Should I give a client a questionnaire before we begin?

I think I’ve come across some freelancers who do have questionnaires before they agree to a project. I believe it filters out clients who are not too serious. However I am not sure what to have on this “questionnaire”. I mostly just ask clients questions myself and I’m either asking the wrong ones or not enough?

  1. One question I always ask is, “Can you show me websites that you find interesting?”

So far, everyone I’ve asked this is unable to answer it. Why? No idea. They either don’t look at websites or never bookmark them or find any interesting.

  1. I then offer to show them a collection of different websites they might find interesting. I can’t help but feel that this is an iffy approach. I might admire the color choice and content organization. They may like the fact that there’s a picture of a dog on it.

Do you know what I mean? I’m still trying to figure out how to communicate with the client and have them best communicate with me. And I don’t mean to come off as an elitist. I have my specialties. They have theirs.

I need to ask the right question basically. Suggestions?

The number 1 question that you should ask any prospective client is the following:

“What is the purpose of this website?”

Websites have many many different purposes, is it to sell someone something? Get a signup? Provide information? Get revenue through advertising? Get people to sign up to a mailing list?

If they can’t give you an answer (and many won’t be able to), then it’s awfully difficult to produce a website that will meet their goals. If they give you an answer, but that answer is not quantifiable or measurable, then again, it’s awfully difficult to produce a website that will meet their goals.

Here is mine. Feel free to pick trough it. I think it’s pretty thorough…

  1. “Why will people come to your web site?” That is it’s primary purpose after all.

  2. “How will they find out about your web site?” This is a marketing question and will help you decide what should be on the landing pages. GL

People may come to a website for a different purpose than that that the website owner is looking for.

“People come to the website looking for information on stained glass” is not going to result in the same decisions as “I want people who come to the website to sign up for my stained glass e-mail list”.

Although the two are related.

Absolutely… We always do some kind of creative brief, questionnaire, or other “planning session” before starting a project. Otherwise, you’re just shooting in the dark!

There are some great free examples of website questionnaires out there… I actually got mine from someone here on the forums probably 5 years ago. The main thing is to ask as many questions as you can about their project…

What features do they need?
How many pages (and what are they)?
Who’s writing the content? Taking the photography?
What sites do they like? WHY?
What sites do they dislike? WHY?
What is their BUDGET? Timeframe?
Do they need to update the site frequently? Which parts of the content will change and how often?
What are their corporate colors? Do they have a logo?
Do they have a style guide or rules for using their corporate identity?
Are there colors that should be used (or should NOT be used)?

I could go on and on but you get the idea. Obviously this is more suited for a website design than a backend application but you could just as easily come up with a list of questions about that as well.