Most web designers have a form or checklist for clients to complete prior to beginning a web design job. Generally these questions focus on the visual design of the site, with some questions about functionality, hosting and domain accounts, etc. What is often missed is a set of questions that help the web designer get inside the mind of the client.
Getting inside the mind of your client helps reduce frustration (and surprises) on both sides, reduce “contract creep” and project or budget overruns, and allows you to coach the client about what they really need. By learning to get inside the mind of your client you help them make better decisions and have more clarity early on.
It’s a common comment among web designers that clients often don’t really know what they want or need. That’s because it is the process of designing – seeing the changes along the way – that helps the client become clear. You can shortcut this process by remembering to ask some key questions that help the client get clear and give you more insight as to how their minds work.
1. What do you want your website to accomplish?
Sounds basic, yes? But it is often left off the “design” questionnaire. If a client doesn’t know what they want their website to accomplish, they will be changing their minds frequently throughout the design project – which can become pretty frustrating for the designer, especially if there is a set fee.
2. What is the first thing you want people to do when they come to your site?
Often clients are so focused on how they want the site to look, that they forget that the purpose of the site it to get the client to do something – sign up, make a purchase, leave a comment, etc. If you help them think through this answer, it will help you know what to place where on the site in order to create the greatest likelihood that people will take that specific action first.
3. What is the second thing you want people to do when they come to your site?
If you help your client think beyond just the initial process, you’ll be helping them make sure their website and their business and financial models are in alignment. That means less going back and making changes later, and less frustration and annoyance all around.
4. Who is your target market?
OK, so this is question is probably not missed as often as the others. But what do you really mean when you ask this question? Does the client understand? Have they defined it enough to help you create your design? (And by the way, if you’re a web designer, are you clear on who YOUR target market is?)
5. Give me a list of websites you like and identify, specifically, what you like about them.
6. Give me a list of website you don’t like and identify, specifically, what you don’t like about them.
Again…these two questions may be ones you ask, but you will probably need to coach your client on how to provide you specific feedback so that it will make sense to you and help you get inside their head, thus allowing you to create a more on-target design the first time.
Don’t let the client just say “I like the menu on this site.”
What, specifically, do they like about the menu? The font? The color? The hover effects? The size of the menu in relation to the header?
It could be any, or all, of those things. But if you don’t ask, you’ll just be making an assumption, which is never the best way to meet a client’s expectations.
7. How will you know when you are satisfied with your site?
This is, by far, the most commonly missed question. It is essential to get the client thinking in these terms before the project even starts. Both you and the client need to be clear on what the measures of “satisfaction” are. You may “finish” a site and fulfill the design contract, but if the client isn’t truly satisfied, how does that help you long term?
Your goal is to design great websites that help your clients do what they want, but part of your goal is also to have delighted clients who send more work your way. Asking this question upfront, even if the answer is a little fuzzy at first, is one way of ensuring great word of mouth advertising and ongoing client relationships.
Consider incorporating these questions into your intake form, discovery questionnaire, or whatever process you use when beginning a new web design project.
What other questions do you ask that help you get inside the minds of your clients? Please share them in the comments below.