At the beginning of the year, I made a goal to improve customer service at my business. In 2012, I had a very successful year, but there were several bumps along the road. I’ve targeted a few specific things to improve, one of those improvements needed to be how I went about gathering information at the beginning of the project. Typically, what I have done is meet with a client for 30-60 minutes and talked about their company, their idea of what they want their website to be, etc. I had an outline of things to discuss, but I was always putting the client on the spot and not allowing them to think through these questions before I met with them.
There are several consequences to this workflow, two of the most important is charging the client $100 per hour and not get very far in the process and making unwise decisions because of time restraints. In the end, I get a client who is unhappy because they’ve spent a lot of money without any sort of product and because we might not have answered the right questions.
While this issue is complex and one thing won’t solve it, I have started the long process of improving it.
The form is broken up into five sections
- The Basics
- About Your Company or Project
- About Your Design
- About Your Content
- Almost Finished…
This form is huge and can take a lot of time to complete. One of the wonderful byproducts of a long, intense form is that the client gets to think about the important questions first before meeting with me. Another wonderful features of having a daunting form is that potential clients who aren’t very motivated won’t fill it out — my first step of weeding out bad clients. However, I wanted to make sure that I gave users a way out. If the user is unsure and wants to talk to a real person before committing a lot of time to a battery of questions, all the need to fill out are five questions in “The Basics” category. Customers are told not to be overwhelmed and are instructed at this wonderful loophole! These five questions are validated as well and a submitter will be kicked back to the form and notified that they didn’t complete all the required fields.
About Your Company or Project
To work for someone, you need to know a lot about them. I use this section as their introduction to me. They get to tell me about their company’s objectives, who they think their audience is, and what they think the goal of their website should be. They also get to be a bit introspective during this process and explain to me the difference between them and their competitors, basic to any fundamental business plan.
About Your Design
This is the section many skip to right away. They ignore their goals, they ignore their audience, and they just want a design that looks cool. I try to get their feel of what they think would be a good website by asking for 3 examples of websites they like and what they like about it. Then, I ask them to check words and phrases that they think would describe their business and future site well. I don’t want to get into specifics during the brief, I just want to be prepared for our first meeting.
About Your Content
Content is king. Haven’t you heard? Well, it’s true, even if that phrase is beat to death. I want clients who are motivated and have an idea of what their copy is. I ask them about what copy they have prepared and give them pointers about writing for the web in this section.
This is the final section, I encourage them to review their submission and tell me anything that wasn’t already covered that they might want me to know before the first meeting.
Throughout the process, I made small markers in blue that indicate that they’re moving along in the overall “steps” of the brief. This is simply a visual cue to assure them that they are moving forward. Once they’ve submitted the form, I’ll receive an e-mail and they’re carbon copied. It details everything that they’ve just answered and now I can start a client meeting off with more knowledge.
The client has thought about their solution a bit and I’m armed with more knowledge about the client. It’s a win-win. Do you see any holes in my initial process? Things that I can improve? Above is a slideshow of the images from my Web Design Project Brief, feel free to navigate through them.