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Avoid Client Problems with a Design Questionnaire

When a web developer and client meet for the first time, it's not uncommon for one question to be front and center: How much is this going to cost me? It's not surprising, given these tough economic times and ever-dwindling budgets — we're seeing it a lot here in Houston. Still, the relationship between any web designer and or social media marketing consultant and client must be a close one. They must share the same vision, and the consultant must act as another arm of the business, another player in the client's goals. So how can an Internet marketing consultant move past a fixation on cost and get to the heart of the matter?

Martha Retallick at Freelance Switch provided a great tool that she frequently implements into her initial client meetings: a web design client questionnaire. Retallick has a list of about 25 thought-provoking questions that drill down to the desired aesthetic and purpose for the website.

Here are a handful that go beyond, "Tell me about your business," and help define realistic boundaries and expectations of a project.

  • How can your particular work background help prospects, compared to others in your industry? What’s special about your work experience?
  • Please describe your potential customers. Pay special attention to their income, interests, gender, age, even type of computer they use, e.g., old with dialup account or newer with broadband. If your website is a business-to-business site, what sort of companies are you hoping to attract?
  • What staff will be involved? What are their roles? Is there a webmaster on your staff?
  • Please list the names of five other sites that you like. Why are they attractive to you?
  • How much time will you be able to spend online, responding to inquiries that come in via your website? Once a day? Several hours a day?
  • If you were using a search engine, what words or phrases would you use to find your site? Which of these words or phrases is most important? Second? Third?

These questions do a great job of highlighting issues like brand benefits, target demographics, internal communication, and the client's web savvy.

In the time I've worked as a web designer in Houston, I've found a system like this to be a great way to find out client expectations and requirements. It has really helped me on numerous occasions.

One thing I didn't see on this list that I think would be helpful to ask: What would you deem a "success" in terms of offline results? This moves the client's focus off of hits/average monthly visitors to give the developer an idea of their true business goals. What other questions should a web developer bring to the table before starting a project?

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