There are two things that many of us want from our business: To make more money and to work less.
One of the best ways to decrease your workload is to develop rock solid systems and processes. Because great processes allow you get more done at the same time, you can also turn over more projects for more profit.
Better yet, good client-facing processes make you look more professional, allowing you to charge more and be confident in doing so.
A website design questionnaire is one of the first touch points you have with your clients. It’s arguably the most important thing to get right in the entire web development process. It helps you understand your client’s wants and needs. If you don’t know what your client needs, the project might be doomed before it has even started.
What is a web design questionnaire
In short, a questionnaire is a series of questions you ask your clients (or prospects) before you start on their website.
It helps you understand so much about their business: The typical initial assessment asks about:
- Products & services
- Audience & clients
- Unique selling proposition (what makes them different)
But you can go further than this, to get an understanding of their:
- The real reason they want a new website (we’ll dig into this soon)
Why it is so important to get right
We’ve touched on this a little already, but the main thing is that a good design questionnaire helps ensure that the project isn’t a giant failure.
That sounds extreme, but it’s the truth.
Without uncovering the real reason your client wants a new website, you could end up building something that doesn’t even come close to their expectations.
You could assume that clients want a new website to generate more business. But even that can mean a few different things.
Do they need to rank in Google (so you should focus on SEO), do they plan on running ad campaigns (so they’ll need landing pages)?
I’ve even heard a story of an agency that uncovered a totally hidden reason: the client simply wanted to look amazing because they were selling their business.
Once you know the real motivation you can propose the best possible solution, and do a better job of selling it to them. When you can talk about their fears, wants and needs, it’s much easier to sell.
Another benefit is that a questionnaire can help you filter out bad clients.
One of fastest ways to kill your passion for your business is to end up working with a bunch of bad clients. Even just one can ruin an entire month.
Finally, it can help your clients see how much is really involved in a website so they appreciate the value in it.
While the questions ultimately help you do a better job, the process of filling them out gets your client thinking about their website. It forces them into understanding their target audience, goals, needs and hopefully how much this all might cost.
How to create your website questionnaire
This really comes down to personal preference.
Some designers create their questionnaires with online forms. Some send Word documents. Some send fillable or printable PDFs.
I highly recommend using online forms. Partly because I hate printing things and party because I like keeping processes as tight and automated as possible.
It can also be a giant pain for your clients to have to print things, fill it out and scan it back. Keeping things easy for your client means things get done faster.
There will sometimes be old-school clients that prefer printing. If you run into this, than perhaps generate a PDF of your form when the time comes.
Tools to build your form
If you don’t already have a forms tool of choice, one of the simplest ways to get started is Google Forms. It works no matter what platform you are using, it’s easy to set up and it’s free. If you have a Google account, just go to drive.google.com and create a new form.
My personal favourite is Gravity Forms. It’s a WordPress plugin that is pretty much the most versatile option out there. We use in on every client site, it’s very developer friendly and has a bunch of integrations. You’ll also be able to import our exact website design questionnaire template right into Gravity Forms by grabbing it below.
Some other tools to try:
- TypeForm – Standalone software that looks better than the rest
- Caldera Forms – A newer WordPress plugin that makes nicer looking forms than Gravity out of the box
Now you know the why, what and how.
Let’s dig into the actual questions that you’ll ask.
How long your questionnaire is depends on your strategy. If you’re trying to do a higher volume of sites at a lower price, you might want to get all the info for their entire website up front.
If you are doing higher priced sites where you include strategy discussions, the questionnaire might just be an initial filter to weed out bad clients, and to arm yourself with enough info for an in-person meeting.
Here are our favourite questions and why we ask them.
How did you find out about us?
This is a great question to ask for a couple of reasons.
- It may present a marketing channel you’d never thought of
- If they put in someone’s name, you can do something special for that person (referrals are your best friend)
Do you have your web content ready?
I like this question just to get an idea of where they are at right now and to gauge how much work is required. It’s also an upsell opportunity if they want help with their content. We have a multi-choice answer with the following:
- Yes, take it from my existing website
- Yes, it’s in documents ready to go
- Nope, but I will be writing it
- Nope, and I need help with it
What are your products and services
Probably the most obvious question of the entire brief. You’ll need an understanding of what their business does, and this question helps with that.
Who are your ideal customers?
So you know who you’re targeting.
Why are the visiting your website? What’s their #1 goal?
You might split this into several questions, but this one is important as every business is different. Some just want to get the client on the phone, some want their clients to purchase online or simply enter their email somewhere.
What’s your average sale value (approx) -or- What is the lifetime value of your customer?
This one is a sneaky one for me. If you know someone makes $20k from a client, that’s something you can use to quantify the value in the site you are building. If the website helps them get just one more client a year, it’s much easier to justify a $10k price tag.
List 3 websites you like, preferably in different industries and include dot points what you do and don’t like for each
Everyone asks for comparable websites, but it’s important to find out what they do and don’t like. So many times they say they like a website, but it turns out they only like the header and hate the rest. If you’d based your design from that, you’re in trouble. Better to find that out early.
List out the pages you want on your website
This one is for the clients that already have a pretty good idea, or to help the other ones think about it some more. What they write here doesn’t have to be set in stone.
Do you have any concerns or worries?
This one is gold. This is where they tell you exactly what you need to address when you talk to them later.
To call your website a success, what would need to happen?
Just like the above question, this is gold. It helps you craft both your pitch and make sure the website achieves their exact goals. It can also help bring out hidden things that wouldn’t have come up otherwise.
What is your budget?
The ultimate filter. We use a dropdown list where the smallest amount is “<$2000”. Generally, you’d set the bottom level as the budget you don’t want to work with and may simply refer them to someone else.
What is your timeframe / launch date?
Just in case you get a surprise 2 weeks in that everything needs to be finished in 3 more days.
(Anything else that is a dealbreaker for you)
Include this as questions so you can make the decision not to worth with them faster.
Interpreting the results to filter clients
If you’re using your questionnaire as a client filter as well, here are some tips for deciding whether or not to proceed.
Sometimes it’s really obvious that a client isn’t going to be a good fit. For example, if they list out 25 pages and give a budget of $500.
But there are some things you can look out for in the results which might indicate a storm brewing.
- If they are highly critical of other websites or previous developers. Sometimes this may be founded criticism, but sometimes it’s just a reflection of the client
- Excessive detail in what they want. If they aren’t leaving anything open to you, there’s a real chance they are going to pick apart everything you do.
- Or even worse “I’ll know what I want when I see it”
- Silly words to describe what they want. If they want the site to “pop”, “have more pizzazz” or “be maybe 20% more playful”
- Their target audience is “everyone” (this might just mean they need some business lessons)
- In the free-text boxes, they’ve written essays
- If you just get their feeling their expectations don’t match the budget. Yes, it’s OK to trust your gut. That bad feeling you get is the result of hundreds of thousands of years of decision-making evolution
Bonus: Automatic quote or estimate generation
This is just something to consider. It may or may not fit into your workflow, and it completely depends on your strategy.
I know some people that have all clients run through a questionnaire that generates an estimate or even a fixed quote. I know others who would never do this as they want the opportunity to talk to that client in person about their overall strategy, and to make the sale.
We haven’t personally done this with our form, but it works for some designers.
If you’re using a forms tool that supports calculations and conditional logic, you can build quote generation into it. The process depends on the form tool you are using, but try searching for something like “[TOOLNAME] conditional logic” or “calculations”.
As an example, you might require your clients to put in a number of pages and select a box that they want a contact form, Facebook tracking code and a popup. These might add fixed amounts to your quote, so you can deliver them an instant quote with the form.
Get our full question list and Gravity Form import
If you’d like to:
- See our full question list
- Get started immediately by getting a downloadable file you can import directly into Gravity Forms
Simply sign up below.
That’s easy – if you haven’t already got a questionnaire, go and create one!
If you already have one, read through and see if anything needs adding or adjusting.
Read through our questions to see if there are any that make sense for you to add.
Have any awesome stories or tips you’d like to share? Drop them in the comments below, and maybe we’ll invite you on the show to share them 🙂