The best web design questions to ask your clients so you can build their perfect website


Do you often sit there staring at a blank screen, wondering where to start on a new web site? One of the hardest things for a designer is knowing how it will look and where to put the content.

The solution is in the questions you ask the client at the initial meeting. Get this wrong or don’t bother doing it and the whole process becomes a lot harder.

Get as many of the following questions answered and 85% of the design battle is already done because you will already know what needs to go on the page and where to place it. Get all this right and the page will pretty much build itself…

The creative brief gives you the opportunity to clarify your objectives and reasons for embarking on the project in the first place. If the client really doesn’t like the colour orange then this is the time for them to make that clear and understood – No Orange!

One more thing before you read the questions; People are still afraid of technology and having your face stuck behind a laptop screen will severely hamper your meetings. Just do it old school with a pad and pen. It’s fine to show them examples of your work on your laptop but keep the meeting between you and your client, not you and your laptop. It really works much better!

Important Questions First

1. Do you already own a domain name?

2. Do you currently have an existing website?

3. Describe your business and what products and services you offer.

4. What industry does your business operate in? (e.g. recruitment, engineering)

5. Describe the overall mood you would like to portray (you can choose more than one)
Fancy / Cutting-Edge / Unique / Creative / Clean / Simple / Classy / Professional / Corporate / Modern / Industry Oriented / Outdoors / Natural / Traditional / Local / High Tech / Retro / Fun / Serious / Illustrative / Silly / Cartoon / Masculine / Feminine / Childlike

6. On a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is ‘Very expensive’ and one is ‘Very cheap’. Where do you see your products and services?

7. On a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is ‘Very Modern’ and one is ‘Very Traditional. Where do you see your products and services?

8. If you could get one sentence across what would it be?

9. How are your products and services currently purchased? (e.g. retail outlet, magazine advertisement)

10. What marketing techniques do you currently use to attract clients/customers? (e.g. print advertisments, radio, Google PPC)

11. What search terms would your clients use to find your products/services? Please list your top 5 search terms you would like to come up for. (e.g. ‘web design bury’, ‘rasta jackets’)

Now about your competition

1. Who are your top three competitors?

1. Competitor 1
a. Name
b. Website
c. On a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is ‘Much more than us’ and one is ‘Nowhere near us’. How influential/competitive are they in your industry?

2. Competitor 2
a. Name
b. Website
c. On a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is ‘Much more than us’ and one is ‘Nowhere near us’. How influential/competitive are they in your industry?

3. Competitor 3
a. Name
b. Website
c. On a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is ‘Much more than us’ and one is ‘Nowhere near us’. How influential/competitive are they in your industry?

2. What are the key reasons for choosing your company’s products and/or services over your competitions’? (cost, service, value, etc.)

OK, Lets learn about your target audience

1. What gender? (Male / Female)

2. Age groups? (18–24, 25-34, 35-44, 45-64, 65+)

3. Employment status? (e.g. unemployed, self employed, managing director)

4. Are there any geographic considerations? (e.g. UK audience only, local, worldwide)

5. Are there any ethnic considerations? (e.g. Primarily aimed at an Asian market)

6. Are there any special interests, hobbies or values to consider? (e.g. primarily aimed towards motorcyclists)

7. Are there any specific disabilities we need to take into consideration? (e.g. blind/partially sighted)

8. Are there any preconceptions about your products and/or services that we need to dispel? (e.g. these products are only used by older people)

What the client likes and dislikes

List four websites that you like and tell us what it is you like about them. Remember these don’t have to have anything to do with your business or industry.

What you like:

What you like:

What you like:

What you like:

About the project

1. What is the main reason behind this project? Do you have any measurable objectives to progress towards? (e.g. Increase in enquiries, increase in membership by 15%, Media coverage)

2. What is the budget for this project? (£1,000 – £2,000, £2,000 – £4000, £4,000 – £8000, £8,000 – £12,000, £12,000 – £20,000, over £20,000)

3. Do you have a specific date this project needs to launch to have the greatest impact on your audience? (e.g. annual event, party, conference, holiday)

4. Describe visual elements or content which will be available – if any (logo, colour scheme, navigation, naming conventions, etc.)

5. Who is responsible for delivering content for the project?

What do you want the web site to do for your company?

Is it to just promote brand awareness and for people who hear about them and then go to their site, will people be finding them through search engines, is it existing clients looking for support or news, are you selling online, are you offering downloads, company reports etc

If you have branding what colours, fonts, styles do you use?

(See business cards, letterheads etc). More often that not the sole trader will have no graphics, no logo and no identity so in these cases you need to ask the client for colour schemes they think fit with the ideas but also do market research on the competition because the client may not be right.

Website preferences

What do you absolutely definitely want on the site?

This list could include blog, shopping cart, members log in, private areas, RSS feeds. Gallery newsletter, contact forms, advertising space, different languages, search facility, etc

What would you like if possible/within budget?

By this I mean that if the project was going to end ahead of time is there anything else outside of the initial scope they would like to be included if time and budget allows.

What absolutely must be on the homepage and what is the order of priority?

This is a core question and you should allow the client time to ponder and discuss this with you. Their answers here should define the position of the building blocks. The answers could be phone number, email, help icon, downloads, cart total, core product links etc.

What must be visible at all times?

Every page has a fold. A fold is below the visual part of the page and requires you to scroll down to see it. I have a height I use but you should decide for yourself where it should be. The client must understand this and agree what can go above and below.

How many links will be needed and how many levels of navigation will there be?

You need to understand the journey paths and decide how far down the link structure will go (level one, level two, level three etc).

If the business has different sections and each wants its own presence on the page which business sections would get the best locations?

Is there any content that may require a database or scripting?

Contact forms, shopping carts, newsletters etc

Do your competitors use something on their site that you really like?

Could be navigation structure, form layout etc

What do you offer that the competition doesn’t?

This often makes the client think about his own business in a new way and I’ve started a new path for a few businesses with this one!

Do you have any text/copy / graphics / Logos for the site?

Will they be supplying the text in a ready to go copy/paste format or will someone have to input all their text into the site from paper etc. Likewise will we need to outsource all the imagery from other sources or do they have their own graphics that need to be included.

Don’t take this one for granted. You can waste valuable time trying to source images that they may not like anyway.

Will you require space on pages for external/internal advertising (If yes what types)?

Header ads, sidebar ads, ads in the content etc.

When do you want it finished and who is going to be updating the pages?

What is their level of experience?

What are your main products and/or services?

For each explain what you would want you visitors to do, (sign-up, purchase, contact you, etc.). i.e. a call-to-action for each.

What are the main categories of information you want to publish?

(Time-sensitive like news & events? Product or service descriptions? Case studies / Success Stories? Careers information? Special offers?)

How would you like to communicate with you visitors?

(Telephone, Email, Live Chat, Blog’s or discussions, Mailing list, Brochure/magazines)

Shopping Cart questions

Shopping Cart questions

Do you want to offer real time shipping?

Do you want the consumer to sign in or log-in?

Do you need cross selling?

Do you need to offer unlimited products?

Do you need unlimited categories?

How will you charge for shipping?

How will you charge for taxes?

Blog Questions

Blog questions.

Will there be multiple authors?

Should the site clearly be displaying author info?

Are there multiple styles of blog posts, like longer feature posts and shorter quick posts?

What other kind of content will be on the site?

Does the site need to accommodate for advertising?

(What type? Sizes? )

Do you plan to use categories? tags? both?

How do you want to handle archives?

How do you want to handle search?

Are you going to be presenting source code in the posts?

Are there any other blog’s that you really like?

So I have the web build answers…now what?

I usually start with scribbles on a napkin or pad. Seriously if you start sketching out as the client is answering your questions you quickly get a feel for the blocks and usually when I leave the client I already have sketched out where the blocks need to go.

Hopefully you have a basic understanding of where the important blocks need to go. I then sit in the nearest cafe with my laptop or go straight home and start building a basic wire frame based on the sketches but in this one I start playing with spacing, widths, heights margins and padding’s based on the priorities the client gave. The tool you can use for this can vary. I use Photoshop but you could use pretty much any paint package, PowerPoint etc.

Once the client agrees with the position and prominence of the blocks I can start thinking of the graphics. This is where your preferred way of building a site comes into play but the difference between how you did it before and now is you have the building blocks in front of you and with the answers to your questions beside you it should be a much simpler process than ever before.

The visual wire frame should include the effects on the page. For example if your navigation has a mouse over then have that mouseover on “one” of the links. Likewise for active stats etc. If the effect is transitional then try to give a example web page with it working or give a detailed description.

The visual wire frame may be overboard for some of you but for me it is easier to modify an image of the page than a pixel perfect web page. A client can often try and change the layout after looking at it for a while and while I’m in the PSD stage I’m happy to accommodate this. Once the visual wire frame has been agreed then the build begins and any changes after that point will incur costs. The client can’t really argue because they have already agreed to the block wire frame and visual wire frame so it is a lot easier to ask for extra costs when you’re at the final stage of the contract.

I wish I had this list when I first started and I hope my years of building and updating this document helps you.

Simon Day

If you have a wedding, portrait, event or festival coming up please contact me. Likewise for portraits. Check out my social media channels: Instagram | Facebook | Twitter