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Thread: What should be discussed with the client before creating a website for them?

  1. #1
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    I may want to start my own company making websites for individuals and businesses in the near future. I'm trying to familiarize myself with the steps to take when dealing with a client who wants a website, particularly the beginning conversation and series of questions. For example: let's say I own a company and a client calls up and says "Hi I need a website made for my business." What's next?

    So far I've got asking questions about their:

    -Budget
    -Deadline
    -What they want the purpose of their website to be
    -Target audience
    -If they need a store implemented in their site
    -If they have a logo
    -If they have any pictures / graphics to add
    -If they will provide the writing

    Are these all good questions? Please tell me what other questions I'm missing.

    My next question is after I've gotten the main information I need, what is the next step? Should I make multiple designs/themes and have them pick their favorite or should I just stick with one?

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  3. #2
    Unpaid WDF Intern TheGAME1264's Avatar
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    I'm in the minority on this, but I never ask what the budget is. Everyone always lowballs or says "I don't have much to spend."

    You're missing the obvious one...what industry is the business in? You can probably answer this yourself, but it's not often apparent.
    If they have an existing website...sometimes they do.

    I stick with one when I create designs. It's never "final", but at least that way it eliminates the "I like this, but I don't like this, but can you do #2 and #3 together?" and stupid stuff like that.

    You're going to have a tough time getting this one answered, though. It's not a bad question, but it's a bad group of people to ask it to. You have to consider that at least some people don't want to reveal trade secrets to what they perceive to be their competition.
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  4. #3
    Senior Member Webzarus's Avatar
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    I never ask budget .... Ever.... ( I am in a different boat than many though ), but even starting out, I wanted to make sure they ( the client ), understood the amount of effort that was needs to create or re-create a site...

    I could always tell, if they were "do it as cheaply as you can" client, because they will ask you over the phone or in email... "What do you charge for a 5 page site?", because sadly.... That's probably the baseline thy are shopping... Trying to compare you to the guy selling 5 page web sites for $99 on CL.

    I don't / won't / never have / never will, compete in that arena.

    That being said, the only thing I discuss in email or a phone conversation with a potential client is when and where we can and will meet.

    Sure, I have some long distance clients ( again, I'm not in the same boat as most ), but the process was the same... And since they were all recommended by current clients, they already know my capabilities, skills, abilities ... And that I don't come cheap.

    Once I do meet them face to face... I've done my research ... Forget if they have a web site... Walking into a first meeting with .... A list of all the sites that Already link to them or mention them... And if they've had other sites in the past and who did the work for them... The more you show them you know about them... The less time you have to spend convincing them, you are in your element and you are the to to guy for answers they didn't even knew they had.

    Knowing what works and what doesn't .... Is key in leading your clients down the right direction ... And being able to tactfully explain to them, that perhaps their idea of posies and unicorns might not be the best choice for their business.

    And NEVER..... Let me repeat NEVER... Make a negative comment about any previous attempts at a business web site they have... Seriously... You know how many "aspiring" web designers have been shown the door.... Anyway...

    Each client is different... And you'll lose some and wish you had lost some... But it takes time and energy to build your reputation... Skills... And your sales pitch ... There is no set list of questions to ask... What may apply to one client... Won't to another.

  5. #4
    Senior Member Webzarus's Avatar
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    I might also add...

    Don't ask "do you have a current web site?" ... Nothing screams amateur more than not being able to answer that question.... Buy yourself a good speaker phone... If you field calls from a home office... Of you can do more than 1 thing at a time... You can usually find answers to the obvious questions so you don't have to ask, you will impress them... And won't waste time...

    Some better questions ( if they have a site ), what about your current web site do you not like? Or is your current site meeting your business expectations ? If not, why do YOU think that is... The answers to those questions will tell you a LOT about a potential client.

    If they had site once but no longer have one... It might be a good chance to find out why they no longer have one or why they aren't using it ? Again, the answers to those questions will give you valuable insight into your potential clients business mind.

    I have always found that most time, the answer I get to a particular question will just lead to more questions.

    BTW... Probably the most LAME response to them would be "I want to know all about your business!!!" Or I want to understand your business.

    If I took the time learning all my clients businesses ... I wouldn't have time to do my job... You will in time, need to learn the right questions to ask... But for each client, it will be different. Some will try and tell you everything they suspect you want... Others... It's like pulling teeth, just to get the basic info... For the more difficult or the ones that really don't know what to say, I provide them a survey... For them to fill out... Or have someone else fill out sections ( you'd be amazed that sometimes the person you're dealing with, really can't answer your questions )... They are usually just the one selected to do the job... Most times with my larger client, the people I actually deal with are just project managers.. And have no decision making power... They are great at getting information and such... But forget command decisions...

  6. #5
    Unpaid WDF Intern TheGAME1264's Avatar
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    There's another angle behind the cheap thing that WZ didn't mention, likely because he never encountered it (at least not in the same way I did):

    Many many many years ago (10), when I was foolish enough to pay for phone book advertising (learned that mistake early and hard), I used to get calls from the phone book ads. It got to the point where I could conclusively pick out when they were calling because the first question they would ask was, "how much do you charge for a website?" Translation: "I'm price shopping, not value shopping." Big difference.

    In my case, I usually have to ask if they have a website. Here's the reason...if I can't Google the company name or the name of the person I'm talking to (it's the owner or a high decision maker, or I don't bother), there's usually a reason, it's usually not good, and it's usually the reason they're calling me. Mind you, I have a lot of repeat / referral stuff, so for me it's different.

    The only area in which I disagree with WZ is in understanding clients' businesses. If I'm building something for someone, I want to know what the industry is, I want to know how their company works, I want to know who the employees are that actually give a crap vs. the ones that don't (because the ones that do are the ones I'm going to be dealing with and actually getting help from for the most part), I want to know if they have certain supplier relationships that I can take advantage of, and a whole bunch of other things. This is all good to know from a marketing point of view as well.
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  7. #6
    Senior Member Webzarus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheGAME1264, post: 250774, member: 428

    The only area in which I disagree with WZ is in understanding clients' businesses. If I'm building something for someone, I want to know what the industry is, I want to know how their company works, I want to know who the employees are that actually give a crap vs. the ones that don't (because the ones that do are the ones I'm going to be dealing with and actually getting help from for the most part), I want to know if they have certain supplier relationships that I can take advantage of, and a whole bunch of other things. This is all good to know from a marketing point of view as well.
    No, you are right in wanting to understand the industry and their business to a point... ( all the points you mentioned ), but I've heard the spiels ... Pitches... Seen the copy ... Where so called designers are touting "we will become experts in your business", or "we will become a business partner with you"....

    I build a business relationship with all of my clients, and part of the process of working with them is understanding where they are... What they that makes then standout above their competition, and their general business practices... ( its all research and questions ), but In the real sense of the words "understand your business", I know very little...

    I took on a local service contractor last year... After spending several months... Building the site, putting content strategies together.. Etc.. The site went live to replace a 10 year old web site that had built ( just to have one )...

    After about 3 months... The owner calls me and says... Wow... I've never been able to find our site except by searching for the name.. Now when I search "certain keywords"... I'm either on the same page or above my competition .... You must really understand our business...

    I say... " I know a lot about web stuff ", and "enough about your business and industry to compete properly on the web"...

  8. #7
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    Yeah, that's true. We Are Your Offshore Outsourcing Partner, And You Can Trust Us Because We Capitalize Every Single Word In A Sentence Including Those That Have No Business Being Capitalized In The First Place. We Will Make You #1 In Your Business.
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  9. #8
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    Let them tell you their budget and if any amendments are to be made then breakdown any incurring costs. On completion of the project. Who should have control? depending on the type of website. will they want to update it themselves or will you have full control of the project? Then again you'd probably have other projects too. Create little scenarios and analyse them respectively. You'll find that every question leads to another.

  10. #9
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    Depends upon the type of client i.e from where you get your lead. is it a reference? or from the search engines or from the freelancing site. Everything should be crystal clear before starting the web development project between you and the client. Initially you will have a tough time but will learn gradually. there is no such problem asking as much as you can.

  11. #10
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    A lot of great advice here. Picking up on what to do next, well, I would say it all depends on the client. If it is a large site, you may provide designs for many pages (landing, home, interior, article, tos, etc), or in some case, start designing elements of pages. You may even find it easier to develop a prototype to showcase design and some functionality.

    The most important thing is ironing out a contract. You should have a boilerplate contract that outlines your basic minimal practices, whatever they may be, and then edit it from there. It should include a lot of things, like schedule for assets and deliverables, payment, and work delivered. It should also protect you if they miss a payment or change scope or work. It is really up to you to iron all this out, but ALWAYS use a contract. Even if they are a friend or whatever, a contract will help people remember what was said and agreed upon. You would be surprised how many people "misunderstand" things.

    Good luck to you

    Sidney Lisojo
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