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?