Being a web designer is about transitioning the thoughts and goals of your client in to a dynamic digital interface for their clients that appeals to them and turns clicks into long-time customers, sounds easy eh, but after a few years and consequently a few mistakes by not asking the the relevant questions, I have trimmed it down to the 10 broadest and necessary questions that need to be asked.
I have also found that a majority of clients see these questions as unimportant, not necessary and sometimes just downright inconvenient. Hopefully, in this "post", I will dispel the myth that I am just wasting your time asking questions and being nosey?
If you are colaborating with a web designer who isn’t asking you these questions or any questions, take the lead and bring them up and provide answers to them sooner than later. If you are unsure of the answers to any or all questions please don't rush them and say anything to get them finished, these questions will impact your end site significantly.
So here goes, we will start off with some easy ones......
1. “Can you describe your business in a few sentences?”
By compressing your business into a sentence or two, you are essentially giving your designer your “elevator pitch.” This is great for defining your business for use on the homepage. All you need to do is keep it brief, in fact brief is good as a majority of your potential customers will choose to scan rather than read lengthy text, so brevity is your friend here.
2. “Who are your main competitors?”
By knowing who you are competing against, helps me to research how others in your field handle their websites. He or she can then determine what seems to be working well for some of them, and not as well for others. The idea is to not copy what others are doing, but rather to learn from the benefit of their experience, as well as from their mistakes.
3. “What is your USP?”
This is your chance to really distinguish your business from your competitors, your USP (Unique Selling Point) is what defines you and your business, it's what sets you apart. If you have something unique to offer, then I need to know about it, so that it can be played up and specifically called out on your site. It doesn’t have to be anything earth-shattering. In fact, it can be something incredibly simple, such as offering "free delivery on all products", for instance.
4. “Describe your current clients”
Letting me know who your current clients are is essential, this breaks down in the design stage of the actual site, a business with 90% women in the 40-65yr age bracket would not be wanting to look at a "Steely, Hard edged Corporate blue" website and would also make a big difference on search engine optimization(SEO) efforts, as well as social media integration. It is very important to be as specific as possible: gender, age, and annual income are major things to be considered in order to design the most appropriate site for your audience.
5. “What is your timescale for site completion?”
We both have deadlines, you need to have a date in mind, it keeps me on my toes and it also allows me to pace myself, so there is no mad dash to the finish line.
6. “What other websites inspire you?”
This doesn't need to be within your market sector, it is about functionality, look, and results. The websites that you like have obviously done something that triggers something inside of you for what ever reason, this is also an obvious leading question for “What websites don't inspire you?”
7. “What is your main aim for the website”
"What's your primary aim for the site? What do you want from it? Quote requests, sales, class booking, more memberships etc?"
And if your visitors aren't ready to complete that, what would you like them to do instead? I.e. what are your secondary goals for your site? Newsletter opt-in to build your list, eBook download, Facebook like etc?"
I'm not sure if some businesses just like to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ but I'm alarmed at the number of small business that will often ask for a website 'just because.' They have no clear goals or direction for wanting a website other than they've been told they should be online.
I would NOT go into a web design project without making the client give me an idea of what they want their new website to actually do for them.
On numerous occasions in the past I've completely walked away from a project if a client has no idea. It goes straight in the too hard basket.
Every website should accomplish something, and it doesn’t even need to be the old cliché of ‘make more money.’
Does your client want the site to:
Educate your audience?
Collect email addresses and build a list?
Encourage onsite or social media interaction?
Get more inbound leads / quote requests / phone enquiries?
Increase brand awareness?
If you don't know what you want your site to accomplish, then I would suggest a few so we can start the project with a key understanding locked in place.
8. “Who is going to be responsible for the website’s content?”
This is a question that often catches clients off guard. It is a bit easier to answer in the case of a redesign, but what if you are a new business starting a website from scratch? Do you plan on writing the copy for your own site? Unless you have experience writing for marketing purposes, I wouldn’t recommend it. Good Web copy-writing is a skill that can greatly improve user engagement when done right. I can’t tell you how many projects that have either stalled, or been abandoned altogether because a designer hasn’t received the content promised to them by a client. If your designer works with a copywriter, by all means, spend a little extra and go that route. It will take a lot of pressure off of you, the project will be completed faster, and you will end up with a much better product in the end. Well written copy sells. Period.
9. “What key search phrases would you like to be found for?”
Search engine optimization (SEO) is your key to being found on the Web. Your designer should be asking you this because your answers could have a big impact on not only the copy, but the overall site structure as well. Let’s say you run an Education Centre in the Southern suburbs of Sydney. You might want to be found for the terms “Further Education Sydney” as well as “Part -Time Courses, Sydney ” It would be a good idea to design two different landing pages for those different keyword phrases, rather than relying on being found through a more generic homepage.
10. “Do you have a style guide or any existing branding”
Generally you won’t get to work with a completely clean slate. They may already have branding and marketing materials created for their business.
Logos, brochures, old websites, posters and web banners are just SOME of the things that might be tucked away. And you may also find that the logo that they do have are not SVG or great graphics. Once you get everything, make sure you ask how strictly you have to adhere to the style / branding of the old material. You don’t want to create something only to find out that your client’s colour scheme is completely different.
In fact, ask the client if they have a ‘style guide or colour palette.’ Many companies won’t have one, but if you have a client that does, it means you'll have something in writing that clearly explains the style you work needs to capture.
There is much more to your new website than just the visual elements. A good web designer knows this and will go beyond the basics. Each question here has a key purpose in encapsulating your companies ethos and branding, and your web designer should touch on all of them in order to make a fully informed design decision that will positively impact your business for years to come.