It’s an enormous privilege to create a client’s first website. They have chosen you from millions of other web designers/developers and companies out there – and they could have tried to do it themselves.
But now you have secured a new bit of business, it’s not the time to congratulate yourself. This is the time to be ultra-cautious because, if you make communication mistakes at the initial phase, it can all go wrong. So here are the questions I ask to find out exactly what website the new client requires.
Who are you and what do you do?
This is the “elevator pitch” question. This is what you say to somebody when you only have a few seconds to explain who you are and what you do in an exciting and engaging way.
Try to elicit this information from the client. If you don’t think the client has a very good answer, can you think of ways to improve their elevator pitch? This will help you better understand your client and, ultimately, help you create a better website for them.
You can see, in the video above, me talking to a client about what she does.
Have you got / thought about the domain?
Some clients come to you with the domain already registered. However, domain names can be another source of confusion and worry for new entrepreneurs and people just starting out with their first website.
Many people stress and spend a long time searching for that perfect domain. I’ll try to advise the client to get a short, memorable dot com domain or, failing that, a dot net will suffice. I can point the client towards excellent tools such as LeanDomainSearch for ideas.
Analysis paralysis? How can I help you logistically?
Everything seems so daunting for new entrepreneurs and business people looking to set up a website for the first time. There is so much information that they get stuck in what’s called “analysis paralysis” and they don’t actually end up doing anything.
You can notify the client that they should buy a domain name (from NameCheap, for example) and that they will only have to spend about $9 a year. You can then tell them that you will arrange pointing the domain to the host, the hosting, the email for their new site, the email list, the social media profile pages, etc. Do as much or as little for the client as they want. Try to take away as many of the barriers as possible in order to decrease their analysis paralysis.
Do you have design worries?
Design is sometimes a concern for clients. You can tell them the good news which is that the design files are kept in a completely separate place to the content and therefore you can change the design of your website at any time.
So, if one day you have a pink website and you decide you don’t like the color and you want to change it to blue, you may do so.
Explain to the client that you will create a visual of the home page (and maybe one other page) in Photoshop or GIMP first. The client will then get a finite number of chances to amend this before the design is passed and then developed.
Above is a video where I try to allay a client’s design worries.
What is your website’s purpose?
Every website should have a purpose – whether it’s to collect email addresses, sell products or build brand awareness. Some websites may have multiple purposes, however, it’s best to have one main purpose to concentrate on.
The sooner you agree with the client the main purpose of the website the better you will be able to envisage the client’s site.
What is your target market?
Another subject to get the client to talk about and/or think about is the target market. Most websites have an ideal age/sex/location/social status target demographic.
Encourage your client to build an avatar when thinking of the target market, if they haven’t already. An avatar is a sketch of an actual person. This fictitious avatar has a real name, an exact address, an exact age, exact martial status, exact employment status, etc., the more details the better. The creation of an avatar helps the client and the designer envisage the website.
Are there other sites you like?
I always ask if there are two or three websites that the client likes or would like to emulate. It’s best to ask for two or three rather than just one.
The above video shows the website examples a client gives and what we can learn from them.
Do you have anything designed already?
I always ask the client if they have any design material to show me that has been used before.
Many new clients that come to me might already have a logo or some design done for them in the past. And it’s sometimes a good idea to keep the consistency of them in the web design.
And it doesn’t stop there. Depending on the client, there may be more to talk about.
I usually talk to clients about the concept of blogging. I sometimes have a discussion about whether to have a blog on the home page or on another page, what to blog about, how often to share on social media, what to offer as a lead magnet for the email signup form, etc.
The above videos are part of my free course called Talking With Clients – Creating a WordPress Website. There are an hour long set of videos of me interpreting a client’s web design brief.
You can do it
You can offer high quality web design solutions for clients. The most important element in a client relationship is sometimes not the quality of the work but the quality of the communication.
What did you think of these questions? Can you add any more to them?
Sam Mudra says
Nice share and points are all valid. I am not a designer though I know how to write HTML. By profession I am an optimizer and online marketer. Recently I started my startup and for that I contacted so many web designers from my town but believe me or not hiring a freelancer is one of the most difficult and risky jobs these days. If you want to design a good website for a business then you have to understand the business model, the service or products they are selling, the target audience (age, gender, language etc.) and the demographic. But the designers are not interested in understanding/thinking on these and hiring an expert UX/UI designer is too much costly. After searching for a couple of weeks, I started working on it on my own and launched the site.
The designing experience was really superb but the searching for freelancers and talking with them was completely disappointing.
Rob Cubbon says
Thank you for your comment and welcome to the site.
I understand you points, Sam. I know this isn’t the usual way of doing things but I recommend web designers charge over $1000 for a website because it’s only worthwhile doing a really good job for a client and get all the bases covered and so that the client has a website that will serve them well as a marketing tool in the future.
You were probably better off doing it yourself as you are obviously pretty web savvy.
Cathleen Keene says
Terrific advice to put your best foot forward! Thank you!
Rob Cubbon says
Thank you, Cathleen
What an helpful article! I’m just started working on my new website Design.
Thank you for posting!
Rob Cubbon says
My pleasure, Flore, I’m glad it helped.