questions to ask before you develop a website

I was asked often to help many of my customers making or launching their new website or portal, I won’t go here through the life cycle of such project but just focus on the real first step after getting contact : gathering information.

As you know, customers don’t express [usually] their needs in a comprehensive way and sometimes it’s just an emotional impulse because they just need to make a new web site or a virtual shop.

In an industrial scale, setting a new web site obliges you to go through various fields like human (the customer’s need), creative ( the visitor’s perception) and technologic ( choices and constraints ).
Nevertheless, the difficulty remains always in how to answer the complexity and unveil most of the hidden aspects to succeed this kind of projects.

Through the multiple interviews that I did, I ended up to collect a set of questions that help me to assist and get a better vision of what my client wants and mainly to limit the scope of the project.

As your’ll read, I splited the questions into several topics, each one is related to an aspect of the project.

Notice that the topics are ordered but the questions aren’t.
Rhe questions are not complete too, don’t cover everything and you don’t have to ask them all, just pick up what you need during your interview.

Don’t hesitate to update them with what you think more suitable with yours.

Company background

  • what kind of business is your company doing? can you describe me your main activities ?
  • how long has your company been in business?
  • what is the size of your company? how it’s organized ?
  • what is the company’s reputation?
  • what is your typical customer like?
  • who are your competitors? what are their website addresses?
  • what is the best way to contact you?
  • what is your address? your phone number? your e-mail address?
  • do you currently have a website? since when ?
  • how do people find your current website? what don’t you like in ?
  • what’s missing in your current website ? what’s to add ?
  • what irritates you the most about websites?

Philosophy and vision

  • what is the purpose of this project?
  • is this a brochure site, an eShop or a blog?
  • describe how you envision the finished project?
  • do you have any specifications?
  • how technical is this project?

Logistics & technology

  • does your company have an email server?
  • do you have a domain?
  • did you or someone else register the domain?
  • do you have control over the domain?
  • do you or anyone on your staff have photoshop or other image editing software?
  • do you need a content management system?
  • how important is customization to you? shall we develop from scratch ?
  • do you have hosting?
  • do you have a newsletter?
  • do you have access to the web server?
  • what is your current hosting company?
  • who are the persons to be involved?
  • is the original developer still available?
  • are you or anyone on your staff familiar with HTML and CSS?
  • how are you going to maintain the site? backup it ?
  • what software do you have? what are the technologies to use ?
  • do you need the website to tie into any particular 3rd party applications?

Graphical identity & UX

  • what is your main impression/image/message that you want to express ?
  • what are your company’s colors? do you have your graphical identity described somewhere ?
  • do you need a business card and letterhead?
  • are you still in contact with the original designer?
  • do you have a logo? what format is it in?
  • is your logo in illustrator format?
  • can you list me the websites that you like the look of?
  • describe the style of the website you are looking for?
  • how familiar are you with usability studies?
  • do you have photos you need to use?
  • how will provide the creative direction?
  • how familiar are you with graphic design best practices for web designs?
  • how familiar are you with web standards?
  • do you need the new website to integrate with your existing identity pieces?
  • do you need any graphic design help? banners ? Ads ?
  • can you show me the proposals from other design firms?
  • have you considered redesigning your logo?
  • have you considered taking a fresh look at your corporate identity?

Users and security

  • do you need any password protected areas?
  • how many people will edit the site?
  • how many webmasters will you have ?
  • what are the most important functionality for your users ?
  • do you need a content validation workflow ?
  • is there any specific functionality you need?
  • any 3rd party applications ? (LDAP? oAuth?)

Content and media

  • what kind of content do you have ? text only ? photos ? videos ?
  • do you want your content in other languages ? do you have it translated already ?
  • how many pages do you need?
  • how do you describe your site map ? how many levels ?
  • what are the main contents that you want to highlight?
  • how many pages/screens are needed?
  • do you have your content done?
  • how often do you need to update the site?
  • do you need an image gallery?
  • do you need a video gallery?
  • when is the last time you updated the site? how often you’ll update the new one?
  • 3rd party content providers?

Visitors, audience

  • who is your audience?
  • do you need a contact form? how do you prefer them to contact you ?
  • do your customers have any special requirements or needs to be met by this project?
  • what is the message/image that you want to convey to your visitors ?


  • do you need eCommerce?
  • what are your products ? how you organize them ?
  • is ePayment ready ? is shipping ready ?
  • is it a world wide shop ? do you manage multi-currency ?
  • Do you need any other promotional material?
  • do you have a catalog or brochure?
  • Can you show me an example something like what you have in mind?

SEO and social media

  • are you familiar with search engine optimization and best practices? do you need help ?
  • how important is search engine ranking to you?
  • what are the keyword that you want to highlight ?
  • do you need social media tools built in, like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest …
  • do you need to build a Facebook page ? application ?
  • do you need to get the measurement of your site ? using insight? analytics ? a 3rd party application ?

{intra, extra} net

  • how is content decided upon? do you have a set of intranet policies, procedures, and standards?
  • what are the features do you need to take into account for your intranet?
  • what’s the most important features that you need to set ?
  • can you show me an example of what you have in mind?
  • is there any collaboration between your users ?
  • can they leave comments ? are they moderated ?
  • do you need collaboration tools ? (calendar, dashboard, FAQ ..)
  • do you need any workflow for validation or progressing a task ?
  • do you need any indicators to measure performances, goals ?

Banners & Ads

  • do you plan to add banners holders/placements ? ad sense ?
  • do you have any banners contracts ? how are you managing them ?
  • do you use/have a 3rd party application/contractor/professional service ? who are the persons involved ?
  • how do you rate, measure your banners ?
  • what must-have-skills do you expect from the person working on this project?
  • what are the specific project instructions?
  • who will be my contact for this project? what is his availability during the project?
  • can I have access to your website/company-specific information/etc ?
  • do you envision any potential problems with this project?
  • how many other companies have you talked to?
  • are you familiar with the complete web design and development process?
  • will you want or need help in making changes? If so, would you need help routinely?
  • if necessary, would it be okay if i used subcontractors or outsourced parts of the project ?

Work agreement questions

  • what is the budget for this project?
  • who will own the intellectual rights to the finished project?
  • what is the deadline for this project?
  • does the site launch need to coincide with a product launch or any other important milestone?
  • when will you pay? how do you foresee it?
  • how did you heard about us/me ?
  • did you take a look at my/our portfolio?
  • what is compelling about working with me/us?

Follow up

  • how do you think the project went?
  • do you anticipate having any other projects based on this one? are there any other projects that I can do for you?
  • will this project need to be updated or revised at some point?
  • if the project needs updating, do you consider the updating or revisions to be a separate project?
  • how often do you need the services of a writer/web designer/programmer/consultant ? do you need to make contact with one ?
  • can I/we use this project as a reference on my portfolio?
  • would you be willing to give a testimonial?