How To Create The Perfect Client Questionnaire
Discovering what your clients really want is one of the most fundamental steps in creating a good working relationship. If you can figure out exactly what your clients want for their website up front, it will save both of you time and frustration later. Creating a client questionnaire isn't complicated, though it can be a bit time-consuming if you don't know where to start. You have to think about who your clients are and what information you need from them, and then go from there. Below is a complete guide to creating a custom questionnaire for your design business. And be sure to check out 45 Incredibly Useful Web Design Checklists and Questionnaires for some examples.
Why You Need A QuestionnaireA client questionnaire serves two purposes. The first is to figure out what the new website should achieve. The second is to figure out what the client wants the website to look like. Both of these things are very important to find out up front. By figuring out what your client wants and needs, you can avoid delivering something to them that doesn't fit the direction in which they want to take their website. Without a good client questionnaire, you could end up having to repeatedly go back to your client throughout the project to get more information or clarification on what they really want. You could also waste a lot time designing and coding things that aren't quite what the client is looking for. A good questionnaire removes a lot of the guesswork in designing and makes it a better experience for both parties.
Formulating Your QuestionsYour questions should get to the root of your client's needs. They should also help you assess your client's likes and dislikes.
Photo by Image HunterTake the time to customize your questionnaire with the information that you most often need from clients. The types of websites you usually design, the industries you work with most and the level of technical knowledge your clients tend to have can all determine the kinds of questions you will include and how they are phrased. See the "Further Resources" at the end of this post for lists of sample questions that you could use to create your own questionnaire.
Background and General QuestionsBefore you dive into the questions that will suss out how your client wants their website to look and what they want it to do, you need to get an idea of what the client is all about and why they're looking for a new website. This section of your questionnaire can be very revealing, especially if they're unhappy with their current website.
Photo by Leeloo ThefirstYou'll also want to get some general information in this section. Ask about the budget for the project, who you'll be working with directly, who the decision-makers are and what staff are going to be involved in the design process and what their roles will be. Find out who their target visitor is, who their customers are, how they're currently interacting with those customers online and how they'd like to improve that interaction. And make sure to find out whether they already have a domain name and hosting package that they're happy with. Here are some sample questions to gather background and general information: Why are you looking for a new website design or redesign? What do you like most about your current website? What do you dislike most about your current website? Do you already have a domain name and hosting plan?
Function-Focused QuestionsFiguring out what exactly your client wants their website to do is key to making sure you give them what they want. You need to ask them questions that strike to the heart of exactly what they want from their website. Sounds easy enough, right? Except in many cases, clients don't really know what they want their website to do. Your questionnaire can actually help them clarify their needs and wants. Some example questions for figuring out how the website should function: Do you want to sell products on your website? Do you want a contact form or any other forms on your website? Do you need an image gallery, video or other multimedia content? Do you want a blog or other regularly updated content?
Design-Focused QuestionsFinally, you'll want some information about the aesthetics of your client. Now, in an ideal world, your client will have perused your portfolio and seen the kinds of websites you design and will have decided to work with you because they like your aesthetic. But that's not always the case. Figuring out their design preferences up front helps you avoid designing something they will hate later on.
Photo by Karolina GrabowskaYou have a few different ways to learn their tastes. Ask your client what colors they'd like to use. They may have a set color scheme or have colors associated with their brand. Or they may be open to your input. The same could be done for qualities that they want their website to be associated with (e.g. "bold," "soft," "professional," "informal," etc.). One of the best ways to get a sense of your client's design preferences is to ask them to provide you with examples of a few websites that have designs they like and a few websites whose designs they don't like. Also ask them what they like or dislike about each of these designs, because this sheds light on their overall tastes. Another, sometimes more telling, method of doing this is to show them five to ten websites and ask them what they like and dislike about each. This is often more effective, because you can choose websites that have a wide range of styles and get a fuller picture of what they like and don't like. Here are some sample questions to figure out the client's design tastes: Do you have a color scheme you'd like to use? What words would you like people to associate with your website? Do you have a specific style of design in mind?
Planning for the FutureMake sure to ask clients about their future needs, too. If you know they might want an e-commerce solution six months down the road, make provisions for that in the initial website design. The goal is to build a long-term relationship with the client, so the more involved you are in their goals and plans, the easier your job will be now and in the future.
Photo by Ann HYou'll also want to ask clients about regular updates and maintenance for the website. And you'll want an idea of how much updating and maintaining they will want to handle in-house and how much they might want you to do. Some sample questions: How often do you want or will you need to make updates to your website? Do you have someone in your company who will be responsible for ongoing website updates? Does that person have any experience with website maintenance? What features do you anticipate adding to your website in the future?
Excellent post. It is critical not to let the client dictate the conversation. They often seem to want more than they really need. SEO is arguably the most important question – after all what is the use of designing a website, if google cannot index it.
“after all what is the use of designing a website, if google cannot index it.”
most of the work I come across places little importance on SEO and SERP exposure. IME, create a usable interface that serves their business goals. if you’re designing something specifically for google and the other spiders thats one thing, but this is rarely the case unless it’s a blog or content network.
I think the key part to this article is the explanation of, “What Not to Ask”. As a professional, you should be able to ask the correct questions to obtain the information you need to know to do an effective job and quote based on the work you need to do to complete the goals/objectives of the client – that is why they are employing a professional in the first place.
Regarding Edwin’s post, any experienced web designer can complete rudimentary SEO and fundamental architecture to allow for indexing, but it is the advice, research and implementation of an SEO professional/agency to really provide excellent strategy and rankings.
Thanks a lot for this article.
These are very useful managing clients as there a are sometimes when the client says something and what we understand is entirely a different version.
Thanks for the post. A very useful post indeed.
There are times when similar questionnaire can reduce a lot of time and confusion.
A good overview of an important subject, that holds sway for all sorts of service industries. I especially like that you’ve tackled what not to ask clients.
As with all forms, questionnaires and surveys, the danger is in making the process enough of a chore that the person answering begins to complete the answers for completeness sake rather than for sharing information. Questionnaires are always a balancing act between asking too little and asking too much, but an essential balancing act regardless.
Thanks for the insights,
I definitely appreciated this — I’m developing my own client questionnaire right now, and any lack of direction I had has been cleared up. Thanks!
I feel that we need to ask to the client if they need an e commerce solution in the questionnaire.
Thanks for including my Simple & Effective Web Design Client Questionnaire in your resources! I hope others find it helpful. I’d appreciate knowing if you use it!
In looking at your guide, I think I will modify a few of my questions. Thanks again!
Great post, I will definitely be using this to help in creating our questionnaire. Keep up the good work
Some useful stuff.
Now I know what they’re going to ask me.
Nice tips, but I mostly don’t send clients a questionnaire.
I just call them, IM them or have an email conversation about the project and note what they mention.
Thereafter I ask how they see the website, what they want it to do and if they have similar examples.
That gets me started most of the time.
1 thing is for sure: communication is important!
When do you usually send your clients the questionnaire? Right after the initial consultation or once you get an idea of their budget?
All these things we use to have in Industrial Engineering….
@Dhane – I generally send my client the questionnaire before I speak with them. I do this so that in my first initial meeting a can elaborate or clarify their answers.
I think that questions relating to the integration of Social Media should be incorporated in the questionnaire as well. More and more my clients are asking for direct connections to their Facebook pages and twitter widgets to display either there own tweets or aggregated tweets relating to their industry or web content.
Additionally, most of my project are RE designs of existing sites however, the majority of the questions remain the same as if it were a completely new site.
I generally like to alert the client that some of these questions may seem obvious but politely ask them to answer them anyway. I had one client decline my services because they assumed I didn’t “get” their business because I asked seemingly obvious questions. While they may SEEM obvious, the clients response can give a great deal of insight into their mindset.
Great post, well written I must say.
Excellent info on how to design a questionnaire for mpf.hk
A very nice article. Presenting your clients with a set of questionnaire to know them is of out-most importance. It tells in the first place what kind of relationship you are going to share with the client. But tweaking around questions for every client is not practical in my opinion, especially when you get a lot of inquires. Having a fixed set of questions save time.
I would add, that to anyone who is either new to surveys or can’t decide upon the questions, online survey software helps.
Most of them have pre built templates, which include the questions. I use Smart Survey myself and they have some really useful templates. It’s helped me more than once!
i have to make a panel, for third party.
how to arrange the data from panel for the survey of client?
I think the easiest tool I have ever used is http://www.surveymoz.com
They provide a lot of survey templates, including customer related templates, to help you design the prefect client questionnaire.
Thanks for sharing this valuable information, Cameron! This should definitely help me when I create my next survey on SoGoSurvey.
What application for creating web forms do you recommend? I need some surveys but most of my forms are forms with many data and many conditions. I tested some popular apps but they seemed too simple and insufficient for me. Do you know any tool for professionalists?