Do you find that your clients never seem satisfied with your output? Are you constantly going head to head over your output? Are your “ungrateful” client always misunderstanding your ideas? If this is almost always the case for you then hold on a moment before you throw your keyboard on the floor in frustration. Are you sure it’s your client that has the issue?
Sometimes the issue lies in the very beginning of a project; cast your mind back to the first meeting with your client, can you remember exactly what your client asked for? In fact, are you sure you were really listening? You see, there are indeed cases where a client can be unreasonably indecisive and temperamental but in other cases; in fact in most cases the issue arises from not gathering client requirements fully.
So, stop looking down at your guilty shoes and listen up because we have a little guide that will help you gather client requirements properly and ensure that you deliver exactly what you need to. You can thank us later.
So, why is it important?
This is almost a silly question, but even more silly is the fact that so many web agencies don’t do it in the first place. Gathering your clients requirements in the first instance is important, no, absolutely imperative as that is the project you will be creating for that particular client- simple. You will be creating a website for that client therefore it should be exactly as they want it.
Ok, I can sympathise, in some cases it would appear that a client doesn’t appear to know exactly what they want or they don’t possess the technical knowledge for you to create a succinct image of their desires. Admittedly, in some cases this can be frustrating, but again there are solutions, and these are to ask as many questions as possible; interrogate the client on every aspect possible.
Ask questions, then ask some more, and then even more…
To tailor the perfect website for a client, you will need to know exactly what their requirements are; to know their requirements you need to know them inside out. So, to help you do this you should consider asking the following questions;
What are the goals of the redesign?
This is the big picture; the foundations in which you will you will build the clients tower to the stars from. You will need to find out what the client want to be achieved from their new website. Firstly, are they asking for a whole new website or a redesign of an old one? Obviously depending on that answer they have given you will judge what information you need to find out at this stage. If it is a redesign of an old website, then the first thing you need to find out is why do they want to redesign it; i.e; what didn’t work before?
In the case of a redesign there can be a whole never-ending list of reasons why; a site may be dated, there may be a complete rebranding, the old website may even be broke. When you are redesigning a site you are essentially solving problems, so find out what the problems are and how can you solve them; talk solutions over thoroughly and hit the nail on the head.
In the case of a completely new design you need to find out what the client wants from their new design. At this point it is helpful if a client has a list of websites they like, don’t like or better still competitors. Discuss what elements of these inspire them or turn them away and think how you can incorporate it around the clients business.
At this stage, do not be afraid to offer your suggestions. At the end of the day, you are going to be creating the website and you have a history in the industry, if a client has an impossible wish or an illogical one then point it out; rather than fumbling with it later on.
Get down to time and brass tax
This is the tricky one, but sadly whether you like it or not it unfortunately governs your project. Time and money are the two ingredients that cause most of the problems between an agency and their clients.
Finding out a clients budget needs to happen early on as then you can discuss what services you can offer them for that amount and unfortunately the smoothness of this is down to how well the client knows the industry, or has shopped around. Obviously, if you know the costs your competitors charge then that’s useful in your arsenal at this point, but if not then you need to be sure that your client knows exactly what they are getting for their money.
Then the next touchy issue; time. Like anything, the more time you have to create a website, the better it will be; unfortunately not all clients are aware of this. At this point it is worth finding out when the client needs the website to be created by; are there any special dates, a product launch or an industry specific important date that the website needs to go live by? It is important to establish the client’s time requirements at this point as well as ensuring that their schedule is realistic.
At this point it is also worth pointing out any tracking software that you will employ to show a client the amount of time you will take on a task. For example, at Kalexiko we use Basecamp and Harvest to communicate tasks and time allowances with clients. Clients are often happier when they have some form of evidence of the time spent on a part of a project as it demonstrates that you are giving them transparency and you’re not just browsing the internet for hours on their time…
Who are your clients trying to reach?
In terms of how you craft a website for your client, this is arguably the most vital bit of information you will need to require. The website you create for your client needs to secure them success in their industry field, so knowing their target customer base is crucial in the early stages. Find out who uses their services or who uses their competitors services if they are a new company then tailor a website around that. The whole look, feel and usability of a website is determined by factors in this area so gather as much information about the target audience as possible.
If your client doesn’t know much about their target audience (which they should, but occasionally it happens) then you could do your research prior to the first meeting, look at their competitors and users of their service.
Depth of scope
Not all clients will require as deep as scope as others. This is completely dependent on what the purpose of the clients website is. Usually you can kind of judge what kind of depth a client will require for their website by the type it is. For example, if you are creating a website for a company wishing to sell bathroom parts through their website then you will need to create a complete eCommerce experience with features such as shopping carts, user accounts and payment functions.
On the other hand some websites may want to focus on the social elements of their sites, so a custom CMS for blogging platforms and social media integration will need to be included. In other cases a client may just want a completely flat website with no frills or extra features that is merely an informative tool about the company.
Failing to find out the depth of a website can lead to all kinds of nightmares; from wasting your time and energy on things a client doesn’t need to consequently throwing you off deadlines; causing you many a long late-night coffee sessions.
Tailor for the clients identity
Remember that you are creating a website for a client, not a client for a website…if that makes sense? Essentially you are building a web experience that relates to your client. If your client is a specialist in gothic clothing and accessories then you wouldn’t create them a website more akin to a wedding boutique, it’s just not logical. Try and capture the mood and branding of your client when creating a website.
An easy way to find out how a client sees themselves is finding out what they don’t like. Find out how they wouldn’t like their website to look and feel and make suggestions that oppose this. What can be really useful at this point is any sales literature, logos, product catalogues and other marketing material that depicts the clients company. It is crucial that your website reflects the clients company well, otherwise you will be sent right back to the drawing board.
As a final point, communicate
Gathering client requirements doesn’t end upon leaving the initial meeting; although you may have gathered all the requirements from the client, you aren’t going to be completely certain that you can produce exactly what they asked for until you sit down and discuss the project with your team. At this point it is so important that you have some form of communication platform that you can clear up any last minute issues before starting the project.
Again I state, at Kalexiko we use Basecamp as our main source of communication between our clients, to which you can see why by looking at our Basecamp users guide by clicking here.
So did you get that?
Of course, this is a lot to take in, but not half as much as a client brief. By applying these guidelines the next time you have your first briefing with a new client you can really get inside of their requirements and save yourself a lot of extra work midway through the project, and keep your client sweet in the process.
If you have any tips for how you go about gathering client information, or if you have any particularly memorable encounters with a client then we would love to hear all about it. Drop us a comment below!
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