One of the most helpful tools I’ve found in discovering a customer’s design preferences and managing expectations is a good questionnaire. Preferably these questions get asked in person with a browser open between you so you can navigate to sites that are complimentary with or competitors of your new client. However, there’s no reason it can’t happen with an online form.
The key is asking the right questions. And I still think I’m on the journey to the perfect questionnaire! So, calling all web designers or anyone who has had their website (re)designed recently: let’s construct the perfect design questionnaire! Here what I work with at the moment to gather information …
14 Prompts I Give the Customer
1) Tell us about your organization Include the full name, correct spelling, possible abbreviations, the common name to be used throughout the site, etc.
No rocket science here, but you need this info!
2) Does your organization have a formulated mission or vision statement? If you have a slogan or tag-line, please include it here also.
3) What makes you who you are? List the main points of your marketing message, your strengths, your value proposition, and anything else you’d like your audience to know about you.
Notice I haven’t asked them anything about the website yet. Just trying to get them to talk about their organization, their brand. In a subtle way, I hope this sets an expectation for them that the website is not separate from the company’s overall vision.
4) Describe your ideal customer? Include things like age, sex, social status, income etc. — we want to know all about your target audience.
5) What are your goals for your website?
I wonder if a better way of asking this would be something like, “List 3 goals for your website”? This would keep it from being so open-ended … What do you think?
6) How will your target audience use the site? In other words, what are the key reasons a visitor might have for coming to the site?
I want to know as much as possible about their perception of their ideal site visitor.
7) Help us understand the “look and feel” you have in mind.
Here, I give the following options and ask them to choose which ones fit:Conservative corporate look Bright and vibrant color solutions Photo-driven design, using color photos that represent your organization Positive, optimistic feel creating a happy mood Minimalist, functionality-driven design Calm, strict design with black and white photos
8) List 5 websites that you like. These can be competitors or complimentary businesses or just websites you find appealing. Be sure to include an explanation of why you like them.
To me, this is the most important questions I ask. I’m tempted to ask for even more examples — 7 or 8? Especially if you’re able to talk personally with the client, this surfing around to various websites helps gauge their design preferences.
9) What colors would you like to see incorporated into the site design?
If they give good feedback on number 8, this question can be redundant, or less important. But it’s always good to know if they’re dead-set on using lime green somewhere on the site!
10) If you are doing a re-design, what elements from your current site do you wish to keep?
Good to know if there are any “sacred cows” from the previous design.
11) If you are doing a re-design, what elements from your current site do you wish to keep?
12) Do you have a logo? Can you provide us with the original design files? Sometimes these are called “layered files,” or “vector files.” Common file extensions are “.eps” or “.ai”
One of the biggest hang-ups I’ve encountered working with small businesses is that they don’t have the original files from their logo design. I’ve actually had someone send me a a photograph they took of their business card and asked if we could use that! Having a layered version of the logo is helpful, not only for the quality of the image, but also it might enable you to use elements of their logo in creative ways in the design. This all depends on whether their logo design is amenable to this and if their corporate branding guidelines will allow it.
13) Who are the decision makers on this project?
If #8 was the most important question, this might just be second! You’ve got to know who’s calling the shots. If it’s a committee, brace yourself! But, if you’re dealing with a company representative who won’t be making the final call on design, you owe it to yourself (and them) to get this straight from the start.
14) Will other staff will be involved in the design process? If so, what are their roles? Is there a webmaster on your staff?
This is another way of discovering the answer to #13. The designer or design team needs to understand the working relationships up front. And you need to know if “that IT guy” works there — you know, the IT guy who thinks he’s a web designer because he’s updated the company’s website for the last 18 months! If you haven’t met him, you will!
So, what have I left out. I’m always looking to clarify the process and make it better, so I’d love your input. What questions should you ask at the outset of the design process? Or, if you’ve been through a website design, what questions do you wish you’d been asked?