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. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by iBlend: RT @TDCBrand: Questions to ask clients before designing their website http://bit.ly/7MBPcT...

  2. Tyler says:

    Thanks for this post. It is greatly appreciated you share this. I look at this and feel I am unprepared a lot of times.

  3. Preston Lee says:

    This is a great article, Brian! I think it is important to explain to clients that designing a web site is not like designing a magazine advertisement. A lot of clients think they can design a web page just because they know what looks good. The truth is, it all comes down to user experience on the internet.

    Key to web design: Converting visits into further actions.

    Your readers might also enjoy
    “8 ways web design is changing the graphic design industry” to understand this a little better.

    Keep up the great work.

  4. Thank you for sharing this. Like Tyler said, I also feel the same way sometimes and this should really help me with my next client.

  5. John V. says:

    Another important question:
    Do you expect your site to be work with Internet Explorer below 7?
    It seems 10% of the world still uses IE6 and it is really hard to produce CSS that works well in it. Bad luck if the client himself is using the cursed browser!

  6. I use a similar questionnaire with my clients, but i might add some of these questions.

    It is always good to have them at hand for any kind of project, even when it is not web design.

    Thanks for sharing :D

  7. Matt Propst says:

    Great post Brian. In addition to your list I also like to ask the clients as much as possible about their budget. Having been burnt on an large number of client changes, I now let clients know ahead of time that they are allowed X number of client changes. If they exceed that number of change requests, they will be changed a predetermined per hour rate.

    The more info you can get out of a client up front, the better chance you have at creating a solution for them.

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  9. Great set of Questions, it really does help to have something like this as a guide when starting any project. 2 important questions I find very useful are:

    - What is the overall objective of the site?

    - Who is the target market the site needs to aim at?

  10. paul says:

    Nice set of questions, I’ll probably use some of them for my next project.
    One little thing: on questio n8, the scale should go all the way up to eleven :D

  11. Ward says:

    Thanks for this article. Excellent! :)

  12. Gareth Poole says:

    Great post, thanks a lot.

  13. Thank you, very well organized. I will use some of your questions for my next client.
    The only drawback comes if they are unsure about the answer or if they tell you “we’ll discuss this point during the workflow” (as it happened to me).

  14. Rob Cubbon says:

    That’s a great set of questions and if you had all the answers you’d really have the perfect client. Some are great at giving you all the information you need; some aren’t so good – I’m designing a site with no content, no images and no logo at the moment and the brief is threadbare! But it’s good to start with a predetermined set of questions for a client even if sometimes you don’t get the answers. Thank you.

  15. Alan says:

    This is a great wee article, most of which i already do, but you have managed to cover everything which is excellent for people who are starting out like myself.

    Another good suggestion for people is to copy it out and maybe sent it over to clients to fill in before you speak to them about the project so that they are prepared too, as i find alot of clients haven’t even bothered to think about their site before you speak to them.

  16. An additional question I’d ask is does the client have any aspirations or wish lists for the site? Is there something they’d really like to see and perhaps aren’t quite sure how to articulate that to you? I’m not sure about question 10 as they would imply the same site will be in place in 5yrs time surely they should be reviewing it annually and perhaps looking a complete redesign (and possible redevelopment for new features) at least every 2 yrs?

  17. Thanks for this post, Brian. Many of the items you have listed I am going through with clients already, but it may be helpful to have a structured list like you posted it here.

    I find it most difficult to get clients to understand how important it is to think about the scale of the project upfront. Often I hear: “Can’t you design a concept or a first draft and then we’ll take it from there?” But at the same time, they want a fixed price for the entire project without thinking about what “entire” means.

    I will have a look at your ‘logo questionnaire’ as well, I think it will be equally helpful.

    Cheers.

  18. [...] Questions to ask clients before designing their website – Link. [...]

  19. Chris Hill says:

    I appreciate the idea of a list of questions and I agree with the information you’re trying to extract from the client, but I’d be very wary or presenting someone with a questionnaire rather than talking to them and working these questions in to the conversation. Suppose it depends how personal you like to be.

  20. Ryan Beale says:

    Nice Post, Brian. Many excellent questions here.

    IMHO, a critical question that I would add to the list is, “What is the goal of your website?” There are a few obvious reactions to this question, but you will be surprised at the reactions you get.

    RB

  21. kris de jong says:

    Wow nice, this wel help out definitely :)

  22. Brian says:

    Matt,
    I agree, but you need to be careful to not be overly pushy when discussing budget. I always include the number of revisions and other aspects in the proposal/contract they sign prior to the start. The questionnaire is information I gather the second they get in touch with me. This way I am able to advice, price and discuss further details based on the information they fill out.

    Federica.
    Sure, some of the questions might be a bit confusing or unanswerable at first, but further explaining to them via phone conversation or email typically helps to sort any uncertainty out.

    Alan,
    Agreed. These types of questions are typically filled out my potential clients around the same time they send me an email or phone call saying they need a new website. Not only does it help to gather essential information, but I’ve found it helps to weed out those looking for a $200 dollar website. Personally, if clients are unwilling to fill out this information they they are not willing to invest the time and energy to make their website a success — not someone I would want to do business with.

    Darren,
    I always leave a section in my questionnaire for ‘Provide additional details here.’ This way they can jot down anything else they have in mind or would like to see implemented.

    Chris,
    I always speak to my clients over the phone or in person when I can. This questionnaire is more like a preliminary fill out to get good information to see if i, the designer, would like to proceed with the work and client. After I gather the right information then I typically proceed with a phone call to discuss things further.

  23. twirlybird says:

    great post! i have a “discovery” document and many things i try to have clients think about are similar. it’s usually a slight struggle to get the document done, but in the end, having this type of info really helps you understand your client and their goals…and that helps you be a better provider, no matter what you are providing. thanks for a great post again! ~ tb

  24. Great questions! Building a nicely designed, functional, and searchable website can be challenging, but done right it becomes a powerful storefront on the web. Many SEOs should ask themselves and their clients the same questions, too.

  25. Aravind says:

    It’s very useful……Thanks……

  26. [...] Shared Questions to ask clients before designing their website. [...]

  27. Nishant says:

    Cool article. Really useful. From now onwards I will ask my suitable Q from this list. Thank you again.

  28. All great questions to ask. I might add one that i often ask: “How do your users find your site? (RSS/social networking/advertisements/search engines/etc.)”

    Not only do these questions help you understand your client better, but they help your client realize how much work goes into a project and how much critical thinking and analysis you put into your work.

  29. [...] Questions to ask clients before designing their website (tags: freelance webdesign clients design questions business contracts) [...]

  30. Shini says:

    Thank you for listing this, I always find myself asking the few obvious questions and then regretting later not having asked a question that would’ve helped me save time with the design and coding. Great post.

  31. Edison A. Leon says:

    I just print it and post it near to my phone and i have pasted in my ipod touch. Thank you!

  32. [...] Questions to ask clients before designing their website (tags: webdesign checklist business) [...]

  33. Dave says:

    Thanks! This is really useful. You took days of research off me.
    It’s very kind of you to share inside info like this.

  34. adedip says:

    easy and totally useful!Thanks a lot! ;)

  35. GengTang says:

    very useful, i need it, is these all your experience?

  36. Fantastic! I’ve been working on my own questionnaire, so this couldn’t come at a better time.

  37. Additional question:

    Who is the final decision maker or final approval person?

    I’ve recently had a few projects with 2-3 people in charge, plus a board of directors & there’s way to many opinions, wants & needs thrown at me all at once.

    Great posts as always!

  38. [...] Questions to ask clients before designing their Website: The more you know upfront about your client and their project goals, the smoother the project will go. The Design Cubicle shares questions you should ask before starting a design project to help set the tone for a good designer/client relationship. [...]

  39. Hugh Gage says:

    I would also specifically ask:
    - What are the main business objectives of your site?
    - How do you currently measure them? (KPIs?)
    - Who are the main stakeholders with vested interests in the site?
    - Are you currently running a web analytics package on the site?
    - Do you have any available insight about visitor behavior and performance on the existing site from either the web analytics data or any other sources?
    - What are the performance targets for the new site?

    Owners of brochure-ware and full ecommerce sites that sell the same products will probably answer the first two and that last of these questions differently.

  40. Francesco says:

    imho, way too many questions. Would be good to know the size of the customer. If you are selling a website to a big company, you don’t need all these questions, because the half of them are competitors related questions (is the company failing???).
    If the customer is a small size company, the interviewed person would be kinda frustrated after the half of these questions.

    my 2cents.

  41. Jack Indigo says:

    Don’t you think asking all these questions up front will kind of annoy your client when you’re just getting started to know them? Won’t they find some of these questions irrelevant because they don’t understand the design field?

  42. Brian says:

    Jack,
    Not at all. If a client is unwilling to invest the 10-15 minutes it takes to go through these questions then they obviously aren’t interested enough in their website and therefore would most likely not want to do business with someone who does not value the work involved. Working closely with clients is an essential step in building a relationship and a successful website. This also helps to save time and headache when you start a website without these questions and dozens of changes are being made on the fly because you did not have the right information. The difference between being an artist and being a designer is that designers are problem solvers. You cannot solve problem without knowing what the problem is.

  43. Timothy says:

    I just give my clients sites which bright on dark flashing text. I don’t care what they say.

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  46. Sandra Aponte Salazar says:

    This was so timely! My team and I are starting to prepare our own questionnaire. Thanks.

  47. Thad says:

    Great article. I will use this list on my next client.

    Thank You

  48. It might be also helpful to find out how well a companies business competitors do SEO-wise (who they are linking to , do they use ppc, are they ranked high in search engines, etc)

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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