Key Questions Web Designers Should Ask New Clients

hey reliable - Brian Checkovich by Brian Checkovich
April 19, 2023
Key Questions Web Designers Should Ask New Clients

A new client…maybe the sweetest phrase in the shape-shifting world of web design. Your pitch worked, your team is flying high, and champagne is spilling, but when morning comes, you have to deliver.

Piece of cake, you tell yourself. I’ll just reach deep into my creative bag of tricks and produce stunning brilliance…

Which could happen, but relying on your genius is a risky game in web design, which at its core has a subjective element that can turn a client fickle. The best way to avoid any miscommunication or misunderstanding is to gather as much relevant information as possible before you unleash your artistic arsenal on a project.

Otherwise, the process could bog down into a slog of revisions, deletions, and insertions that gobble up precious time and money.

To avoid that abyss, ask the right questions from jump street.

1. What’s the Elevator Pitch?

Have clients describe their business as if they’re pitching an idea in an elevator. They’ll have just thirty seconds or so to drill down to the bedrock of what they see as the main point of their company.

Don’t assume you can glean this info from the client’s brand. You want it in the most authentic voice you can get, which is directly from the client. Since form follows function, knowing the mission of your client can help contour the deliverable you will complete. This is as basic as it gets, but also indispensable.

2. Is this a Redesign or a Brand-New Launch?

You can’t move forward without having this question nailed down. If you’re starting from scratch, the tabula rasa approach will be more labor-intensive in the short term. But a redesign brings its own slew of challenges. Some clients might just want a few updates, but others might harbor very strong feelings about their digital footprint.

You need to unearth as much feedback as you can about what the client liked about the original design but also what they didn’t like. You’ll want to see a Google Analytics report if possible. You’ll want to know what CMS they used.

3. Who’s the Target?

The client needs to delineate the audience to aim for. You might ask the client to define the “perfect customer,” a composite of precisely the group that is to be targeted. Working moms? Retirees? Tweens? The client needs to provide this key goal along with any pertinent user data they’ve scrubbed. Basic demographics, for sure, but also any deeper analytics as far as media consumption, lexicon usage, and spending habits.

4. What Does Success Look Like?

Once you know what audience the client is after, then you need to understand what it is the client actually wants to happen with this project. A client typically might begin with a vague, sweeping generalization that “our page needs a make-over,” but you need to probe a bit deeper.

Success comes in many varieties, depending on what the client truly intends. Do they want to increase overall traffic to the site? Reduce the bounce rate? Increase the average sale? Grab eyeballs with a blog? Snatch email addresses for a newsletter? Each of these presents its own kind of solution you have to consider as you move forward.

This discussion can help you determine what features to include. You don’t want to discover when you’re two-thirds built out, that the client really wants a live chat capability. Try to gather your moss before then.

5. What Does Failure Look Like?

Equally important is knowing what a client does NOT want in a website. Finding out that a client really hates scroll animation after you’ve already integrated it into your design is a Zoom meeting you don’t want to have.

An option here is to have the client provide examples of websites that they really dislike, a kind of doom scrolling with a larger purpose. That way, you can establish an aesthetic framework to guide your own design choices. And get them to be specific about what it is they don’t like. Is it the CTA? The colors? The fonts? Sometimes you need to hate something to get on the same wavelength.

6. What Is Your Competitive Advantage?

Every client should know what it is they do that makes them stand out. It doesn’t have to be some hi-tech gizmo, although if that’s the case, then run with it. But in today’s marketing environment, differentiation is crucial. The landing page has to capture the special character of the client, and you can’t visually attract users without first knowing how your client is uniquely positioned in the ecosystem.

If the client specializes in customer care, then you know what direction to head in. The same for low prices, free shipping, free consult, money-back guarantee–it doesn’t matter, just so the client is hanging their hat on something. If a client remains vague about this aspect of their business, have them talk about their competitors and examine their websites. Understanding the enemy is key to defeating them.

 Bon Voyage

A client questionnaire is standard practice today in web design. But the kinds of questions you ask can reduce the clutter that can clog a project’s progress. Just like a lawyer spends time coming up with thoughtful voir dire questions for a potential juror, you should carefully craft a document that will help you attain the highest level of client satisfaction.

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