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How to Find Out What a Web Design Client Really Needs

Eric Karkovack
Published: December 1, 2022

One of the most difficult aspects of dealing with clients can be determining what they want and need. Usually, the exploration phase of a project will reveal some clues. But there are times when everything provided to you is vague, thus leaving some serious doubt in your mind.

That’s not an ideal situation. If you’re unsure of what a client needs, you’ll have great difficulty in building a website that serves both them and their users in the best possible way. It can also throw a major monkey-wrench in your ability to make progress.

Are you dealing with someone who can’t make up their mind or just doesn’t know much about the process of developing a website? There are some things you can do to get the information you need. Let’s have a look at some ways to do just that.

Read a Client’s Cues and Expand Upon Them

When discussing a web project, you’ll undoubtedly have some pertinent questions to ask. But you won’t always get the most complete answers – at least, not right away. That’s why it’s important to provide clients with some solid follow-up queries.

To ask an effective follow-up question, you need to listen for those little cues in a client’s response. For instance, your initial question may be about the functionalities they need from a WooCommerce-based store. They may respond that all the products will be set up the same. However, there’s a new line of merchandise coming out that will be slightly different. The words “slightly different” are a cue that you need to explore a bit further.

If you take them at their word without asking some relevant follow-up questions, you could be in for a major surprise later on. What is just a slight difference to them could mean that you need to build this site with a fundamentally different approach. So, ask them about that slight difference and see what it might mean for the project.

The goal is to ensure that you know the full scope of how things will work. Even if you’re missing just one piece of the puzzle, it could mean having to rip things apart and start all over again.

 When discussing project details, dig deeper with follow-up questions

Encourage a Consistent Approach

A website needs some level of consistency to be successful. Its design, content, and functionality all need to come together to provide a great user experience. That’s not to say that there can’t be some variation from page to page, but things shouldn’t be wildly different, either.

This is an area where some clients will struggle. That’s unfortunate, as it’s one of the traits you’ll need from your client to get the best outcome.

Think of the areas where a consistent approach will play a key role in the development process. Customizing a content management system (CMS) like WordPress (or the decision to use a CMS at all) calls for consistency. The very idea of a CMS is to make managing content much easier. Therefore, if a site’s content and layout are all over the map, that makes it much harder to plan and develop. And the more oddball exceptions you must build in, the likelier it is that something will break down the road.

So, early in the project (before development has even begun), it’s worthwhile to mention the importance of doing things in a somewhat consistent way. Explain that having a plan for building features, along with displaying and organizing content, will lead to a site that is easier to use and more cost-effective to maintain. This is especially important for larger sites.

Another benefit is that clients may become better at articulating their needs. If they’re similarly developing content each time, it can lead to a less scattered strategy. Sometimes a little structure makes a big difference in quality.

 A consistent approach can lead to better outcomes.

Introduce Potential Scenarios

It’s never a good idea to assume that you know what a client wants without having some tangible proof. While you have a shot at making the right guess, there are no guarantees. You’ll more often end up with a mess on your hands when things don’t look or work as expected.

This happens because our lines of communication are too general in scope. For example, it’s one thing for a client to say that they need you to export data. This provides you with a basic idea. However, it’s better to know exactly what data they’re referring to, what format it should be in, and how they want to access it. These details are important.

This is where you might introduce some hypothetical scenarios to the discussion. It’s a great opportunity to find out exactly what a client’s expectations are. This will help them make the right decisions early on. And it’s not overly difficult.

Sticking with the data export example, you might ask your client to walk you through what they expect during that process. Their explanation might lead to some follow-up questions where you’ll both develop a clearer picture of how things should work.

This puts you both on the same page. That should lead to fewer roadblocks as the project moves forward.

 Take time to learn about your client's expectations.

Get To Know the Individual

The most important part of assessing a client’s needs is in knowing a bit about who they are and what makes them tick. We’re all individuals with our own thoughts and ideas. As such, what worked for Client A may not do the trick for Client B.

Overall, it’s about applying the tips above in a way that fits the people you’re working with. Doing so can streamline the entire process and provide you with what you need to build the best website possible.

And it’s a skill that you can apply again and again. In time, you may even notice that the design and build processes are smoother than ever.