That first call you have with your client on constructing your web design vision is probably one of the most important calls you’ll make during a project from start to finish. If you do not ask enough questions, or the right ones, then you are going to end up handing over a design that the client is not interested in. This can cause a little loss in client faith in your abilities, as well as slow down the progress of the project and create more work for you. The more information you gather right from the start, the less changes you’ll have to make to your design concept. You have to make sure you are well prepared for this call.
Let’s start by going over a list of a questions, and how each one will help. Typically what I do in these kinds of calls is I build my list each time in a text document (things can change depending on the client, but many stay the same), and then I take my notes on that file while I’m talking to the client and save the file with the rest of the client’s project information. Certain questions like discussing all of the features of the website and how big it is going to be should have already been taken care of before the contract was signed. The procedure up to this design phone call is a completely different discussion, but if you’d like to view an example contract template that I use then click here.
1. What is the goal of your website?
What do they hope to accomplish? This answer can be pretty typical sometimes. Well, to make money, silly! But we want to make sure we get a deeper answer from our client, more than just "get to the checkout" or "fill out the contact form".
- Where do they want their clients to go?
- How do they want them to feel when they’re done with the website?
- What are all of the features that your users will be interacting with, what is each one’s end result, and which features are priority?
- What kind of exposure do they expect the website to receive?
This will help us learn how to guide the users and find out which items are the most important to the client and the user.
2. What are some other competitor or non-competitor websites that you like?
What websites do they like? Also, it’s always a good idea to find out what websites they don’t like. Having a competitor’s website is even better. Take as many notes as you can think of on these websites. You should always do research on your client’s industry if you want your design to have a good impact on them.
3. Are there any other design ideas you had in mind?
- Is there anything that the client already expects to see?
- Is there anything that the client wants to avoid?
- What did they have in mind as far as colors, fonts, layout, etc.?
- Do they already have a logo and an identity standard?
4. What makes your company stand out from your competitors’?
- Why is their company and their products better than the competition?
- What selling points make them stand above and beyond?
You need to be able to convince the user to your client, and this can easily be incorporated into your design. E.g. "Greatest customer service", "Lowest Prices!", "More experience than the competition". This can easily give you an idea for a theme for the website and help you create something that isn’t "just another website design".
5. What can you tell me about your target audience?
With a design, there is always a tricky balancing act that you have to play. You’ve got to make a design that both yourself and your client are satisfied with, and also one that is easily accessible and usable by your client’s customers.
- What is their age, culture, technical savvy, economic status, education, and other demographics? Obviously a design that you create for 10 year old children is going to be a vastly different website than what you would create for middle-aged women.
- There is always the possibility of a secondary audience group, so be sure to note that.
- Are these users going to have any special needs (accessibility, handicaps, etc.)?
Time for design feedback
So you did your research and made a snazzy design. Before you send it off, it’s always a good idea to get some feedback from your peers! If your contract allows, show it off on twitter, or check out this Six Revisions article on 10 Feedback Tools for Web Design. Criticism is the only way you are going to be able to grow as a designer, so take advantage of your community. When you send your design off to the user for approval and revision comments, then go the extra mile and get them involved with a feedback tool. I like to use redmark, but there are others out there like proofhq. Most importantly of all, remember to have fun while creating your design!