Questions to ask clients before designing a website

As with any project you start, gathering essential information upfront is not only beneficial to a successful deliverable but will also save you and your client plenty of headaches throughout the process and pave the way to a lasting and trusting relationship. The more information you have equals the smoother the project goes — which in turn sets the tone for a good designer/client relationship.

Some of the questions below can be applied to more then just website design so I broke them down into sections for better functionality for your clients.

Company-related questions

  1. Do you currently have a website? What is the URL?
  2. Describe the products/services you sell.
  3. Who are your main competitors? How do you differ?
  4. What are your top 3 frustrations with your current website?
  5. What do you like most about your current website?
  6. What do your current competitors website have that you aspire to?
  7. Age range of your target client base

Project-related questions

  1. Technical skill level of your client base. Have a scale ranging from zero to ten with zero being the least technologically skilled and ten being the best.
  2. Will your visitors require any special needs? Mobile version of site, multiple language support, larger type for easier reading, etc.)
  3. Imagine your website in 5 years from now. Complete the sentence: I know my website works because…
  4. Name 3 things that are most important about the design of your new website.
  5. Name 3 things that is least important in the design of your new website.
  6. Do you have any color preferences, existing brand colors, and/or colors you do/not wish to include?
  7. What are some existing websites that appeal to you? Provide links if possible.
  8. Deadline, timing or exact date of completion for your website
  9. Do you have a budget you are trying to meet?

Additional questions

  1. Do you need to be able to update the website on your own? (ie: CMS)
  2. Will this be an e-commerce website? Will you be selling any products or taking payments on your website?
  3. Do you need a copywriter? If you are using existing copy on your current website, will it need to be modified in any way?
  4. Is your logo and other imagery web ready?
  5. Do you have all images that you would like to be included in your website or would you like the designer to use imagery where appropriate?
  6. How will you be updating the site in the future (if they are not using a CMS)?
  7. Will you be needing an additional SEO help (registering with search engines, adding businesses to Google Business Center, Analytic setup, etc.)
  8. Do you already have a domain and host setup for your new website? If so, do you have the FTP and host log in information accessible?
  9. Any specific features you would like included? Log in ability, calendars, forums, blog, subscription services (RSS, email or newsletters)?

As with my logo questionnaire, I also like to leave my clients with a field or extra room at the end where they can provide additional details and comments.

Also next to each question that may not be so obvious what you are asking them I like to provided additional explanation, examples or notes. For example, when asking them if the need their site to be built on a CMS, I ask if they will be frequently updating (daily or weekly) or only updating once every 6 months or so. Speaking in terms that clients understand will also help to build trust — nothing is worse then spending your money on something you have no idea what you are getting. In short, save the nerd talk.

It’s always important to remember that being a graphic designer means you are a problem solver. You cannot solve a problem without knowing what the problem is – ask questions.



Discussion and Comments

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  1. Kirsti Scott says:

    Great list of questions when starting a new website project!

    I just disagree slightly on how much design input you should take from your client upfront.

    It’s best to stay away from questions that are based too much on the client’s personal preferences and not necessarily related to how customers will respond to a site.

    For example, questions about what the client likes about their current site, things that are important about the design of the new site, and existing websites that appeal to the client might be better answered by you, the designer, after learning about the client’s market. The designer should learn more about what the client’s customers like, want, and need.

    Remember that the designer has been hired for his or her expertise, which is far more important to the client’s business in the long run than his or her personal biases and preferences.

    Anyway, thanks for the nice resource!

  2. Brian says:

    Kirsti,

    I disagree actually. No one knows their business and their market like the client does. You’d be surprised by asking the client “Why do you want a website?” how many can’t answer. If they do answer, figuring out what is most important to the client, such as buying a certain product, or highlight important information is information you will receive from the client. Designing is not about what only looks good… it’s visual problem solving and without knowing the problem, the designer cannot help to get to the best solution.

  3. Laran Evans says:

    This is a great list of questions for “professional”, e-commerce or marketing-oriented sites.

    What questions would you ask for a web application that emphasizes function as strongly as it does form? I’m coming from a more technical angle. So, when designing and building a site that is more for internal use within a company as opposed to a site that’s more between a company and its customers, what additional questions would you ask then?

    Thanks.

  4. cmmitw says:

    Awesom, thank you!

  5. [...] thedesigncubicle.com: Questions to ask clients before designing their website [...]

  6. Phil says:

    Excellent set of questions, always worth going in prepared, nothing worse than sitting in front of a client and the mind going blank.

    I send it to some of mine and ask them to have a read through first, at least gets them thinking even if they don’t know what they want at the time.

  7. Mandy says:

    Great post!
    Regardless if the client wants to update the site every day or every 6 months, I think it is best to build it on a CMS. It’s easier to update and even the client could update if for any reason you don’t want to revisit that particular project.

  8. Ice Cube says:

    This article gives the light in which we can observe the reality.
    This is very nice one and gives in depth information.
    Thanks for this nice article Good post…..Valuable information for all.
    I will recommend my friends to read this for sure.

  9. Great list of questions i agree. But i believe we should not ask the client the design related questions because the client sometimes have already a design in his mind and this design wont fit in the type of project and we will end up something not nice. Design something for him then ask him what he likes and what he dont and do we need to change the color scheme etc at the time of first demo of the layout.

  10. rani says:

    Great list of questions to create a proposal and website both.

    Thank u

  11. Janet says:

    a very good resource for anyone starting a web design business! Cheers

  12. heirla says:

    hi…mr brian….thank you for this information…it helps me a lot in my project in designing a website for my client

  13. Janice says:

    This is exactly the type of guide I need to start my new website. I’m in the process of researching and I’m very lucky to find your site. Definitely two thumbs up for you, Brian. Looking forward for more informative input in the near future.

  14. good stuff, thanks for the post

  15. Danica says:

    What I usually ask them is what they want and how they would want it to be. In that way, clients would think that they are the one who made the web site, its their own concept and personality, which boost their confidence in me.

  16. Ron Welch says:

    I am a student and just learning about web design. There is much more involved in designing a site other than just knowing code. Great list,I can learn from it.
    Thanks…

  17. Getting to know the customer is one of the MOST important things in designing a website. Asking questions and understanding the answers and reading between the lines will help you do that. The second is keeping the client informed (Not On Everything) on areas of cosmetics and internet do and don’ts. I think these keys are important for Business to Customer relations, they think you know what they are picturing. The questions here help you get to the comfortability. Thank you Brian

  18. Hi Brian,

    Thanks for this post. Best of luck. :)

  19. Jacqueline says:

    coming from a clients perspective – I’ve just engaged a web designer to redo our organization web site for a relaunch.I have been stressing for weeks about what information I would need to provide, to what extent I would be involved.

    I am sure I am not the only one experiencing this. My advice to all you web designers and wanna be web deigners, is have alist of questions that you can give us right from the start. Tag them as things to think about so that you can give us what we want. Sad thing some of us don’t know exactly what we want and we get confused when we try to decided what we want the web site for.

    Why do you want a web site ?
    Is there any message that you do NOT want your web site to give.

    I think the second question is the one that bothers me the most. I may not know exactly what I want but I know 1000% what I do not want.

    hope this helps you guys help us :)

  20. Brian says:

    Hi Jacqueline,
    Great hearing a clients take on this – thank you. As I’m sure you are not the only client experiencing this, I’m sure not all web designers fall short in communication either. As to answer and further elaborate on ‘Why do you want a website?”, I personally find that many clients do not know why the need a website other than the fact that everyone has one. So for example, clients can answer in more depth: “What is the product or service intended to provide or promote?”, “What issues are you trying to solve with a website?”, “What is the most important action visitors should respond to?” There is no doubt that in this current day and age, websites and companies with successful websites are making the most money. With that said, every company has a website, but just having a “website” is no longer enough. You need to know “why” you need a website, and if you don’t know why, it might be best to invest in a designer that provides more thorough research beyond “design.” Hope this helps to better undersand.

  21. panky says:

    Good list to begin with :) Thanks buddy

  22. Jason C. says:

    Great list man! It’s essential to get the client thinking in this regard in the very beginning while putting the concept in development. I think sometimes clients would like to move faster than is healthy for their site and their business. Just like in video production, the more work that is done planning on the front end, the less likely there will be major bumps in the road in the future. My advice is to work heavily on the pre-planning, of which this list is fantastic by the way, really similar to what I use, allow your clients several opportunities for approvals of the plan and the design (slow them down). That way they have put their golden finger on the project and feel a sense of ownership. I think lots of times web pros want to keep the client out of it and by doing so create an us/them mentality which does not help.

  23. Zahra says:

    thanks Brian for your post ,its really helpful and useful,Good Luck.

  24. Olga Revilla says:

    I would like to share my own kick-off script. I use it for small business websites, but it can be inspiring for bigger projects.

    Cheers

    http://olga.itakora.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Itakora-kick-off-script.pdf

  25. This is a great list! thanks very much!

  26. Lyle says:

    Fantastic compilation of viable questions to ask. As a web designer myself, I will definitely be adding some of these to my list. Thanks for sharing!

  27. Great list of questions i agree. But i believe we should not ask the client about the design in mind with the related questions, show concepts first, saves time, then tweak the layout.

  28. Great list Brian, et al. My problem is not the questions so much as getting them answered. I do auto repair website design and getting clients to provide more than their business name and address is like pulling teeth! I have tried collecting info in a variety of ways but haven’t found anything to make it easier for them and especially for me. If anyone has any tips on “extracting” info I’d greatly appreciate it!

Brian Hoff
About Brian Hoff: Designer, Writer and Speaker

I’m a graphic designer living in Brooklyn, New York who loves creating compelling and useful websites and memorable interactions across the web. When I’m not designing I can be found writing, speaking and occasionally part-time teaching at colleges — all on the subject of design. I started this blog to share my passion and experiences with designers and clients. I'm most active on Twitter; say hello:


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