These questions will help you to form a solid idea of what exactly the client is looking for, which will help you to draw up an accurate proposal for the project.
If you already asked the big questions that we talked about in the article "Freelance Web Design: The Initial Meeting With Potential Clients", then you should already have a general idea of: the goal of this website, the target audience, the time frame, and the budget.
Now let's discuss some of the specific questions that you should talk about.
Roughly how many pages will this website contain? I usually try to sketch out a basic site and link structure with the pages that the client wants on their website - starting with the main pages and then down to sub pages.
This gives me an idea of how much work and time will be involved.
It also gives me an idea of what types of navigation will and won't work for this particular site.
Which layout elements does the client prefer? I like to outline a few of the different options available to the client, and have them tell me which ones they like and which ones they would rather not use.
For example: drop down menus - some people love them, some people can't stand them.
Does the client want a horizontal navigation menu or a vertical menu in a sidebar? I also use the information I learned about the number of pages that this site will potentially have to give suggestions to the client on what would work well and what would not work at all.
This is a good time to evaluate how well you and the client are able to discuss things and come to a decision on different matters.
You can start to get a sense of how compatible you and the client are.
What types of graphics and photos will be involved? Who will provide them? First, ask the client what their plan is as far as photos and graphics go.
Depending on the project at hand, the answer will vary greatly.
This is why it is important to know the answer! If it is a large e-commerce project, perhaps all the photos will be provided by the manufacturer of the products being sold.
Ask how you will obtain these photos - will you be the one dealing directly with the manufacturer, or will the client deal with the manufacturer and simply pass the photos on to you? If this is a smaller business site, perhaps the client is going to provide his (or her) own photos for use on the website.
Ask when these photos will be provided - up front or as you go along? Make sure that you also ask about graphics - does the client have a logo? If so, will they be using that on the website? If not, are they going to have one designed? If graphics are needed to complete the project, is the client responsible to obtain them or will that be the web designer's responsibility? How will content for the website be provided? This is very important to talk about.
If the client already has a website, perhaps they will want to simply use the content they already have.
If they have no content at all, then ask if they are going to provide it for you - whether written by themselves or by someone they hire.
If not, will you, the web designer, be responsible for coming up with the content - whether by writing it yourself or by outsourcing it? Which colors and themes does the client have in mind? Some clients have very specific colors and themes that they want to see used on their websites, and others could care less.
Either way, it's important to know where they stand.
If the client has an existing site, ask what they do and don't like about their site as it is.
Find out what would they like changed and what would they like to leave as is.
Will this project include marketing and social networking campaigns? If so, how much of this will the web designer be responsible for? Any? All of it? You will have to think about and talk about how you will incorporate these efforts into the website.
Does the client already own a domain name and a hosting account? If not, are they or the designer going to be responsible for setting those up? For a new client who does not already own a domain name, I usually help them find one and explain to them why certain ones may work better than others.
I will also usually help them select a web host and set up their account.
I know that not all web designers would be willing to do this, but I think that registering good domain names and setting up a hosting account can be overwhelming for new website owners.
It's not difficult for me to do since I've done it many times before, and most clients appreciate your willingness to go the extra step for them.
The point of asking these types of questions are to find out the answer to two basic issues: what specific things will need to be done to complete this website, and who is responsible for what? A lot of times, once we have covered all of these questions, I have a general idea of what this website will or could look like.
If I have enough information to work with, I usually try to draw out a rough sketch of the potential website so that me and the client can look at it and discuss it.
For visual learners (like myself), it is very helpful to see the basic outline of how the site will be set up.
This sketch gives me, the designer, something to start with when I begin setting up the website on my computer, and it gives the client an idea of what their website is going to look like.
In a way, it ensures that me and the client are both starting off on the same page - which is always a good thing! Once we have covered all of these questions, I go home and look over all of my notes to make sure I understand what the client is after and how that can best be accomplished.
The next step is writing up a successful website design proposal.