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10 Questions You Need to Ask Your Web Design Client

Contrary to what your mother told you, not everybody likes surprises. Now that you have taken the plunge into the exotic world of freelance web design, taking the time to discuss exactly what your client wants and expects before taking on a new project is a great habit to get into for three reasons. One, it sets expectations for both of you. Two, it gives you a chance to walk away before investing your time and energy if the client’s answers reveal he is a complete wingnut. Three, it allows you to more accurately estimate the timeline and price for the project.

In the interest of decreasing the likelihood of multiple revision requests, set clear expectations with your clients by developing your own web design client checklist to help develop your proposal and set expectations for your next web design project. Some designers actually have a checklist they hand to clients at meetings or post on their websites; others merely rattle the questions off over the phone. Do whatever you are comfortable with, but make sure you ask the questions. The more information you have about your potential client’s expectations, the better able you will be to create the site they want on time and on budget.

Here are ten website design questions to efficiently get the information required to build a website that does what the client wants and needs.

Why Do You Want a Website?

Whether it is scribbled on the back of a cocktail napkin from the local bar or included in a fillable online PDF form, one of the first questions to include on your web design client questionnaire is why? Why do you want a website? What is the purpose of your website? Whether they want to sell a product online, drive customers into their bricks and mortar store, sell a service or share information, at the end of the day they want to make money.

How the customer answers this question helps determine the size and complexity of the website project, and helps guide your estimated time commitment and quote.

Another good question to ask is “what do prospective customers search when they look for your site?” This opens the SEO conversation and gives you an idea of how familiar your client is with inbound marketing and online marketing techniques.

sephora

www.sephora.com is clearly selling beauty products directly from the site with a shopping basket, simple categories and easy-to-find search bar.

Who Do You Want to Visit Your Website?

Some clients are completely stumped when faced with this question. Others will impress you with one or more detailed profiles of ideal customers. This question is possibly the most important you will ask in terms of the actual site design, as it will lead to design decisions best suited to the target market.

imdb

www.imdb.com knows its target market, and attracts movie lovers of all ages with large, attractive images front and centre, and a sidebar that answers the popular question,”What’s on at the movies?”

For example, navigating a website can be tricky for older users. A website with a target demographic of men and women over age 45 is best set up with a larger font, fewer categories and larger radial buttons than a site set up for teenagers, who respond well to lots of cool graphics and descriptive words in menus.

The customer’s target market demographic also guides social media optimization of the website. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Reddit and Pinterest are just some of the social media buttons your client may wish to incorporate into their site.

What Action Do You Want Your Readers To Take?

Assuming your awesome web design skills drive boatloads of traffic to your client’s site, what does the client want the reader to do once they arrive there? At the very least, ensure each page and blog post is sharable by including relevant Social Media share buttons. Many businesses simply want four or five pages and a blog set up to increase their local presence and encourage new customers. The client may be unsure of the answer - help them figure it out by asking “how do you want to solve customer problems or answer questions on your website?”

dressresponsively

www.dressresponsively.com leaves no doubt about what the reader should do with an enormous call-to-action graphic encouraging all to vote.

Where is Your Web Content Coming From?

If your customer expects you to provide web content as part of your web design service, you want to know this upfront. If you don’t provide copywriting services yourself, partner with a writer who does. This can be an excellent source of referral business for web designers who prefer to stick to designing websites instead of writing content. Useful content that uses Search-Engine-Optimization techniques to increase a website’s ranking in the search engine results is crucial for successful business website.

What Images/Graphics do you Need and Want on Your Website?

Does your client have a logo, pictures of staff, showcases or galleries, a tag line, motto or slogan to include on their website? Who is to provide the images?

hollister.com

www.hollister.com knows its target market - teens. Category titles like dudes, bettys, cali looks and a small font leave the over thirty crowd squinting and scratching their heads. The Hollister logo figures prominently in the header.

And what don’t they want on their site? Web design questions for clients should include colour preference and a discussion on branding. Building a brand is an important aspect of inbound marketing, as is maintaining a consistent look and feel across online and offline media.

What is your Time Frame for This Web Design Project?

Impatient and unrealistic customers are nightmares to deal with. Some web designers prefer to ask this question first to weed out completely unreasonable individuals, but placing the question further down the list of web design questions may prove useful. Clients tend to underestimate the time involved for setting up a professional website, and once they start answering your questions in detail they begin to realize the amount of work actually involved.

What is your Budget for a Business Website?

Here it is - the question that can make or break a potential new business relationship. Be prepared for fidgeting, gulping, and total avoidance of the question. The truth is that most business people have no idea. They are wondering “how much does it cost to set up a website?” Plan to give them a range based on the information they have provided.

Who Is Involved in Making Business Website Design Decisions?

How many decision-makers will you have to answer to? More people usually mean more time and more revisions. Larger companies may have a web-design committee or team you will deal with, while in other cases you will deal with the business owner himself. Tip: be sure to state clearly how many revisions of the original site design are included in your quote. Also ask whether the client plans to update the website on their own, or whether they will need you do this, and if so, how frequently.

Do You Want Your Website to be Optimized for Mobility?

Business websites are increasingly accessed by customers through their mobile phones. Explain to your customers how mobility optimized websites can increase web traffic, potential customers and future sales. If you are meeting with customers face-to-face, show them examples (on your smartphone, of course) of websites that are optimized for smart phone downloads and websites that aren’t. If possible, show them local websites - and even better, show them their competitor non-optimized websites.

mcdonalds.com

Yep. It really is McDonald’s. www.mcdonalds.com is optimized for smart phones so hungry folks can find the closest Big Mac and fries in a hurry.

Who are Your Biggest Competitors and What Do You Love or Hate about Their Sites?

Knowing what your client thinks the competition is doing well and what they are missing helps you to understand your client’s likes and dislikes and also gives you the opportunity to provide missing features on your client’s new website.

Use these questions as a starting point to develop your own set of website design questions to help figure out exactly what your web design client wants.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sarita Harbour

Sarita Harbour is a professional writer and blogger living in Southern Ontario. She has written extensively on running an online business and content marketing techniques for website owners. Her first e-book Building Your Brand With Pinterest is set for release in June 2012. Sarita graduated from the University of Guelph where she studied Psychology and Computer Science. Follow Sarita Harbour on twitter @avamummy or visit harbouronlinewritingservices.com

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