6 Key Questions your Web Designer will ask you, and more…

So, you’ve decided you want a new website (or make changes to an existing one) and are looking for someone (hopefully me) to build it for you. This post will guide you through the type of questions I ask my prospective clients and the information I require before starting a project.

I apologise now, this is quite a long post but it’s an important one. (Tip for those who hate reading a lot: I’ve made some brief bullet points in the conclusion, feel free to scroll right down and read that first, then read the rest if you want more detail.)

Let’s start with a few questions you’ll need to answer.

Key Questions

What does my organisation do?

It’s bleeding obvious I know but it’s probably the easiest one to answer. I need to identify who your are and what you sell or provide.

What problems does my organisation solve?

Sounds like the first one, doesn’t it? Well, not quite. An answer to the first one may be “we’re an accountancy firm”, this will mean the answer to this question may be “help people better manage their money” or “help people save money on taxes and other costs”.

Who is my target market/audience?

This translates to me as what sort of people are going to visit your site. This has a huge bearing on the layout and content so it’s something that needs to be stipulated right from the start. Age group, profession, location etc are a few examples.

What is my USP?

This is starting to sound like a business plan isn’t it…? That’s because, in a way, it is. What sets you apart from your competitors is key to what will set your website apart from theirs too.

Why do I want a website (or redesign)?

The answer to this could be very simple. “Increase sales” being a very common answer. However, you should also think about how you want to achieve that. Are you trying to attract a higher number of new customers or increase the ‘cart’ value of your sales? In other words do you want to increase “footfall” or simply encourage your existing customers to spend more each time they visit?

If your site isn’t based on e-commerce, maybe your goals are to provide information or encourage people to sign up to your services, make enquiries or sign up to a newsletter or other form of marketing.

Finally, how much can I budget for this project?

Most clients probably don’t really know how much it costs for a website. This is because there isn’t always a set figure as each project is different, each agency or freelancer is different. By knowing the answer to this right from the start, your designer can tell you what you can do with that budget. If your budget’s quite tight and it means sacrificing something this time in order to meet your objectives within budget, there’s nothing to stop you from tackling those things in a few months time.

“I already have some ideas!”

If you’ve had some ideas of features for your site already, fantastic! However, you still need to think about why you want to implement those ideas. Why do I want to add this feature? What will it achieve? How am I going to measure its success?

This will help us find the problem you’re trying to solve with your website rather than potentially adding whizz-bang features that don’t really help you or your visitors/customers.

I’m Confused!

If you’ve got this far and are feeling a bit overwhelmed, please, don’t stop reading now, the next bit might help.

“I’m not sure what I want but I will when I see it…”

If you find yourself saying or thinking something like this it will cause a tricky situation. Instead of trying to visualise what the site will look like try thinking about the goals you want to achieve, what you want to say on your website or the perception you want to create. Remember, you’re paying me to discover and solve your problem and ultimately to visualise and actualise your requirements. If I don’t really know what they are, it can make things pretty difficult.

“I’m still not sure what all my goals are!”

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Trying to think of things you DO want can be quite difficult so let’s go to the killer question.

What DON’T I want on my website?

This question is usually really easy to answer. If you know what you don’t want your site to do, we should be able to drill down through all that and find the things that you DO want.

Project Proposals

A lot of designers provide a project questionnaire or project proposal form or something of a similar name. This is basically a form or document the designer has created to help find the information he needs.

I encourage my clients to try and fill in as much as they can to give us something to discuss when we meet. If there’s an area you’re not sure with I’m always willing to help, ask relevant questions and discuss the sticky points in order to achieve everything you want to. It’s always worth spending an extra half-hour or more at this stage of the project to get the entire scope of the project sussed. It will also help when you aren’t sure about budgets as I can provide you with an accurate figure a lot more quickly if I have a lot of information.

I know this sounds like a contradiction but it’s not 100% vital to get EVERYTHING in the proposal first time round. We may come up with a new idea or problem to solve part way through. If this is the case, I’m happy to discuss it! I can advise whether it’s possible under the scope of the existing project or whether it should be kept for a future one.

Conclusion

In summary, you should now be thinking about:

  • What do I do? Who do I do it for? What problems do I solve?
  • What sets me apart from my competitors?
  • What are my goals for my website? How am I going to measure this?
  • What ideas have I had already? Why do I want to implement them?
  • How much do I want to spend?
  • What DON’T I want my website to do?

Hopefully after reading this you will be better prepared for a project and be able to clearly articulate your requirements and the reasons for them right from the start. This will make you project run smoother and get you the results you wanted while avoiding scope creep and nasty surprises on both sides.

It is also important that the information gathered at the start is kept at hand at every stage of the project. By asking the question “does this solve my original problems?” when you’re shown the work, both you and I can ensure that you get a website that fulfils everything you’ve asked for.

Update 14/02/2011

This post gives you an idea of what you need to know before starting a web design project and what questions you’ll need to answer. Since I published this, Paul Boag from Headscape has written a more general article with 10 tips for working with Web Designers on his blog, well worth a read especially as a couple of those tips link directly with this post.

Taking the Plunge

Hopefully, this post has answered a few questions you may have had and given you an insight into how the process works. This means you’re ready to enquire about working with me on a project, so, please get in touch. If you want that head start, check out my Project Questionnaire, fill it in and send it to me so we can get stuck straight into your new website.