much as you can about the competition, and then help your client beat the competition where websites are concerned.
If you’re wondering why studying the competition matters, remember a website can be a product and marketing material among many other things. To show the client you are proactive, go poke around the competition’s website(s) and learn a few things about them. Finally, build your client a website that stands out from the crowd leaving the competition in the dust.
9. Which Websites Do You Really Love?
As much as it’s up to you to come up with a design for your client, getting to know their taste is always a good start. They cut the check, right? Their personal tastes are an important part of their brand, so leave that part out and you are killing the brand’s personality, which isn’t cool bro.
Secondly, you don’t want to build them a website that won’t get an emotional connection from their perspective. So, give them a little assignment. Ask them to list down two or three websites that are appealing to them. Additionally, ask them the one feature from each website they would steal if they could.
For the clients who won’t be responsive to this kind of task, explain to them what you want to achieve. Tell them you would love to build an appealing design wound around their tastes.
10. Do You Have Imagery?
This question could also go like this: Are there photos, illustrations or videos that you would like to include in your design? If they have media ready, well and good – you can use said media. If not, you can always help them obtain the right kind of multi-media content for their website (there are plenty of free stock photos on the web to get you started).
The idea behind this is to ensure the images or videos you use are of good quality. A website with blurred images is a turn off for users. A website without images is, well, kind of boring. If you have to, talk them into making use of free stock photos or videos. Otherwise, the design might suffer a handicap from a simple grainy image or lack thereof.
11. Where Do You See Your Website in the Future?
Yes, we understand you just met the client and can’t wait to start on their website, but take a moment and discuss the future of their website. Where would they like the website to go in the future? What would the website do in said future? In other words, this website that you can’t wait to build, will it be future-proof?
Let your client expound on the social media elements they would want included in their website. Will they be blogging? What other features will they need, say, a year from now? As far as growth is concerned, how will the website handle increased traffic? Asking these questions might help you prepare for the future needs of the website.
Basically, get to understand features and elements that will make the website remain relevant years down the line.
12. What is Your Timeline?
Does the client have a deadline that you mustn’t miss? Man, we all hate to miss deadlines, and that last-minute panic thingy is quite the nasty animal. Plus a bad rep won’t put bread on your table, so get a timeline and – this is important – ensure it is realistic.
Setting a realistic timeline sooner will definitely make your job less stressful. Split the project into phases to help you meet the deadline. Otherwise, you might suffer from tight timeline nightmares. In addition, you might lose the client if you promise on a deadline you can’t meet.
Getting ready for eventualities is a lot safer that getting caught off-guard. They say prevention is better than cure but I don’t think the saying relates very well with this post, but the heck, I hope you get the point. Don’t be a loser buddy, ask the damn questions and start the project the right way – yes, with your code editor or whatever tool hehe.
Bad jokes aside, the above questions will offer you an insight of what the client wants and how they want it done. This means you will be in a better position to manage the long-term and short-term requirements of the project in question.
What other questions do you ask your clients before starting on a web design project?