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what questions should a noob designer ask a potential client?

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  #1  
Old
New Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: California
Posts: 1

what questions should a noob designer ask a potential client?


I have a person who is possibly interested in having me design a site for real estate - he is a loan agent. I was just wondering what questions I should ask him as designer to customer regarding what he wants out of the site and how he wants it to run. Any input would be great! Thanks!



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  #2  
Old
Web Hosting Master
 
Join Date: May 2002
Location: UK
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Get anything and everything they can possibly give you with regards to their ideas.

It is very, very common for clients to change their mind half way through. If you're not doing a content managed site many clients don't understand how to update it and will always come back to you, or simply break it themselves.

However whilst you should be as accommodating as possible to their requests... remember you're the designer and many of the ideas they want would simply be awful. I get many requests for things such as "can we make those buttons of graphics just flash a bit" (in a really annoying way) or "can we have lots of scrolling text".

  #3  
Old
Evenly Divided
 
Join Date: Aug 2001
Posts: 4,028
angelp,

Like Rih said, you want to get your hands on all the company info you can (business cards, flyers, digital files of logo, etc). Next thing you want after that is to ask them for some sites they like... not so you can rip em but just get a general idea of their taste. Asking what colors they like is always a good idea also. Just things like that.

Make sure you don't upload anything before seeing some $ and make sure you let them know how it will be updated. Tell them paying you per hr would likely save them money when updating. I have a client who's bill is at $447 in updates and that price is so high caused I had to fix all his wrong doings... if he would have came to me from the start, we'd be looking at $60 likely!

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  #4  
Old
Aspiring Evangelist
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 416
Also, make sure that what he says he wants is within your capabilities, there is no point of saying you can do something when you can't.

  #5  
Old
Newbie
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: nr. Leeds, UK
Posts: 9
It's probably worth mentioning that if it's possible to show the customer a rough draft at various stages it could save you a lot of time in the long run.

Also it keeps the customer happy

  #6  
Old
Junior Guru Wannabe
 
Join Date: Sep 2002
Location: Brisbane, Australia | The place to be :-)
Posts: 93
yes,

basically - first make sure you get a rough idea of what this is going to cost the client and how many hours it is going to take you. Don't try and suck him dry or anything, remember that reasonably priced quality work almost always leads to referals or more work for you later down the track. Also, make sure you show the client work as it progresses. You dont necessarily need to ask for money upfront - most people who run professional RealLife(tm) businesses wont bail on you part way through.

Golden Rule: NEVER give the client anypart of the work until he has payed you, have your own server/webspace setup to display a preview of the site, never give the files to him.

Have fun!

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  #7  
Old
Web Hosting Master
 
Join Date: May 2002
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Also cover yourself.

Get a proper contract drawn up. Make sure you include clauses that means that a) you retain ownership of all your work until paid in full, b) you reserve the right to charge interest on late payment (the UK has a specific law for this), c) you retain the Intellectual Property rights on the server side code (or at least the ability to reuse parts of it).

Some clients will insist on c) (the IP rights) handed over to them. If you agree to this make sure you charge them accordingly and then make sure you don't start copying and pasting code from it to another project.

  #8  
Old
Aspiring Evangelist
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 416
Also, set milestone payments, a fee after the initial concepts (I usually create 3 so that they can choose which they like), and then one for the final concept, and one for all the files and source code. You request payment after the first draft concept because companies are not very intent on providing a down payment for something that isn't in front of them - that they like.

Then you would make sure that you are not left in the lurch.

  #9  
Old
WHT Addict
 
Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: PA
Posts: 110
The first thing is that you need to be your client, in a very basic sense. The basic questions are:

What will the site/company do?
Who are the users?(ask amrketing questions here, as in, age, sex, internet type, computer type used, etc.)
Ask formatting questions here(colors, fonts, animations, content).
What will your users need to get form the site?
What ways will information need to be served?
What products/scripts/programs will need to be created?
What services will be used through the site?

Basically, you need to see what the client sees, know how he wants it, then what the scope is, and finally what your boundries are. Maybe the client doesn't have the answers, so help them out. Maybe print up a list of general questions, technical questions that only you will answer, and programmatic questions that your design will answer.

The next thing to do is outline your payment structure. For instance, are you going to make the demo for viewing in photoshop? Okay, if you are, are you going to give the layout to your client as part of the payment? Or, if you have decided to make five different layouts, are you going to 'sell' the one chosen to your client and destroy/keep the rest, or give your client all of them? You have to have this outlined as well, as your payments usually start after the first draft of the layout is completed by you.

Now that you have a layout and some cash, next comes DB design, structure coding and graphics creation. Your next payment should be after this, as these are foundation creations and devs that anyone can have and run a site with.

Next, after that payment, and after you have plain-coded all pages, and if not finished yet(still got programming?), you start scripting, and scripting and scripting, depending on how intense the need is. When you go over questions, you also need to ask a few that make very good sense, but sometimes get left out:

Are your users using more high-speed or regular connections?
***You can fill up more eye-catching(not eye-intensive layouts)

Are your users using 800X600 for resolution, or higher?
***If higher, font size becomes more of an issue

Is your client wanting custom scripting/layout, or are they comfortable using already existing software/scripting for their site?
***Custom scripting and DB interactions shouldn't come cheaply. I'm not saying you should be able tog et rich with one project, but constructing a 'ebay' site from scratch is not all that easily accomplished.

Are methods of paymnt to be handled in the site's design?
***Paypal,2checkout and paysystems, to name a few, have different, but similar ways of handling payment transaction. You need to know which will be processed through the site to design around this.

What form of structure do you want in the design?
***HTML4+,XHTML1.0,XHTML1.1--what exactly would be the way to design the layout and the site? Does your client want tabular layout, or are they looking for forward-design in divs? Maybe explanations of both sides, as well as CSS and JS external files would be welcome.

The biggest questions, in the end, should be these, and they should be scrutinized:
What is the timeline, and deadline for this project?
What are all of your needs for this projects?
What are you wants from this project?
What do you need in the form of storage and bandwidth?(usually, the designer makes a recommendation here)
What sites do you find similar?
Who willyour competitors be?
Who will be your partners/affiliates/'friends' in company, advertising and marketing terms?

These questions should give you a lot of info from the start, but as stated in this post and in some others, the more information you have about a project, the less likely the project will need re-editted because it was not what the client wanted.

I'd like to also state, that setting up a 'demo site' is the best way to show your client how things are coming along without giving them everything before final payment. It lets them see the results in real-time and it allows for the client to receive feedback so they may notify you of problems; cutting down your maintainence lifecycle considerably.

Anyhow, hope something in there helps. Seriously, though, the best thing to keep in mind, and you should tattoo this to your brain is 'SOAK UP EVERYTHING YOUR CLIENT SAYS CONCERING THE PROJECT!'...and usually, with updates to your client and continued interaction until completion, your design time is cut, and your profit is increased

Later!

  #10  
Old
Web Hosting Master
 
Join Date: May 2002
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Posts: 2,994
Are your users using more high-speed or regular connections?
If it's not an intranet/extranet you can't really answer that. If it's a public website I'm afraid you'll have to cater for 56k

Are your users using 800X600 for resolution, or higher?
Again if it's a public website it's infact YOUR advice you should give them on this. Current stats indicated around a 50/50 split between 800x600 and 1024x768. Basically make sure it works in 800x600

Is your client wanting custom scripting/layout, or are they comfortable using already existing software/scripting for their site?
Yep, agree here. Add a database or server side scripting, increase your fees

What form of structure do you want in the design?
***HTML4+,XHTML1.0,XHTML1.1

As a designer you should be sticking to the latest standards. Either XHTML 1.0 or XHTML 1.1 (you'll probably want to use XHTML 1.0 though as it allows transistional elements and framesets)

--what exactly would be the way to design the layout and the site? Does your client want tabular layout, or are they looking for forward-design in divs? Maybe explanations of both sides, as well as CSS and JS external files would be welcome.
Unless your client is technically minded you shouldn't be putting this sort of question to them. The only difference is if they NEED to cater for very old browsers... then layout tables is the only way. However I still don't like going entirely DIV and it's not breaking WAI compliance so long as your layout tables downgrade gracefully

The most important thing to remember is that MOST clients are NOT technically minded, don't understand HTML and scripting... and neither do they need to know. They just know what they want their site to do... it's then your job to propose the technologies used and their advantages and disadvantages (in plain non-techy language)

This is the problem with far too many web designers. They speak to clients as if they know the ins and outs of webdesign... they don't that's why you're the web designer!

  #11  
Old
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Join Date: Aug 2003
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What was inferred here I guess I should of made clearer. I apologize to everyone reading scratching their heads or preparing to rip me for posting. I made a few errors with the way I submitted my post, but not with the content. Some of the questions I submitted were confused with questions you needed to ask yourself, and themes, that you should construct the question towards the audience of the client you are interviewing.

When I said about the resolution and bandwidth, this would be more asked indirectly with the marketing. And, you can ask some simple questions to get the answers you need.

"What age are the users? What is the target audience? Are you expecting/advertising for/marketing for more of a tech-oriented audience?"

Right there, you have your answers already. Simply put, older the user, the more likely default settings are used. Which means base fonts, and 800X600. With teh tech questions, this can help to answer both the resolution size and bandwidth usage. A more tech oriented audience will be using, usually, more bandwidth intense means of accessing the internet...meaning, loading a 40 to 60k page would be nearly the same as a 120k to 150k(too much flash, but you give them what they want to pay for ). Certainly, for a more tech audience, you would assume to make a site that handled higher resolutions, but allowed for the base. In less tech-savy users, 800X600 is the size you optimize for, but you don't hold that strict.

As for the comments about what form of structure, I would hope this would be seen as a 'part of it' type of conversation. I stated you would go over things with the client, which we all do(some even bill for it..hehe). But, you explain the differences, html4.0 is backwards heavy. XHTML1.0Transitional is for using a lot of tabular data, tags that are frowned on, etc. And XHTML1.1Strict is for a cross-browser iundependence that almost guarantess running IE6.0 and then IE16.0 will render your webpage nearly the exact same. Plus, you can add in arguments for XML interactions, etc.,...or not. The point is that you should mix quality, with speed, with furthering your work adequacies.

My largest intention was to throw out the idea of ask more, write more, talk less. Like I said, your goal is to become the hands of the project you are in charge of.

And I know what I am. When I speak to a client, I focus on who they are and what there background is. If I talk to a graphic artist, I know that discussions of font, pixels, etc., does not fall on def ears. Quite similarly, if I am speaking to a church about doing a free project for an event, I mention little to nothing about certain aspects, but instead configure the way I talk to them so that I don't waste their time, and we don't run into problems later on.

The problem lays in the fact that people read a book about html and decide they are experts(not directing this at rich, just making a point about what the real problem is. Then new 'experts' go out and get a reseller account and charge $5.00 for a month's work, which they barely finish and then charge cost for hosting. The problem ends up being that no one really goes over these things when you are trained in them. The other problem is in these 'false php gurus' who simply go to a site, download script and resell them....not saying this is totally wrong, but I taught myself and it was a hard road to learn everything I have in the past years. And, unfortunately, I was labeled as one of the designer that was in the problem.

In the past year, from everything I have read, and from people I have talked to, windows 2000 and XP are being used more and more(I have no idea if everyone is so secure in NTFS partitions, or what, but there ya go). With these newer systems comes standards that cannot be ignored, like ie5.5+. This is why div layouts need to be examined, discussed, implemented, but not used ALL THE TIME. The same holds true with tabular layouts.

The last comment I wanted to make, was that you should be prepared to be adaptive. If you are used to do 100%tabular layouts, learn div/css layouts. If you have learned only div/css, learn tabular layouts. Also, instead of using javascript or some other dom language, be prepared to use a scripting language and browser sniffer for older browser interactions. The script is small and can used often. However, once again, this is only a circumstance when a server side scriptingm language is involved.

Included with this is the fact of my post. Originally, I was kinda annoyed, viewing a rip of my post. In fact, I'm sure I will not be providing too much feedback to this site because of that. Instead, view it in this way;some client you will meet face to face locally, and some view the internet. Be prepared to find out about them, and about their needs and wants concerning the site. Tailor your questions to suit them, not yourself. Techies can sit for hours and talk about sockets and pipelines, but if a plumber joins the conversion, no one would know anything

Anyhow, have a great night, and I hope this post isn't considered as much a rip as a response of sorts.

  #12  
Old
Web Hosting Master
 
Join Date: May 2002
Location: UK
Posts: 2,994
<table> tags are not frowned upon.

If they are good enough for the BBC, Microsoft, even Mozilla.org then I'm happy with them. In fact very few of the major sites have bothered with a div/css layout so far.

I Redesigned one of my sites entirely div/css once, couldn't be bothered with it and went back to tables. It did look exactly the same but took longer to render in IE6 (although quicker in Mozilla than before). As I say it's NOT breaking WAI compliance so long as it downgrades gracefully (unfortunately most of the HTML autogenerated from photo packages does not downgrade gracefully).

I'm glad you're not directing that comment at me I've been designing websites for over 8 years and dynamic sites (server side) for 5 of those. It's my full time job.

It is a problem the 'php gurus' as you call them. I've had my own scripts ripped off before but hey what can you do. It's not worth bothering about in most cases. However I haven't ever encountered anyone making money off my work yet so it's not really been an issue yet.

Were you referring to me ripping your post. I wasn't aiming to annoy you, it's a discussion with different views some contrary some not. I didn't reply to the bits I agreed with. None of the comments were directed at you.

  #13  
Old
WHT Addict
 
Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: PA
Posts: 110
Once again, we got our wires crossed...

By the tags issue, I meant <font>,<center> and <i>. I wasn't referring to table. If I did so, it was a misprint.

The divs issue is kinda mute right now, almost like the PHP vs. ASP and C vs. C++ Personally, I see a lot of bandwidth saved through using divs over tables, but tables in most structures become unavoidable, unless you do more planning than needed.

Anyhow, take it easy all!
Jim

  #14  
Old
Web Hosting Master
 
Join Date: May 2002
Location: UK
Posts: 2,994
I think the biggest problem used to be that people who used layout tables used to use <font> tags too so for every <td> you'd have a <font> tag in it.

CSS solved all that.

I think you'll never get rid of layout tables... at least not while IE's rendering of z-index layers is slow.

<i> isn't deprecated yet (however they are trying to make people use <em> instead).

  #15  
Old
Junior Guru Wannabe
 
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 33
You've all included some nice questions for the original poster to ask, but I'm not too sure if a "noob designer" would even make use of the answers to all of those questions. Maybe just stick to simple things for now?

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