Best Questions to Ask Clients Before Starting A Web Design Project

You're starting a new web design project — what do you really need to know to get started? Here are the essential questions you must ask before starting a new web design project:


Can you describe for me, in a 5-10 word sentence,
how your company helps your customers?

This question is designed for two important reasons: first to understand what the client's company actually does and second to see if they can sum it up in a few key words. I like to ask this question first because it helps clarify the expectations of what the UX design and overall appearance of the website will be. I usually follow this question up with an example:

We make dinner so our clients don't have to.

This example sentence gets right to the point by presenting a problem the user might relate to then immediately provides the solution that your client's company can help with. The biggest hurdle I see when working on a new project is the client's vision of a suped-up, fully-loaded, here's-why-we-are-awesome website with the expectation that the user will instantly understand and fall in love with what they see:

Muscle Man impresses the ladies

But I see where the client is coming from — they just spent a ton of hours (and money) to create their amazing product/service and now they're ready to tell the world about it. Being an empathetic designer in sensative areas like telling your client's story is crucial for keeping a positive vibe throughout your journey together.

I find that showing the client some example websites or helpful articles about the best UX and copywriting practices, is the easiest way to make your point and reassure the client that this is part of the regular design process. InVision's Blog has a great article about UX design and I love how Enchanting Marketing teaches us how to explain benefits.


Who is your target audience?

By asking this question you are really just trying to get a sense of what direction you will need to take for the website. You're not looking for specific demographics just yet, that comes later, this question is really designed to see where the user fits within the distribution channel.

For example: I had a client come to me for a redesign and when I went to check out their website I was instantly confused — they were selling to both their retailers and direct consumers on the same page.
First Identify Target Audience by Consumer Type

It's because of this experience that I have learned the crucial importance of identifying what type of consumer the user will be first.

It's not enough to define just demographics because both "retailer" and "direct consumer" users can be defined as male between 18 - 25 years old.

I find that best practice is to quickly follow this question with some examples of consumer types such as wholesalers, dealers, retailers or direct consumers. Start here and I promise your project will skip a ton of headaches further on down the road!


How will content be updated?

This is an important question to bring up early on because it will also help narrow down the type of website the client is ultimately looking to build. They may be just looking for a quick portfolio website , or what I lovingly refer to as a glorified business card that just serves as a landing page for their clients to find quick information about them. There's nothing wrong with this approach on a website, and in fact, they are probably my most favorite to build because I can usually build everything from scratch and really get to stretch my creativity legs with!

But more often than not a client will want to use some sort of CMS platform like Wordpress or Drupal or Squarespace. These are all great CMS platforms to work with because content can easily be created and edited by the client themselves.

Hailey Erickson CMS Example by Wordpress


What features are you looking to add?

This is a great questions to ask because it will help you scope the work out in terms of time it will take to develop certain areas of the website. This is also a great question to use as a prioritizer since you will be able to see exactly what areas will take most of your time and budget.

Some super basic examples of features to add to a client's website are adding a form, creating an animated scroll or adding a search bar. Of course the sky is the limit when it comes to custom, from scratch web development which means you could even include some of these drool-worthy css animations as a custom feature to any client website:

Hailey Erickson Animation Example by Qing Li

Batman Animation, Space animation, or Biking animation.


Do you have a style guide or any existing visual collateral?

Knowing if you will be working within a client's style guide or creating them a brand new one is obviously an important step when creating a new website. If they do already have an existing style guide, great, it usually means the project can be completed pretty simply and fast because the expectations have already been set visually and you just have to put it all together. And if the client doesn't have any — then upsale and create it for them!

Hailey Erickson Style Guide Example


What websites do you admire and why?

This is a great follow-up question after question number 5 because if they don't already have any visual collateral then this question will help you gage what can of style/look/feel they are going for on their website.

Also, you'd be surprised how often a client will say they want something like this referring to a website the saw but really what they mean is that they want exactly the same thing. This is why this question is so important — because once you know the specific things they like about certain sites — you will have a perfect template to build off of. Asking this question as part of the beginning process of a web design project will save time and patience for everyone on the team 😉

For your reference, here's the quick list I always use when starting a new web design project

  1. Do you currently have a website? ⇢ If yes, where is it hosted? ⇢ Why are you looking to change your website?
  2. Would you like to setup email as well?
  3. Can you describe how your business benefits your users in a 5-10 word sentence?
  4. Who is your target market/audience?
  5. How will content be updated?
  6. What features are you looking to add?
  7. Do you have a style guide or any existing visual collateral? ⇢ Will you need one?
  8. What websites do you admire and why?

What questions do you ask before starting a new web design project? Let me know what you thought by sharing your thoughts on LinkedIn or Twitter!

more from the blog

About Hailey
5 Things You Didn't Know About Graphic Designers Before Computers