Do These 3 Things Before Building a Client's New Website

November 19, 2020

It’s 10 AM, the caffeine has kicked in, and you’ve got your daily dose of design blogs queued for inspiration. An email notification pops up. Who could it be? It’s the owner of a brand new flower shop you noticed on your way home the other day. A friend of hers recommended you for a website. You call her up, agree to a price, send over an e-contract to sign, crack your knuckles, start designing a mockup... and then you draw a blank. 

Before you get to the enjoyable part, here are the three things you need to do before building a new client’s website. These tips will minimize headaches during the design process, and most importantly, maximize client satisfaction.

STEP 1: Market Research

Although the task of designing a new website can seem exciting at first, it becomes daunting if you’re not familiar with the industry you're building it for. Market research is key to getting yourself on the right track. Different companies require different formulas, which is not only evident in their business plans, but also on their websites. Local flower shops don’t follow the same business model as investment firms; the same goes for their website’s layout, navigation, features and general style. 

Belladonna Florist (left) & Fisgard Asset Management Corporation (right).

The florist’s website uses bright colours and predominantly displays their bouquets. Since most flower shops have a delivery service, they make it easy for visitors to order with the custom CTA button above the fold. In comparison, Fisgard, an asset management corporation, uses neutral colours and photos of water to create a sense of calm. The information that appears above the fold makes it easy for users to get in contact with an advisor and find relevant investment information.

By familiarizing yourself with industry standards for web design, you learn about the elements users have come to expect. After all, familiarity is a key component in user experience. From information hierarchy to optimized CTA text, you can look to websites within the industry to get inspiration and insight. Even if you’re building a website for something as niche as custom hats for dogs, there should be at least some information out there to guide the layout of your client’s new site, or at the very minimum, help you get those creative juices flowing. 

STEP 2: Business Research

As a creative, research might not be what you signed up for. Unless you want the website for your client’s flower shop looking like that of an investment firm (a little hyperbolic, but my point must be made), then it’s something that has to be done. Research on the business for which you’re creating the website is probably the most important step you need to take before actually creating the website. It is especially important in guiding the design, whereas market research is essential to creating the pages and layout. Think of the market research as a guide to your HTML code, and the business research as a guide for the CSS. 

Start your business research by visiting the client’s old website. It will give you an idea of their existing branding and of different design elements to include. Another great option is simply asking your client questions about their business. Getting to know the business’ history, ideals, mission, products, and even its employees should be the main source of inspiration. Here are some examples of questions you could ask:

  • “How was your company founded?”

  • “Do you mostly do business locally or internationally?”

  • “What’s your best selling product/service?”

  • “What type of customers do you mainly attract?”

  • “What kind of customers do you want to attract?”

For example, if your client is looking to do more business with a more elite market segment, you’ll want to convey an element of luxury on the website, as opposed to bright, attention grabbing colours that are often used to promote discount sales. As you can see in the images below, the flashier brand (Fashion Nova) specializes in fast fashion, while the higher-end clothing brand (Aritzia) is more subdued and elegant, allowing the luxurious pieces to speak for themselves.  These elements in the website are purposeful, so as to attract a specific clientele. 

3. Client Research

Client research is a step that many web designers often overlook. Understanding the preferences of your client as an individual from the get-go will save you on countless back and forths and headache-inducing changes later on in the web design journey. 

A good way to start is by asking them something you would normally only ask a five year old: “What’s your favorite colour?”

Fashion Nova (left), Aritizia (right)

You can even send them a link to a colour wheel and ask for a few hex codes; this is also a way to get the client involved in the process. Colour can also be a very personal thing, so creating something based on that preference is a surefire way to reduce revisions. 

Another great way to understand your client’s aesthetic style is by asking them to choose three to five websites that they like (preferably in their field), and ask them why they like them. Oftentimes you’ll get very simple answers, like, “I like the layout,” or “The pictures look professional.” Remember, any information is good information, and listening is key. Based on their answers, you can make informed decisions and suggestions.

Asking your clients these questions at the beginning of the process, also gives you an opportunity to use your market and business research to explain why some of their preferences or wants might not work. It’s not enough to simply say no to their ideas; being able to listen, make informed decisions, and explain certain choices, will not only ease the web design process, but also help to establish a working relationship with your client based on trust. 

Montreal-based web designs

About Pop

Hi! I'm Arianne. I'm a freelance web designer. I created this blog page not only to compliment my business, but to share information with other aspiring web designers who wish to be successful in this rich and evolving space.

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