20 Questions Every Web Design Client Should Ask Themselves
Your Business Website Design
Good website design is a collaboration between the web designer and the business. Web Design should not be something you hand over to a designer and then forget about. Your business website design reflects your company. It is the first impression many people will have of your company. Get it wrong and it may be the last impression they have of your company too! Nobody knows your business better than you do, so it makes sense for you to help your designer create the site you need.
A good web design company will ask you most, if not all, of the following questions. These are questions that you should ask yourself before your first conversation with the web design company that you choose to hire. Not knowing the answers will cause delays to your website’s publication. Giving an answer without thinking about it could cause you to publish the wrong website for your company. You know your business inside out, so don’t leave your designer having to guess!
These 20 questions are not an exhaustive list. Each website is different. Your business website design may be simple and may not need so many considerations. Other websites may need you to think about specialist areas of concern. However, these questions provide a good starting point when planning your site.
Ten Questions About The Concept Of The Design
The first ten questions are all about the concept of the site. These are questions that the designer will need to know the answers to before even beginning to design the outline of the site. These questions tell the designer what the business website design should look like.
1. What Name Do You Want?
This is such a basic question that many clients forget to address it. The domain name you choose will affect many aspects of your site. Is it easy for clients to remember? Is it easily confused with another company’s site? Is the name you want available? Do you want to use your company name or pick a domain name that reflects your products or services? Do you want a local domain suffix or international?
It may be a basic question, but it is one of the more important ones to address. If you have not already secured your domain name then you need to find out which options are available. Your designer can help you with the purchase and setup, but the choice of name is yours. Even if you are using your own company name you will need to make sure that your name is available. Your domain name should be as short as is available while still clearly retaining your individual identity. It should not infringe on any trademarks or copyright. You have a right to use your legal company name even if another company shares your name. However, there are occasions when a company can claim to have a greater right to use a name.
If you offer an easily defined service, you can choose a name that reflects the service you offer. This gives scope to include keywords in your domain name that can help new customers find you. These are often harder to secure though and you need to be very careful on the issue of copyright infringement. You can also choose domain suffixes that reflect your locality or service. New domain suffixes are coming onto the market all the time, so it could be worth considering a suffix that reflects your industry or locality.
2. What Is Your Web Design Budget?
It is very important that you have a clear idea of the total budget for your business website design. A clearly defined budget allows you to focus on getting the best return for your money. There is no point in spending hours of your time developing ideas for a website that your budget will not stretch to. Your designer can advise on how much different features and types of website will cost, but if you have not worked out your budget this information will have little context.
The budget should allow for all aspects of publishing your site. You will need to take into account domain name purchase, web hosting and any initial marketing for your new site, as well as the design costs.
If there are specific features that you want included on your site then discuss these clearly with the designer and ask how much they will add to the project cost.
3. Will You Have An On-Going Website Maintenance Budget?
Do you plan on only having a budget for business website design? Are you planning to spend anything on website maintenance after the site is published? If not, you will either need a business website design that is generic enough to not require regular updates, or a content management system that will allow you to update the site yourself.
If you are not looking to spend anything on marketing your website on an ongoing basis then you should have the site set up with basic SEO work at the design stage.
4.What Do You Want Your Website To Do?
Why do you want a website? What would you like it to achieve? There is no point in having a website unless you believe that it will bring a benefit to your business. You need to have a goal. Your business website design can then be focused to achieve that goal.
This is a key aspect of the design process. Different types of website design will achieve different results. A site designed to provide an archive of information and help to existing customers would look very different to a site designed to prompt the visitor into a purchase.
Know your goals and have your business website designed around them!
5. What Is Your Publication Timescale?
You need to know and communicate your timescales. If you have finally decided to have a website designed because you want to publicise an event taking place in three weeks time then make sure your designer is aware. You need to find out if your hoped for timescales are realistic and achievable.
More realistically, if you are beginning the design process now so that your website is published in time for a new product release in a couple of months time, you will need to work closely with your designer to make sure the project runs on time. One of the primary causes of website publication delays is a lack of communication between the client and the designer.
This brings us to the most frequent reason for website publication delays. Do you have your content ready? If the photographs have not been taken yet then the designer cannot add them to the website. If the text has not been written yet, then the same applies. There are large elements of the design timetable that will be in your hands. Are you ready for them if you are on a tight timescale? The biggest dictator of when a site is published is when the content is passed to the designer. You control one of the key timescale elements of your business website design.
6. Who Are You Aiming At?
Who is your target audience? Who should your business website design be aimed at? There are a couple of different ways to consider this question.
The first relates back to the question of what you want your website to do. Is it aimed at attracting new customers? Is your website intended to help existing customers find out more information about your products and services? Is the website simply advertising opening times and letting people know you exist?
All of these different purposes would require a different type of business website design. The primary question being whether your website is aimed at new or existing customers.
The second side to this question relates to your customers’ profile. Who are your customers and your potential customers? Do you have a specific type, age or gender of customer that makes up your target audience? A website selling video games to teenagers would have a completely different business website design to one selling retirement homes to more mature visitors. You need to know your customers. You also need to be able to describe your customers to your web designer. Good web design companies have experience of business website design for many different types of target customer. Describe your customer well and your designer will design your website well.
7. What Tone Do You Want Your Website To Convey?
This question is very closely tied to the previous one. What tone should the website project to the visitor? Just as TV commercials and printed advertisements can strike different tones, so can a website. The business website design can be tailored to a serious, professional image or a friendly, fun and lively image. Your site can be humorous or sombre, brightly coloured or reserved and informative or persuasive. Just as an advert for hiring a bouncy castle would be very different in tone to an advert for a funeral parlour, so would their websites.
8. What Colours Do You Like?
Most businesses will already have a colour theme in mind for your business website design. You will almost certainly want your website colours to at least tone in with your existing company branding. However, your branding may go no further than the logo appearing on the site. If you have specific colours in mind then, again, you need to let your designer know.
Some people hold that certain colours express certain emotions or subconscious messages. It may be that some thinking says that you don’t want red to appear on your site as it may suggest a warning. Similar thinking may suggest that green conveys ‘go for it.’ However, you will find plenty of successful websites containing red and plenty of poor ones containing green. It is all about what works best for you.
It is more useful to think in terms of what types of colours you want used. For example, do you want earthy tones or primary colours? Do you want shades of a specific colour or a minimalist and stark site with very little colour?
You should also think about colours that you do not want used. This has more to do with standing out from your competition than thinking about colours you don’t like. If your closest competitor is well known for having a purple site and purple branding, then it is probably best to avoid having a purple website too.
9. Which Of Your Competitor’s Websites Do You Like?
It is a very good idea to go through as many websites as you can find from your business sector. Note any of your competitors websites that you like, along with a note of why you like them. It can also be useful to make a note of any that you particularly dislike too. Once your list is compiled, pass on the details to your web designer of 3 or 4 that you like and 3 or 4 that you don’t like.
This information is extremely useful. It gives your designer an insight into your sector’s business website design trends and patterns. It allows the designer to research which elements of your competitor’s sites worked well and which ones were less successful. It also gives the designer an insight into your own tastes, and helps your website to reflect some of the personality of the company.
Your designer will not use this information to produce copies of the websites you like. Neither will they just lift the successful parts of your competitor’s sites and drop them into your own. This information is used to enhance the design ideas that come from your answers to previous questions. Your site’s success will stem from how much it suits your company, not your competitors.
10. How Will The Website Be Maintained?
At some point your website will need to be updated. How often updates need to be carried out will depend on the individual business and website. A basic brochure website will probably not need to be updated very often. Only as new services are introduced, or old services withdrawn, will changes need to be made. By contrast, a website for a venue, restaurant or seller of seasonal goods will need updating regularly.
Updates would be needed each time a new band was booked to perform, or a menu price was changed, or the focus of a business changed to reflect the time of year.
There are three options when it comes to maintaining a website. The first is to pay your web designer to carry out the updates as and when they are needed. If these updates are infrequent then this method is probably the best and most efficient. The second is to subscribe to a website management plan with your web designer. The designer will carry out regular updates and maintenance of your site for a fixed cost. The third is to have a content management system built into the business website design. A content management system (CMS) will allow you to carry out as many updates as you like by yourself. This saves on maintenance fees but involves greater expense at the design stage.
Content Management Systems are very easy to use and full instructions and training are usually provided by the web designer as part of the design package. The web designer can also set them up to limit the changes you can make. This allows you to update the content without any risk of changing the look of the site by mistake. The content Management System would need to be built into the business website design at the beginning of the design process. This means that you need to think about how the website will be maintained before the design process begins.
Ten Questions About The Content Of The Website
The next ten questions are all about the content of the website. These are questions that the designer will need to know the answers to before adding the content to the business website design.
11. Who are You and What Do You Do?
Ok, I confess. Two questions squeezed in for the price of one. They are very closely connected though. These may seem like very strange questions to be asking yourself. Perhaps a better way to phrase it would be to ask if you can describe who you are and what you do.
These two questions are the essence of your website. Almost all of the content on your site will feed into answering who you are and what you do. Think of ways to describe yourself in brief, punchy ways that capture all of your key points.
Then think about how you would expand on that description and explain where you and your business have come from, where you are going, and where you are now. The brief ways will make up your homepage. The extended versions will make up your ‘about us’ and ‘products and services’ pages.
These simple questions have already become more difficult. Get used to it. The content of your site should be hard work. Your website is your company’s public face to every visitor. It always amazes me how many clients are willing to tell a designer to write ‘whatever you think is best.’ Your website is your chance to sell yourself. Your business website design will not be as effective as it should be if the content is less than it could be.
12. What Makes You Different?
This is not a question about USP’s (clue to question 13). This is asking you to think about the personality of your company. If you can convey the personality of your company within the business website design then you are far more likely to engage your visitors. You are also far more likely to convert visitors into customers.
When a potential customer meets you face to face they will be assessing you just as much as your products and services. The same is true of a website. You can have the best product in the world, but if your website does not engage your customers then the product may never sell. Just as the tone of the business website design sets a mood for the website, so the personality you express through the content of the website affects the visitor too.
It is another tough question to answer. It is not just a case of thinking about what makes you different. You also have to think of a way of expressing those unique points. You need to explain to the designer how you want the company’s personality to be expressed through the content on the site.
13. What Are Your Unique Selling Points?
You should probably already know the answer to this question. Your unique selling points should be points you highlight every day to potential customers. It doesn’t hurt to go over them again in your head. Nor does it hurt to check that the ones you think apply actually still do.
Your unique selling points should be prominent on your website. If there is something that your business does well that your competitors don’t, then it should be featured in your business website design. Think about the key selling points that you want to be displayed on your website. Think about how you want them to be displayed. You are in charge of the content of your site. make sure the right content fills it.
14. What Search Terms Do You Want To Be Found For?
Your website needs to be visible. That means that people need to be able to search for products or services and find your company. It is amazing how many companies neglect this part of the business website design process. You need to think about any search terms that you specifically want to be found for. These can be based on the products and services you offer. They can also be based on your location. More commonly they are based on both.
If you are serious about your company being found on search engines then you need to seriously consider search engine optimisation (SEO). The SEO process begins during the business website design process. Your designer can build both the structure and the content of your company website to boost your search engine ranking for specific keywords and search terms. Your designer will be able to help you with keyword research and advice on balancing popular and competitive keywords against less competitive, long tail search terms.
Incorporating SEO into the business website design will add to the time it takes to develop the site. It will also add to the initial cost. However, the benefits of engaging in good quality, serious optimisation work from the beginning of the design process cannot be overstated.
15. What Do You Want To Say?
Perhaps, following on from the previous four questions, it would be better to ask what else you want to say. So far you have been asked about specific things that you are being told should appear on your website. This question is asking you about the content that you want to appear. Do you have specific marketing content already? Do you have a set message that you want to get across to your website’s visitors? This is the part of the process where you take charge and tell the designer what content to include. This is where you use your expertise to sell your company.
You also need to consider how you are going to say what you want to say. As mentioned earlier, the biggest single cause of delays to the business website design and publication is due to a delay in receiving the content from the client. As soon as you know that you definitely want a website you should begin planning the content of your site. Not everybody is blessed with writing skills. Not everybody has time to write. If either of these are a concern then you can employ a copy writer. Most web design companies have a copy writer that they regularly use. A copy writer will be able to convert your ideas and rough notes into high quality text for your website. A professional writer will also create content that is optimised for your chosen keywords and search terms.
16. What Images Will Appear On The Site?
It is almost certain that your website will need images or photographs. Good quality images help the visitor to engage with the site. They also help you to sell your company, and products and services.
If you intend to use photographs of your business on your website you will need to decide whether or not to employ a professional photographer. Many well designed sites are spoiled by poor quality photographs. A professional photographer will add to your design costs, but will also add to the quality of your site. As well as thinking about who will take the photographs, you should also consider what is being photographed. A person selling their home makes sure that the home looks it’s best. It is just as important that you do the same for your business.
Generic stock photos cost a lot less than a professional photographer. They are also generic. The same pictures will appear on many other websites. This can lead to a lack of authenticity. It is always better to have unique content if your budget will allow.
If you are planning on using graphics on your site then you also need to factor the design cost of these into your business website design.
17. What Call To Action Do You Want?
A call to action is an instruction to the website visitor intended to provoke a response. Research shows that between 40% and 60% of your site visitors will leave your site without clicking through to a second page. Many of these will never return. You have a limited opportunity to interact with most of your website visitors. This is something that needs to be taken into account in the business website design.
You need to think about how you might make the most of an opportunity to interact with your visitors. What would give your company the best opportunity to encourage these visitors to interact with you. What gives you the best opportunity to convert visitors into customers?
Your call to action can be whatever action you think will benefit your company most. What aspect of your business website design will bring visitors back to your website? You could create a special offer for visitors to take advantage of. You could invite visitors to visit your online store. The call to action could be as simple as asking visitors to like your Facebook page. A simple click of the like button could give your company an entry onto the visitor’s Facebook feed. This gives your company more opportunities to interact with the website visitor.
A good call to action could be one of the most effective and valuable parts of your business website design.
18. How Will Social Media Compliment Your Website?
Does your company have a social media presence? If not, what do you plan to do about it? If you do, how do you intend to integrate it into you business website design? The question is no longer whether or not your company needs a social media presence. The question is how you plan to implement it.
Many companies seem to keep their website and social media activities separate. However, social media can have a big impact on the success of your website. Social media can be used to publicise your website free of charge. It can also help create backlinks to your website.
Search engines love social media. A good social media presence will boost your website’s search engine ranking. Social media plays an increasingly large role in SEO.
Social media also provides the opportunity to build your brand awareness. How will you set up your social media accounts to compliment your business website design? Do you want your designer to create social media covers and profile pictures to tie in with your website? Do you have the time and know how to use your social media presence to boost your website? Would you prefer to pay for a social media management service? These are all questions you need to think about to get the most out of your marketing activities.
19. Do You Need A Blog?
Search engines love fresh content just as much as they love social media. A blog is a great way of keeping your website’s content fresh. A blog also allows you to show a more personal side to your business. So should you add a blog to your business website design?
You need to weigh up the pros and the cons of having a blog. As I set out in another blog post, I believe that every small business website design can benefit from a blog. A blog allows you to show off your expertise to potential customers. It also adds relevant content to your website on a regular basis. The more good content you have on your site the better it is for SEO. Even with a content management system there is a limit to how much fresh content you can add to the main body of your website. Your business offers a finite amount of products and services. A blog removes this obstacle to publishing fresh content.
The downside to having a blog is that it needs to be updated regularly. Although it is always better to have fresh content, visitors will not expect to see a new section of your website at each visit. However, if you have a blog they expect it to be regularly updated. A blog with no recent entries may lead a visitor to wonder if the web page is out of date, or even if the company is still in business. It is better to have no blog than an out of date blog.
20. Do You Want E-commerce Functions On Your Website?
The final question you need to think about is whether you want to sell your goods and services online. Selling online opens new possibilities and opportunities for your business to expand. However, there are some serious considerations you need to consider before adding a shopping cart to your business website design.
There are more costs attached to trading online than just the design of your store. Have you considered the ongoing costs? If you go for a low cost template design then there are often monthly fees for using the software. On top of that there are fees for your payment mechanism. Have you considered how these additional costs will affect your business?
You will also need to market your shop. Just as opportunities increase, so does the competition. You need to be found. You need a marketing budget.
There is also the issue of shipping your goods. Online trading exposes your products to an international audience. Are your goods easy and inexpensive to ship anywhere? Have you looked into the costs of shipping to international or remote locations? Are you ready for a sudden increase in demand? Can your business cope? These are all issues that you need to consider before deciding to create an ecommerce website.
You’ve made it to the end of a monstrous blog post filled with questions for you to answer. By now you may be pulling your hair out and feeling totally overwhelmed. There is no need. Help is at hand.
There are lots of resources online to help you find the answers to these questions. I am including some links to extra reading that may help. Your designer will also be happy to help you. A good designer will not give you all of the answers. They will, however, offer advice and help you to find your own answers.
These questions are a guide. You may not need to find the answers to them all. You may not find all of the answers you want. Don’t panic. The important part of this exercise is to think about the issues. If you have thought about the issues, and how they impact your business website design, then you are well on the way towards owning a well designed website that is the right website for your business!
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