Updated: March 27, 2018 (Originally published Apr 17, 2009)
Often times we find ourselves trapped by a clients’ deadline, especially when a certain project needs to be done yesterday. This might lead to skipping the most important questions to ask clients and getting straight to the work, which can be problematic later. You know what I’m talking about, the “Oh, well we also needed…” or “That’s not exactly what we had in mind…”. Here I have compiled a list of questions to ask your clients for a better project proposal and a design brief.
The more information you know about a project and about the client, the better results you will produce and less time will be wasted, especially when building websites and other things with a larger project scope.
Certain types of functionality you might need to contract out or spend more time on than other parts, whereas logo design more or less has the same process, and has had the same process for many years and is straightforward. Here are some questions that I ask my clients and some other questions I found that may be useful to you.
I don’t ask all these questions, but many below I do cherry pick to ask new prospective clients:
General Company Info
- What is the name of your company and why? (Sometimes this question has an interesting backstory that might help you write a creative brief)
- How or why did you start the company?
- What is the nature of your business?
- How long have you been in business?
- What is the size of your company? (This question can tip you off on general revenue and potential size of their budget if they didn’t disclose it)
- Who are the main contacts and who will have final approval of the project? (For obvious logistic purposes)
- Are there specific dates the project needs to be completed? (Generally this is stated upfront but sometimes it isn’t. Best to overcommunicate everything)
- Your budget dictates how much time can be spent on your project. Do you have a budget for this project or an annual budget for marketing? (Marketing is generally where our services fall under)
- Describe your business in one sentence.
- Describe your business in two words?
- Describe your business in one word? (These two and one-word questions can give you an idea of what kind of style the decision makers have. They might respond with “epic” or “excellence”.)
- What doesn’t your business do, or do well? (This might be an opportunity for you to offer your expertise if it’s marketing related.)
- What differentiates your business from competitors? (You’ll cover competitors a bit later, but you’ll want to know what is their unique value proposition)
General Image of the Company
- If your company/brand was a person or figure who would it be? Why? For example, you might see your company as James Bond, but your customers see Mr. Rodgers.
- If your company/brand was an animal which one would it be? Why? (This could be good for visuals and also might set the pace of what the brand image should be)
- Is there an important object, building or person for your business? Such as a mascot or icon?
- What is the normal dress code at work? (Pertains to general office culture. I’ve seen shops that I would assume would be casual require all but 3-piece suits.)
- How do you want the public to perceive your image? (Sometimes they’ll say “To be the best [insert service here]” but try to get a little more specific than “the best”)
- What do you want to be remembered for? (Might be morbid, but you want to get them thinking about GROWTH)
- What words should the general public associate your business with? Name at least 3.
- What aspect of your image needs improvement? How do you want your image to be seen next year? or in 10 years?
This discussion will help you understand your clients’ industry better if it’s something obscure.
- Who are your competitors that are relevant?
- How are they better/worse than your product/service? (Time for honesty here. DO they have better competitors? And why?)
- Who might you compete with in the future? (This opens the conversation for potential future services or new features in the product)
The Target Audience
This conversation is probably the most important. You are marketing and designing for their customer, not your client personally.
- Who is your customer? Describe in detail.
(If they need guidance, give an example of one of your own customers so they can start to paint the same picture. For example: “My client, Ben, comes to our coffee shop every day, he is in his mid-twenties and rather boisterous. He dresses very casually, flip-flops, t-shirt, and shorts. Usually American Eagle or Hurley attire. Sometimes he rides his bicycle to the shop, but other times he’s seen in his beater vehicle. He’s mentioned watching some popular titles on Netflix.)
- Who is the ideal customer?
(This might be very different from your client’s current customer. It might be, “I wish Barbara was a customer. She is in her early 30’s, is a stay at home mom, wears designer brands and drives a white Lexus. She’s married and sometimes comes in with the family on Saturday’s. She doesn’t spend her time watching TV, instead she volunteers at the local YMCA.” Whatever helps paint the picture!)
- What customers do you want to attract that you aren’t getting yet? (This is more of an affirmation of the above, so can be paraphrased in the meeting as “So you’d rather see more people with higher incomes and interests in [whatever that might be]?”)
- How do your customers find out about you? (Where do their leads come from? What’s their primary source? If they don’t know this information, they need to get on this STAT)
- What do they want from your business? What is the main selling point for them?
- What customers do you not want to attract?
Current Identity and Logo Mark
- Do you have a logo mark?
- What do you like about it and what do you not like about it?
Building a Website Specific Questions
- Why do you need a new website or a redesign? (This is an opportunity to spark the discussion on why their current website is not working for them or their customers)
- List the business objectives of your website. (This might be “We need to increase traffic by 30% and increase leads by 15%”, but ultimately, make sure it’s not “We need to look better. Push your client and yourself to have tangible goals.)
- What aspects of your current site work well and why are they successful?
- What aspects of your current site are unsuccessful and why do you think that is? (This might not be the site itself, but a particular internal process they might have that needs improving)
- What will people want to do on the site? (Some sites are informational, while many you take actions on. What will it be for your client?)
- List websites you like the aesthetics of and explain why.
- Outline any ideas you may have for the site. How would these features support your business goals and the goals of your customers?
Don’t forget to make sure to ask the client if there is anything that was left out that they would like to add to the brief. A lot of these questions can be condensed into single questions, and some are more useful than others. But remember one thing: The more information you have on the project and the client, the better experience it will be for both parties. Ultimately you are there to help them and their customers succeed, so be as helpful as possible by collecting as much data on your client as you can.