If you’re considering launching a web design project, chances are you’ve found some kind of guide outlining the questions you need to ask to get yourself started.
Well, I have some bad news: almost every single web design project guide out there is wrong.
Here’s the problem: they talk too much about the website and not enough about the business. Even worse, the majority of their starter questions have to do with things that you, as the business owner, shouldn’t need to worry about.
Design-related questions are for designers. You need to be focusing on what your business is all about, and nothing else.
When I’m launching a web design project with a new client, I quietly skirt the design-centric questions and try to keep things focused on the client’s business. I will not ask you anything about what you envision for your new site’s design, because you’re not the design professional–that’s why you hired me in the first place. It’s not your job to know design; it’s your job to know your business.
Projects are most successful when everyone involved is focusing on his core competency. Business owners focus on developing their purpose and company culture, marketing professionals focus on branding and publicity, writers focus on content, and designers–only designers–focus on developing the visual aspects of your website.
It has taken me several years to narrow down the list of questions that are really important to every web design project. (Guess how many of them are design-related? A whopping zero.)
1. Why are you contacting this agency?
This is the first question I ask everyone who contacts us. If you pulled up a Google search and contacted the first five agencies you saw, you’re not really spending the time needed to research the right fit and ensure that your project is successful.
Why are you choosing to contact the agency you did? What do they bring to the table that you will be unable to get anywhere else?
2. Why do you need this website?
While this seems like an easy question, most get it wrong. To find a worthwhile answer, you’ll need to skip past the corporate mumbo jumbo and dig deep to uncover your business’s deepest, darkest problems.
Most companies need a successful website, of course. The problem is: they often need something else first. Whether that’s internal culture, a strong business purpose, branding, or solid differentiators, there’s usually at least one hurdle that needs to be tackled before you even touch your website.
3. What business problems are you trying to address?
Good, functional design solves business problems. What business problems are you trying to solve with your new website?
Hint: “Our website is ugly and dated” is not a legitimate business problem, and a website is not a Band-Aid.
4. What will happen if this project isn’t successful?
If your web design project tanks, what will happen to your business? Will it result in a loss of sales? Prevent you from expanding to that new location?
It’s important to put into perspective not only what you are trying to accomplish, but what will happen if you fail to accomplish it. It’s also important for your designer to know all of this.
How will failure specifically affect your marketing and profitability?
5. How does this website fit into your business model?
More importantly: how does the website fit into your profit model? Way too often, people treat their websites as separate entities, but they’re not.
6. Why do people need this website?
You might think you know why you need the website, but how will your customers benefit from the new site? Why will it make them care about your business more than they did before?
Why are people going to choose your website over your competitors’? If you provide the exact same information they do, then you aren’t providing any value and just adding to the noise.
7. What is your measurement for success?
How will you know that this project was a success? It’s easy to get caught up in fake metrics like “we got more Facebook likes” or “our traffic is up,” but these are not true measurements of business success. The measurement must focus on what comes after new potential customers like you on Facebook or visit your website. What are they doing for your bottom line?
8. How much are you willing to spend?
Don’t avoid this question. 80% of the people I talk to claim to not have a budget, and yet when I tell them we charge at least $10K in fees, they instantly reply, “we can’t afford that.”
You probably have a budget. What is it?
We ask this question not to figure out how much we can get from a client, but to understand how much they are willing/able to spend to meet their goals and to make sure they meet our minimum.
9. Who is the final decision maker?
Design by committee fails every time. Trust me.
This all-too-common, and severely flawed, approach allows you to include everyone in your organization who feels entitled to a say, but it also dilutes responsibility and ultimately sabotages your outcome.
If you need to have multiple people involved in your project, that’s fine, but you must identify one person as the ultimate decision maker. Period. Failure to give someone that responsibility means a failed project.
If several of these questions tripped you up, you might not be ready to start your website project just yet. But if you were able to successfully answer all of them, congrats: you’re on your way to one kick-awesome website!