72 Questions to Ask New Web Design Clients with PDF Chart

How many times have you hung up the phone after a chat with a new prospective client and then immediately slapped your forehead and said “I can’t believe I forgot to ask ______!”. Yes, fill in the blank. You have done this, right? If not, you will shortly. Well, I jotted down my own personal list of forgetful-questions, and did a quick survey of the top 20 results for “questions to ask new web clients” and related searches. Aside from semantic fluctuations, there was zero overlap: we all ask the same stuff. So I present below the best 72 questions to ask prospective web design clients, along with a PDF chart.

Get your graphic design brain moving

When I brainstormed the list, it was initially very group-oriented and linear, as the brainstorm process naturally is. However, I chose to mix the list results up deliberately for several reasons:

  • When a list is in random order, you actually have to read it
  • Random lists will stimulate the brainstorming process in you
  • Ordered lists will trigger your left brain to say “I already know that” and tell your right brain to shut up: we don’t want left brain in on this at the moment
  • Random lists forces your right brain to make associations your left brain simply can’t make: right brain is your buddy on a wobbly new client call
  • Asking “random” questions will make you look super smart and leave a good impression on your new client, whether you are really smart or not :)

If you post a comment below with a great question to ask, I will update the text list and PDF by removing my least-useful or most-lame question and make room for your awesome question.

Print this list of 72 Questions to Ask New Web Design Clients out and hang it near your phone

Why should you print a random list? You should print this out and keep it handy during new client calls so that instead of doodling, you can oodle this list and free-associate questions in a purely right-brain manner. If I put the list in grouped order, or alphabetical, or topical, etc., your left brain would simply shut down the right brain and say “I know all this”. The problem is that your left brain will not lie – you do know this stuff. However, your left brain knows little about timing and listening to and engaging with your new client in robust way.

My head hurts regarding why you've not picked up Rob Cubbon's new ebook for designers starting a web design business:

Therefore, I’d suggest printing this out and keeping it handy, and let your eyes dart around the list. Maybe keep a few handy and scribble on it while you talk. Your right brain will dart around this list subconsciously and hopefully make connections between the random questions listed and what your client is actually saying on the phone. Good luck!

If you are excessively left-brained, you are probably not a designer, and probably don’t have many ordered lists hanging around, so this should work for you just fine. Is your desk a little messy? Sock drawer, at least? But you always find your socks, right? If you get anxiety when your socks are not in alphabetical order, you won’t get much value from a list like this.

One last important note about the list: Some questions are very, very straightforward. Other questions, as you read them, are totally ambiguous. That is the whole point. I want to help you figure out what questions to ask, and not simply tell you questions I would ask. Some questions overlap in subtle ways for some people, but might not for others. Therefore, improvise and tell me what to add to the list in the comment section below!

Uber-final Note: Please also forward me a 10% finders fee when you collect the deposit from your newly thrilled and delighted client who is impressed with your off-the-cuff competence! How impressive you truly are!

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The list of 72 Top Questions to Ask New Web Design Clients

  1. How does your company handle email?
  2. Do you need any password protected areas?
  3. Do you have the Pantone numbers for your current company colors?
  4. Did you take a look at our portfolio?
  5. What is your time frame?
  6. Is this a brochure site, or a blog?
  7. Who is your audience?
  8. Do you have any specifications?
  9. What are the website addresses of your competitors?
  10. How many other companies have you talked to?
  11. Do you need a business card and letterhead?
  12. What is your main message?
  13. Did you or someone else register the domain?
  14. How familiar are you with search engine optimization and best practices?
  15. What are several websites you like?
  16. Do you currently have a website?
  17. Do you or anyone on your staff have Photoshop or other image editing software?
  18. Do you need search engine help?
  19. Does the site launch need to coincide with a product launch or any other important milestone?
  20. Do you need a content management system?
  21. How long have you had a website?
  22. Do you have photos you need to use?
  23. Will several people be editing the site?
  24. How many pages do you need?
  25. Do you have a catalog or brochure?
  26. How do people find your current website?
  27. Do you have a newsletter?
  28. Are you in touch with the orginal designer?
  29. Do you have access to the web server?
  30. What are several websites that you like the look of?
  31. Do you have control over the domain?
  32. Do you need any other promotional material?
  33. How familiar are you with usability studies?
  34. How important is search engine ranking to you?
  35. Is there any specific functionality you need?
  36. Will you be providing creative direction?
  37. Do you have your content done?
  38. Will your IT person be involved?
  39. Do you have a logo? What format is it in?
  40. How familiar are you with graphic design best practices for web designs?
  41. What is your current hosting company?
  42. Have you been through the complete web design and development process before?
  43. Who are your competitors?
  44. How often do you need to update the site?
  45. Describe the style of website you are looking for?
  46. Is the original developer still available?
  47. What is your budget?
  48. What is compelling about working with us?
  49. Do you need an image gallery?
  50. Are you or anyone on your staff familiar with HTML and CSS?
  51. Is your logo in Illustrator format?
  52. Do you need this to integrate with your existing identity pieces?
  53. How are you going to maintain the site?
  54. What software do you have?
  55. How did you find us?
  56. Did you read any of our blog?
  57. What bugs you the most about websites?
  58. Do you need any other graphic design help?
  59. Do you need social media tools built in, like Digg, Facebook, Twitter, Stumble Upon, etc.
  60. How familiar are you with web standards and web design best practices?
  61. Do you need the website to tie into any particular 3rd party applications?
  62. Do you need a contact form?
  63. Do you have a domain?
  64. Do you have any proposals from other design firms?
  65. How important is customization to you?
  66. Will you want or need help in making changes? If so, would you need help routinely?
  67. What do you need your website to do?
  68. Do you need ecommerce?
  69. Have you considered redesigning your logo?
  70. Do you have hosting?
  71. Have you considered taking a fresh look at your corporate identity? This a good time to consider refresh or an entirely new identity.
  72. When is the last time you updated the site?

Print the PDF Chart and put it next to your phone

Click on the chart graphic below* to download the PDF or download it here:

72 Questions to Ask Your New Web Design Clients

* Don’t forget to leave comments so I can tweak this list if need be!

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Comments

  1. says

    Oh man, I don´t see my self approaching to my could be client making him go through a round of 72 questions.

    The intention of doing the questions is 100% good, actually is a must do, but my 2 cents are:

    1. Categorized the questions, so they know what are you looking for, maybe they want to answer first the categories they know better and stay at the end with the more technical categories.
    2. Reduce the number of questions, you can do combos or include more stuff in just one question.
    3. Make this questionnaire online with Yes and No options and some text boxes.

    P.S.
    You have a mistake in the title before the questions list:
    “The list of 68 Top Questions to Ask New Web Design Clients”

    It’s 72 not 68 right?

    Thanks for sharing this good work!

  2. says

    Hi Miguel – I hope you don’t torture your poor new client with 72 questions!! This is meant to jog YOUR brain and not your CLIENTS brain. I always improvise my calls so I can make sure I’m really listening. But in listening, I sometimes (well, many times) forget to ask basic questions because I get so lost in this or that of what the client is talking about. I’m also concerned about being professional and attentive. As you may know well, there is quite a bit of granular detail regarding even the simplest website. So for me, this random list works.

    That said, I have a questionnaire that I use in the SECOND step, where I’m actually collecting real data for a real job or at least real website RFP or SOW.

    I found a few typos in the list and the PDF, but didn’t see the big huge blatant sub-heading change. I just fixed it so I won’t confuse any more passers-by. Thanks for the tip-off. How embarrassing, really.

  3. says

    I am really glad to have gone through the post, its amazing I was trying to see whether it will be of any use me and I am sure going to use for future reference.

  4. says

    Hi Murlu: I hope you don’t use it all, especially all at once! But glancing at it during a call or composing an email might jog the ol’ noggin to ask this or that question. Your mind might catch a phrase on the sheet and stir up a line of questions for the client you might not have thought about otherwise…

  5. Ben Jones says

    Solid gold!

    We have a survey piece that gets into further detail, but I love the idea of having something close at hand that at least does some prequalifying. All of those questions are leading questions – and being able to avoid the linearity of the “logically” grouped questions makes sure you can be more conversational.

    I am getting better at being okay with the sock drawer not being ordered.

    This knocked mine off.

    Really liked your capitalgoodfund.org design, by the way, which drove me here.

  6. says

    Hi Ben: There is a time for organized socks approach and there is a time for the random-socks-generator approach! Hopefully something from this list will stick in your brain, and the next new client call will trigger the memory just in time to cinch up a sale for you :).

    I appreciate your comment about Capital Good Fund. It was a blast working with Andy Posner on that!

  7. says

    Thanks. Checked out your site – totally love it. That background image is great. Don’t ask me to explain why but I’m drawn to champagne-golden-mist-sparklish images. Minimalist-goodness! Looks like the trinity giving orders to pixie-angels hiding in the rocks :).

  8. says

    Isn’t 72 questions a bit overkill?! If I showed that list to a potential client I’d be scared they’d run a mile in fright :)

    Thanks anyway

  9. Nuno Presley says

    Hi. That’s a great list but it’s a bit mixed up. For instance in Q39 you ask if the client has a logo and what format. Then on Q51 you ask if the logo is in AI format. Then only on Q69 you ask if he wants to redesign it.

  10. says

    hi there. Now i have to make some remarks on our post really. I’m a big fa of having everything in order, make statements clear, have clients define what they want and every time, but i mean everyt time i have lie 15 form on-Line always available if i find my self in situation t meet client i Starbucks and use them right away. And the story goes on, every next client I was basically focusing how to make those forms/tables/questionnaires call them how you wanted, better. Better looking, simplier, funnier, prettier, etc. And I don’t now, I had been doing that and in 90% of the times I learned a big – huge lesson.
    1. Either my clients are dumb or somethings wrong with questions
    2. Eitherr my client are really dumb and don’t understand how i portant is for them – not for me, for me it';s better to focus on what they want – or questions are wrong agai.,

    And I said already, in 90% of the time is like, “Pfff can my administrator do that”, “Can my office Mng answer them”, “Can you co me tommorow, i have a lot of work now,i need to have clear mind do decide what i want”…etc…and doing it for more than 10 years I can grantee, they didn’t know most of the times what they want because they expect from you some ind of impression work which’s gonna knock’them down, or simple they can decide. Also when it is about wealthier clients, it’s always about competition. So for the end, just to give you advice 100 of my 102 clients you would loose only by chasing them to answer you damn questions, and you know and they assume you do that to make it better, to understand them, to get to know your client, but again it’s some strange fisics, they just don’t want to get bothered like that. mt advice – brae those 70 question is like 6 parts, and after every part do some work, even print that a little bit of work (also I learned and noone can say different, they want to feel their work, to touch it, trust me), so after each question show some wor done and little by little you’ll get the most out of your client. Like this o answer you so much, ha, they didn’t do that much not even for their BA diploma in school. Good luck with those questions – they are realy goo questions, I’m not saying that but too muvch. I hope someone will agree with me?

  11. says

    I had client who come unexpectedly and ask me to do their organization logo. I was busy and I said “Yes sure I would love to participate and do tat for you”, then I gave her my laptop with “Logo-Request-form-which is basically questionnaire made of 25 question important to me before i start doing some work, especially whn it comes about branding. Client was looking at those questions and by-the-look-on-her-face you could see that she was so boring. I had to move questionnaire and start asing her verbally, even then didn’t wor. She said”It;s simple – I need that, hat and that.” Aha, Ok. simple for her, but one more headache for me.That is ussual reaction of Form-al questions.

  12. says

    @ Ralph: It looks like some questions might be repeated by they are not. Don’t read this list as a literal must-ask-every-question. The list is meant to jog your brain. Based on the client and context, “do you have a logo” is quite a different question from “what format is your logo in”. Don’t try to think of this as a jumbled up form. It’s meant for you to see your client and conversation with them from as many different angles as possible.

    @ Andy: If you go back and re-read the intro material (perhaps it’s a bit too much!), you would see that this list is in NO WAY intended to present to the client. It’s meant for YOU when you are on the phone, or maybe even composing an email offline. It’s a “what am I forgetting” list meant to jog YOUR brain, not scare the bejeebees out of your client.

    @ Mark: sounds like you got something out of it! Excellent!

    @ Nuno: You got it right that the list is mixed up. That’s exactly what it’s supposed to be. Those 3 questions (among others) are not the same question at all. Again, this is meant to stimulate YOUR brain. For instance, you see the client has an ugly logo – might be time to ask for a redesign since you are redoing the site and the logo is hopeless. Another client says “Yes, I have the copy done, the photographs taken, and the logo from my other designer”, to which you might ask “what format is it in?” I’ve gotten logos from “designers” in Word. Oh, I should have asked.

    @ Vladimir: 99% of all my clients are terrified by things like forms. I don’t know why this is, but for many reasons, they expect designers to be able to read minds, and they don’t want to think any more than they have to. I have found a free form, bite-sized approach works best. This list of 72 questions is a list of questions you might ask 5 or 6 of in a given conversation, only to go back later and ask a few more later. It depends. Clients can be so random. “One more headache for me…” – that is so true! Yes, clients want to give us their headaches, but they have to do some work or the headache won’t go away. The clients I work with won’t fill out forms. So the best I can do is ask questions, and hope to cover as many show stoppers up front, and then come back in subsequent conversations to fill in the blank. But, getting the show stoppers out of the way FIRST is what I aim for. This list of 72 questions is simply meant to stimulate that right-brain thinking to ask those questions and to ready your mind for that first call with a new client.

  13. says

    These are good points. I’d love to see this broken down into stuff you can realistically ask the client when you first make contact, however.

  14. says

    @ Ian: Think of this as more for you than the client – something to read and keep in the back of your mind before you call. Or something to scan with half an eye while you are on a call. It’s meant NOT to be a break down list or form, but a right brain stimulator.

  15. says

    The list is great but I doubt you can have the customer answer all of them. The client has to feel comfortable while most of the questions listed about can confuse him IMHO

  16. says

    Typo in Q50?
    “Are you are anyone on your staff familiar with HTML and CSS?”
    Shouldn’t the second ‘are’ be an ‘or’?

    For the rest; great list, very useful!

  17. says

    Hi Anastasia: Take a look at some of the previous comments – this seems to be a common misunderstanding. This is intended for you, not the client. Once you get that perspective it makes more sense.

  18. says

    @ Bas: Oh man, thanks! I just fixed the HTML! Good catch. I should add “Do you have someone in your office that can spell?” because I make no pretense to being a copy editor :).

  19. says

    Great list, and great to have. Never thought to write myself a cheat sheet. Will be using this for the next potential client meeting as reference, there were defiantly a few in here i didn’t think to ask up front.

  20. says

    for all who’s asking should i ask all the questions to potential client? ask your self do you want to answer all the question?, definitely the answer is no; and the great job that’s Douglas Bonneville did is to assemble all the potential questions in one pdf file like reference for you, some questions must be asked some are relative to who’s your client.
    thank you Douglas for the helpful topic, looking forward to your next post.

  21. says

    Mike: It’s good to jog your memory about questions to ask before a meeting…there are just so many things to forget. When we forget, we end up paying with time one way or the other. Anything, including this list, is a help if it saves time!

  22. says

    Thanks piczoom. Perhaps it could have been titled “72 Questions you COULD ask…” :). But yes, this post requires a careful read or else you might miss the gist. Thanks for stopping by – see you on the next post.

  23. says

    Some good points here to jog your memory, but I need to agree with the people that say this list is too long… I would group them up and personally (despite the your resoning for having them in a random order) would probably put them into a logical order.

  24. says

    @ Damian: I think another kind of useful list could be made from this one if it was shorter and grouped logically, but it serve a different purpose from what is intended in its current format.

  25. says

    Thanks for the great article. It can be really hard to create a good strong design for my own sites! I’ll definitely give this a try.

    Keep writing, cheers!

  26. says

    True, but people who are excessively right brained probably can’t remember what questions they are supposed to ask about a design job: “What did you want on this page again?”

    :)

  27. says

    I’m missing just one important question.

    That is:
    Does your website need to support multiple languages?

  28. says

    “You sure will end up looking smarter if you ask random questions.”

    You won’t end up looking smarter on this article by posting random comments, not having read the intro material and previous comments by me and others who took the time to read thoroughly:

    “I want to help you figure out what questions to ask, and not simply tell you questions I would ask.”

    “I hope you don’t torture your poor new client with 72 questions!! This is meant to jog YOUR brain and not your CLIENTS brain.”

    “…this list is in NO WAY intended to present to the client. It’s meant for YOU when you are on the phone, or maybe even composing an email offline. It’s a “what am I forgetting” list meant to jog YOUR brain, not scare the bejeebees out of your client.”

    “Think of this as more for you than the client”

    “This is intended for you, not the client. Once you get that perspective it makes more sense.”

    And so on.

  29. says

    Douglas,

    This PDF Chart is an excellent resource for freelance designers out there. I have crossed paths with many designers who lack a proper structure in their requirements gathering and whatnot.

    Thanks for your contribution to the community :)

    narek @ prgmatic

  30. says

    Hey Doug,

    While I appreciate the effort I’m honestly not sure about this list; a lot of the questions (e.g. “Describe the style you’re looking for” or “Do you need a CMS”) rely on the customer making design decisions. Of course, it depends on what kinds of clients you’re working for, but if they have their own marketing department that can answer all the questions up there, they will usually be briefing you in the way they are most comfortable with.

    Smaller clients on the other hand may be overwhelmed by the amount of questions and their possible implications. Especially if you’re dealing with the business owner; it almost never helps to put them in a position where they don’t really know an answer to your question, but are too proud to ask for an explanation. They might get uncomfortable working with you personally or just answer the first thing that pops into their head which may not be what they actually want.

    Personally, I prefer not asking too many questions but rather listening to what the client has to say about his business in his own words. Usually, many of the 72 questions up there become apparent in that process. My #1 question: “How do you earn money?”; #2 “Why should people come to you instead of the competition?”; #3 “Where do you plan to take the company, and what kind of challenges are you facing on the way there?”

    Clients in my experience are a lot more comfortable talking in their own language about terms they understand, and it’s my job to translate that into a web design.

    More often than not, these questions lead to interesting discussions and insights for the customer, especially because I’m dealing with a lot of start-ups.

    I’m really sorry I don’t have more positive things to say, it’s just that my approach is so very different (and I don’t have much in the way of a proven track record, FYI). I really depends very much on who you’re working with and how I guess. Also, #71 is missing a word. Again, Sorry.

  31. says

    Berthold: The list most certainly should not be read. It’s for the designer / project manager to refresh before they engage in primary or preliminary meetings. It should simply make YOU say, “Oh, good one – I’ll have to ask about that”. It’s brainstorming tool first and foremost. I have never had clients that wanted to fill out forms or be asked a lot of questions up front. They almost always tend to just shut off. This little list is simply meant to help keep the conversation lively and pertinent. Perhaps, with any given client, only a few of these question are helpful – but any of them might also simply spark you to remember to ask about such and such, which is the real purpose of the list.

    Thanks for popping by and sharing. You list some excellent questions and strategies as well.

  32. says

    Hey Douglas!

    Awesome work and a great addition to freelancers knowledge and template bank (and for free). Maybe more people could appreciate ( as I do) all the time and energy you invested on the project!

    From my side thanks for your insight.

    J. | Webilder.com
    Often there are no right answers, there’s just different choices!

  33. says

    That was a great list. I got my first client in two years today (took a break for family things). She asked me to call her and my brain just kind of made that sound the TV used to make with the colored bars. I usually stick to email with clients, so I hope this list makes me sound more structured than I typically do over the phone. Many questions were previously answered, but I wrote down about 15 that will help. Thanks!

  34. says

    My best thanks.. and I’ve took 32 questions that send to my client mail address today…

    ps: (+) do you need multilingual support? how much language do you need?

  35. says

    The list is no doubt excellent and it is also true that we do need all the information we can gather about our client before starting a web design project. However, don’t you think the 72 questions would be a little too much for the cleint? Or do you think that it is good if the client goes the extra mile to answer all of them, that way they become more serious about the project?

  36. says

    Hi Ray: This is not intended to give your client! This is meant to jog your memory as you talk to the client, more of a “did I think to ask them this or that” kind of checklist. Give this a quick glance next time before you talk to someone new – you might be surprised what questions it helps you ask!

  37. says

    Just wanted to say thanks. I teach a web design class and always get the comment during our design discussion, “What questions should I ask? Iv’e never done this befor!” That usually leads into a good discussion on that topic an dmany questions end up on the board. If you don’t mind I would love to use this as a hand out for the class.

  38. says

    Thanks for the list! I’m starting to think I may ask #60 ( How familiar are you with web standards and web
    design best practices?) to designers and developers at networking events! (Just kidding) :-)

  39. David says

    Great list! I’d expand on #67 though… my first two questions to clients are intended to get them really thinking (beyond bells and whistles and all the other distractions like slideshows and social media plugins).

    #1) Why do you think you need a website?
    Expect a few awkward moments of silence here. Hopefully their answer will NOT be “because everyone else is doing it”… and ideally it will be a lead into #2 (variation on your #67).

    #2) When people visit your site what do you want THEM to do?
    Join a mailing list? Buy your product? Schedule an appointment?

    Having done design work before the days of the www (yeah, I’m that old) I’d argue that #2 applies to all marketing/advertising material (online or off). It’s at the heart of copywriting and ultimately it’s THE most important question of all.

    Keep up the good work!

  40. says

    @ David: I agree with you on #2 all the way. Most people really don’t know. Some people think the point of a website to explain their company. But it’s really to meet the customer’s needs!

  41. says

    Douglas,

    I’d like to thank you for this list. It’s a great resource for any level of designer. It covers many great points.

    I’m sorry that you have to keep explaining to folks that it is not meant to be read verbatim to the client. Par for the course, I guess.

    Awesome job!

  42. says

    Hi, Not so awesome at all, there are some duplicated questions. I prefer to send a questionnaire with less questions. Thanks anyway

  43. says

    This is not a questionnaire to send, but rather, a list of questions for YOU to ponder, so that you think of the project and client from many different angles. This is meant to stimulate conversation.

  44. says

    Great list of questions- I’ve printed them out.

    I find that there are 2 types of client:

    Type A) The one who knows exactly what they want.
    Type B) The one who knows nothing about anything, but they want it.

    Given the 2 situations, there are 2 simple methods that will really assist you in getting inside the clients head.

    Type A) Perfect. Jot down what they want and email it back to them in case anything was missed or misunderstood.

    Type B) Have a pre-made list of what you think is best and email it to them. Tell them what they want. 99% of the time they’ll agree.

    Steve Jobs was doing this for years. Nobody asked for the designs or features on the Macs; Steve told people what was best and people either bought or did not.

    Most people have a need to be told by an expert (you) what they should do… don’t disappoint them.

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  1. […] 72 Questions to Ask New Web Design Clients with PDF Chart | BonFX – Logo Designer & Freela… How many times have you hung up the phone after a chat with a new prospective client and then immediately slapped your forehead and said “I can’t believe I forgot to ask ______!”. Yes, fill in the blank. (tags: freelance webdesign clients checklist) […]

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