Like any piece of work, website design will only go well if you think in advance about what you want to get out of it. You need to make sure that you know what the client wants, and that they know too. That’s where a client survey comes in.
Making sure your clients know what they want
It’s important to make sure that you’re providing the clients with exactly what they’re after. For this to happen, they need to know what they want, and express it in terms that are useful for you. ‘I want it to be like brand X’s site’ isn’t useful unless you know what about brand X’s site they liked. Worse yet is having one part of a group of clients say they like brand X, while one their colleagues say they want it totally different from that brand.
This is where a client survey comes in. Create a form you can use with the relevant questions and, each time you take on a client, ask them to fill out the survey, or talk it through with them. If you’re designing for yourself, then this can instead provide a useful tool to clarify what you’re trying to achieve.
First up in a client survey, make sure to cover some practical points, like who your point of contact will be, and who makes the final decisions on content and design. This will force the client to deal with any internal conflicts over who’s making the decisions, and give you someone to go to if you receive conflicting messages. It also means that there’s someone who can sign off on your work and say it’s OK at the end of the project, or at any point when you’re looking to get paid.
Aims and objectives
Include questions in the survey about what the client wants from their site. Are they looking for a site that gets lots of hits? For one that feeds sales? For one that draws attention and gets other people linking to it?
If the website is meant to achieve various things, then you need to know which ones are a priority. You can’t shove everything on the front page, and you may not be able to spend equal amounts of time on every part of the site. So this will help you to put the right effort in the right place.
Ask about what action the clients want their site to drive. Do they want it to bring people into their shops, or to buy their product online? Do they want facebook likes? Do they want people motivated to go out and campaign on particular issues? This is getting into the finer detail of what the site will achieve, and again should be put in priority order.
All of this will do more than inform you about the work to be done. It will help the clients to refine their thinking, which may currently be vague or a source of conflict. You don’t want to have to re-do work later because different people had different ideas about what the site would do, and they only resolved it after you got started. So get them to face those issues now.
About the company
Include questions in your survey about how the company sees itself, and how it wants to be portrayed. Everyone loves to talk about themselves, so they’ll probably enjoy this bit. Ask them what their unique selling points are, the things that set them aside from others in the same field. Do they deliver quicker, faster, better? Is their product particularly nicely packaged? Do they do great deals? This will be useful stuff to use in drawing people to the website, and make the clients feel good about it.
Ask what sort of tone they want to set as well. Do they want their customers to see them as relaxed and friendly or smart and professional? Should the atmosphere of the site be calm or exciting?
Lastly, ask your clients about the other people the site relates to.
Part of this is the customers. What demographic are your clients trying to draw in? What do they know about their customers and the interests of those customers?
But ask about competitors as well. Looking at websites for other companies in the same field will give you ideas of what works and what doesn’t, and of assumptions about the site that are so basic to your clients that they didn’t think to tell you. It will also let you know what you are competing against, what you need to beat to make your clients’ website the best, and what the competition’s weaknesses are.
And if any websites of this type have won awards, have a look at them. They may give you great ideas and examples of best practice.