With every new web design project I get excited. After years of doing this, you’d think I’d be over the thrill of creating something new. But I’m not and I try to transfer this excitement over to the client in an effort to get them geared up for the project ahead. The cheerleader in me is there for a reason – the majority of our clients underestimate the workload involved in preparing for and executing a web design project.
Companies struggle with website projects because they incorrectly assume they are going through a simple refresh. But they’re not. In getting to their current situation they have most certainly stewed over the state of their existing website and they know they have significant issues and they need a major overhaul. Otherwise they would not go to the time and expense of building a new one.
This impending overhaul presents lots and lots of questions from their web development company. Good designers (or web design firms) will ask a bazillion questions and they will try and learn as much as possible about the current state and desired future state. While we may drive some business owners crazy with all of our questions, we do so with their best interest in mind. The more we know, the more we understand the design requirements. This leads to a better design and a happier client in the end.
Preparing for a Successful Web Design Project
So what questions should a business owner expect? And what information should the project team consider assembling in preparation for the web design project? The massiveness of the list may surprise you. Below are some of the questions I ask in my new client questionnaire or verbally discuss during the discovery process.
- What types of marketing are you currently involved in or practice on a regular basis?
- Do you have a tag line?
- What is your elevator pitch?
- Do you have a mission statement?
- What differentiates your company from your competitors?
Marketing Goals and Objectives
- When it comes to marketing (in general), what are your biggest challenges?
- When it comes to obtaining qualified leads, what are your biggest challenges?
- When it comes to closing leads, what are your biggest challenges?
- Are there any short-term or long-term corporate goals that need to be considered in the website redesign?
Product and Service Overview
- How would you briefly define your product or service offering?
- Do certain products and/or services speak to different type of clients?
- What differentiates your product or service from your competition?
- What is the target demographic of your website visitors? Are there specific sectors, industry segments, company sizes, geography that needs to be focused on more than others?
- How would you describe the various types of people that visit your website during the sales cycle? Can they be classified into clear “personas” with varying degrees of needs and selection criteria?
- Do your potential clients have a typical or standard list of needs or problems that they discuss with you during the sales process?
- At the end of a project or sale or even website visit, how do you qualify it as a success?
- At the end of a project or sale or even website visit, how does your client qualify it as a success?
- List a few competitors that you’d consider benchmark companies?
- What about these companies makes then stand apart from others?
- What elements of these companies and/or their online activity would you like to model after in your redesign?
- Based on what you know right now, what keywords or phrases would “you” use to search for your products and/or service offering?
- What search terms are your competitors targeting?
- Of the words you just listed, which ones would you like to target with the new website?
- Do you have existing content that can support these keywords or phrases?
- Does your existing website and content rank for these phrases?
Website Current State
- What does your website currently do well?
- What does your website currently do poorly?
- Are there any aspects of your website that you love?
- Are there any aspects of your website that you hate?
- Is there anything on the current website that needs to be removed entirely?
- Is there anything on the current website that must absolutely stay?
Website Future State
- What is the most important factor of your new website?
- What functional requirements are needed within the new website?
- What visual elements are needed within the new website?
- Are there any color preferences for the new website?
- What social media elements would you like integrated?
- Do you have a proposed sitemap prepared?
- Do you need a subscription option or other offer?
- Will you be blogging?
- Will you require responsive design (adapts automatically to mobile devices)?
- Is there anything that you would like to have included in the new website that you lack currently?
- What websites (in general) make you happy?
- When looking at these websites, what particularly makes you happy on each one?
- Do you have multiple locations?
- Where are they located?
- Do you offer different products or services per location?
- Do you need assistance with search engine optimization?
- Do you have someone who can review desired keywords and match the keywords to your existing or future content?
- Do you have someone who can review content for SEO best practices?
- Do you have someone who can create unique meta titles and descriptions per page or blog post?
- Are you familiar with popular SEO plugins and their configurations?
- Do you have a Google Analytics account?
- Do you have a Google Webmaster Tools or Bing Webmaster Tools account?
- Who is your current website host?
- Can they support WordPress (not all hosts are great at database driven websites)?
- If switching hosting companies, do you know where your DNS is controlled?
- What is proposed date for kicking off your web design project?
- What is you desired date for go-live?
- What is your project budget?
Content to Assemble for Go-Live
- High resolution logo
- Content pages
- Blog posts
- Literature or brochures
- Sales presentations
- Case studies
- Press releases
- Videos or podcasts
- Other marketing collateral
Surprised By All the “Stuff”?
You’re not alone. Most clients are too. They are caught off guard and they realize their compressed project timeline may take a bit longer than they expected. But in the end, that’s okay because the short delay will deliver a much better product.
Understanding what is wrong with the current website and knowing what is needed in the future website is critical to launching a successful website. It helps clearly define the needs of the organization and the website’s visitors, which in turn allows the designer to create the optimal design.
Putting a week of introspection and articulation onto the start of the project has a huge impact on the success of the entire project. It is painful, but it becomes a powerful tool is preparing for a solid web design project and creating your dream website.