Building a new website always feels very urgent.
Many business owners seek out a web designer because something in their business is not quite right. They figure a new or remodeled website may help them invigorate their sales or save them long-term expenditure.
This sense of urgency compels businesses to jump as quickly as possible to select a website design provider, and get their new site rolling.
But at the beginning of any new web project, I like to ask questions before getting to the design and development of your website.
It’s important for me to fully understand what conditions are leading you to seek a web designer. It’s crucial that I understand what results you want to have happen once the project launches.
I ask questions because I try to assume nothing. I want to discover what the facts are before prescribing a course of action.
If I dive into a project without digging for details, I might miss something that could influence the rest of the project. Those details are things I don’t want to overlook.
Questions I Ask New Prospects
Asking questions is vital to successful projects. Before I ever quote a project or start designing or developing, it’s important for me to know as much as possible about your business and why you are looking to build or redesign your website.
Interviewing and planning aren’t the ‘cool’ parts of web projects, just the most necessary ones.
If you’ve reached out to me to start a project inquiry, here are some questions you should be prepared to answer.
Who uses the site, and what do they use it for?
This question is multifaceted. Customers use your site, but what do they expect to find there? What do they want to do on your website?
Who are your customers? Do they have certain demographics? What are their motivations?
If you do not know the answers to these questions, then we know this is something we need to find out about and measure going forward.
But this question also applies to your staff.
Who on your staff uses the website? What do they use it for in their daily work? What information do they gather and how do they apply it?
Knowing the answers to these questions gives us additional insight. We can look for ways to save time and improve efficiency for your staff, so your website is being used effectively.
What are your challenges with the current website?
This questions leads from the previous one. Finding out about the different people that use your website, and what they use it for helps us find opportunities for improvement.
If the current version of your website is falling short in certain areas, we can address those issues and improve them.
If your current site is not using analytic tools, it may be difficult to assess how customers are using your site. Conducting interviews with customers or user testing are ways to find out more about user behavior.
How is your internal team using the website? If they are not using it, why not?
I always learn something from this questions.
I like to hear how your team is using your current site, and what tasks they find difficult. My goal is to remove those obstacles for you.
What do you like about the current workflow on your site and what do you dislike?
A website is not a good marketing tool if your internal team has a hard time making changes or publishing new material. Many websites are not updated with fresh material because it is difficult for internal staff to use the site.
One reason I recommend WordPress as a marketing and publishing platform is it’s ease of use compared to other content management systems. Publishing a new page should be easy, not cumbersome.
Businesses should be empowered by their website, not burdened by it. To eliminate confusion, I always offer training for your staff before I hand you the keys to your website. This helps ensure you can get the most out of your website.
What do you want customers to do when they come to your website?
This gets to the heart of the matter. What does your website contribute to your customers and your business?
Your website usually exists to add to your bottom line in some way. Either customers purchase something directly from the site, or they find information to help them make a purchase later. Perhaps your site exists to generate leads, or move potential customers one step closer to becoming paying customers.
Your website has one overarching mission — one reason for existing and supporting your business. But each and every page on your site also has one, clear-cut goal.
Breaking down the overall goal into micro-goals, where each page plays one distinct role, will make your website more efficient.
How do you want people to feel when they come to your website?
This is more about the personality and unique voice that you want your business (and website) to have.
Voice and tone are a large part of the content of your site.
Words can influence us, and make us feel a certain way. I try to help businesses align the voice they want to have with the content being put on their website.
Often, content is the last thing that goes into designing and launching a website and I feel this is a bit backwards.
Articulating how you want people to view your brand and feel about your business helps us filter and refine what messages we’re putting on your website.
What is your budget for this project?
It’s weird that in American culture, it’s taboo to talk about money.
Your project budget may be something that you don’t want to disclose too early, but it’s going to be something I ask you about in our first conversation, just to get it out of the way.
There’s a practical reason for this. I don’t want to propose solutions that exceed your current budget. I want to make sure both of our expectations are grounded in reality, and we can communicate honestly.
If your budget is too small to do the project you want to do, that’s something we both need to get on the table as soon as possible. Otherwise, we end up making plans that we both need to change, and that’s not productive for anyone.
There is a solution we can use if your budget and what you need doesn’t match up.
Though the total project will take longer, we can reduce the scope of your project to fit your available budget. The remaining work can be planned in subsequent phases. We simply plan the work in segments, working our way through phases as we can. Eventually, your project is completed, and the quality (and results) don’t suffer.
I understand it is tough to talk about money, but it is something we need to do early in the process.
Who on your team will be involved in making sure this project is a success?
For small business website redesigns, it is often the owner who is directly involved in the process. Mid-sized businesses may empower a Marketing Director to make decisions. Large companies may have a Digital Manager who works with outside consultants.
In each case, the web project goes smoothly when a single person from the hiring business has the power to make final decisions.
This person is the liaison — the project owner — and is empowered to supply necessary resources for the project.
Projects are successful when this project owner and I have a clear stream of communication before, during and after the project.
Website projects can become derailed when decisions are made by a committee, or the true owner of the project is not identified until the project is underway.
Questions Are A Good Thing
Sometimes, potential clients want to jump right to building a website, but without proper planning, our effort goes in the wrong direction. Both you and I want to see your business succeed. Because the health of your business matters to me, I spend more time than some in the initial question-asking phase. This is something I will never apologize for.