The first step in designing a website is getting to know the client. Create as many avenues of communication as you can - social, technical, professional - and don't be afraid to talk about something as innocuous as the weather or as controversial as politics.
Know thy client
Asking the right questions is the key to developing a web design that actually works for a client. Technical details such as how many navigation buttons a website needs can influence the overall design.
Here is a list of technical questions that can influence your choice of web design.
- What information do you want to collect from your visitors?
- How aggressively have you promoted your site to search engines?
- How important is high ranking on search engines?
- List 5 keywords you would like to optimise for.
- Do you want us to monitor traffic to your site and adjust our SEO strategy (make changes to the site) to drive more traffic?
- Do you need an e-commerce engine (shopping cart, etc)?
- Do you have a merchant account or want one set up?
- Do you need website hosting?
- Do you have a registered domain name already?
- If not what domain name would you like us to secure for you?
- Would you like us to suggest a search engine friendly domain name for you?
- How often do you anticipate changing the content of the site?
- Do you need a content management system so you can do the changes (or minor changes) yourself or do you want us to handle everything?
- How many email accounts do you need?
- Do you want access to web statistics for your site?
- Do you have a google analytics account already?
- What is the purpose of developing or redesigning your site?
- to sell a product or service (e-commerce)
- to attract visitors and build a community (be a portal)
- to prove a point or fight a cause
- to communicate with other organizations
- to educate (provide a community service)
- to sell advertising
- to enhance our credibility by having an internet presence
- to experiment and test market demand
- to improve customer service
- to keep existing customers informed
- to provide prices and quotes to customers and/or vendors
- to facilitate company communication (intranet)
- Is there anything else you want us to know about your website?
This list of questions should give you all the technical information you need to determine the general direction of the design you wish to accomplish. A creative team should come up with at least two or three designs to present to a client with distinctly different themes.
Here is where the inspirational element comes in. All the subtle clues you picked up during the personal part of the interview process should merge with all that technical information and inspire a fundamental emotion that will govern the entire web design. What do you want a visitor to FEEL when they first enter your website? Do you want them to feel emotional? Moved? Awed? Safe? Driven to buy your product? Motivated to join your community? Impressed by your impeccable corporate look and organizational skills?