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How to Help Clients Round Out Their Ideas

Eric Karkovack
Published: January 11, 2023

Working with clients requires a lot of exploration. They may want you to build their website – that much is clear. But it takes a skilled designer to fish out all of the details.

Those details are important because they can greatly impact the project’s scope, budget, and outcome. Without them, we’re left to simply guess and hope we made the right decisions. We may also be leaving quite a bit of money on the table.

The trouble is that unless your client is incredibly tech-savvy, they could have difficulty in providing fully-formed ideas. For instance, they might need a shopping cart. But they may not have thought about how it should work or what kind of results to expect.

Web designers can’t afford to work based on these sorts of vague requests. Instead, we must help our clients understand what they need and how it will impact their projects. This is the first step in the information-gathering process – before we even think of determining the eventual requirements.

Let’s look at some ways we can help to fill in the blanks and round out our client’s ideas.

Getting a Broad View of What’s Needed

Early on, clients tend to paint a picture of their project using broad strokes. In some cases, they may only mention what they consider to be the most important aspect. That could be the aforementioned shopping cart, a news-oriented site with multiple authors, or perhaps that they want to accept event registrations.

Generalities are a fine place to start the conversation. But there are likely more ingredients involved. A website is more than just its standout feature, after all. And these additional items could be just as important from a web designer’s point of view.

Take our news-oriented site as an example. That general description doesn’t tell us much about the types of content to be published. Nor does it give us any clues regarding the target audience. Oh, and it would be nice to know how the client plans to make money from the venture.

With that in mind, it’s important to get a full picture of a project. A few good questions may be all you need to find out. But it’s not always that easy.

Some clients may not have thought that far ahead. Thus, they may have to do some soul-searching before understanding the full scope of what they want. Hopefully, you’ll be able to get them started on the journey.

Getting a broad view of a project's goals can help you dig deeper.

Learning about Budgets and Timelines

Once you and your client have a basic grasp of a project’s concept, it’s time to dig into expectations. There’s still not enough info to provide a cost estimate. Thus, this next stage is more about defining some general parameters for the budget and timeline.

It’s also where any grand ideas can meet a dose of reality. A client with a tight budget may not get everything on their wish list. The same goes for those that need their website launched within a short period. If they fit both profiles, well, that could be an issue.

That’s not to say the project won’t get off the ground. Rather, it will require some adjustments. Either increase the variables to match the needs or scale back the expectations. Something has to give in this scenario.

But what if a client has no particular budget in mind? That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It provides an opportunity to discuss flexibility. You might, for instance, offer a broad price range. This will help them get a clearer picture of what it will take to accomplish their goals.

It’s also important to note a client’s willingness to listen and adapt. This can be a good indicator of how your working relationship will fare. Someone who refuses to give an inch may not be the best fit. In contrast, a client who can rationalize their need to change is likely to be a more productive partner.

Understanding a client's timeline will help you determine the project's feasibility.

Help Projects off to a Great Start

There are so many details that go into building a website. The look and layout are only one part of the story. Technical items such as hosting requirements and back-end functionality are also of great importance.

But we can’t get to the nitty-gritty of a project without first understanding a client’s basic needs. They must provide us with a broad view that we can use to hammer out the specifics.

As such, those first conversations between the client and designer are pivotal. This is where we’ll gain an understanding of a client’s thought process. In addition, we can ask questions to help fill in the blanks.

From there, we can formulate accurate cost estimates and move on to the fun of turning ideas into reality.