“Just” implies that all of the thinking behind a feature or system has been done. Even worse, it implies that all of the decisions that will have to be made in the course of development have already been discovered—and that’s never the case.
New projects and clients are
always usually exciting. The possibilities are endless, the hair-pulling feedback limitless! It’s your time to shine, to design that great new interface that will bring world peace.
But before you prepare your nobel prize speech, make sure you understand what problem you’re trying to solve.
Defining the problem and what your client needs will make the difference between a successful project (and a happy client) and just a nice screenshot you will add to your dribbble profile.
Through the years I’ve perfected a list of ten questions that I ask every new client at Ideaware:
1. Why are you commissioning this project?
When a new client approaches you it is because they have a need, pain or problem. It may seem like an obvious question but sometimes your client hasn’t given it any thought. Asking this question will get both of you aligned on needs and expectation.
2. What are the primary goals of this project?
One of my favorite things to ask, you get to set expectations right off the bat. Try to aim for specific answers like: “Update the look and feel of our app to iOS7 and have it in the Appstore by June”. Work together on a better answer if all you’re getting is: “We want to make it prettier”. This is a red flag since there is no way to benchmark “pretty”.
3. Who are your users?
Always, ALWAYS keep in mind mind who you’re designing for. It makes a world of difference if you’re designing something aimed for a tech-savvy teen rather than a 60-year old woman trying to find a lower price on a prescription. This difference will probably affect the overall project scope and help you give the client a better quote.
4. Who are your competitors?
Get a grasp of who your client (and ultimately your design) is up against. If your client doesn’t know the answer, time to do some research. Don’t settle for “we don’t think there’s something like this out there!”. Trust me, there is someone else out there solving almost exactly the same thing.
5. Any sites, apps, etc. that inspire you?
By the time the client is talking to you, they already have a good idea of what they want. You’ll save yourself endless proposals and feedback loops if you get aligned with their vision right from the start. Aim for specific websites, apps, links and don’t settle for “clean and lots of pictures.”. I always find useful creating a private Pinterest mood board to post stuff together.
6. Do you have a brand style guide?
Having a brand style guide (if the client has one) will help you with fonts, colors, images, etc. that you will need to create a better, brand-aligned design for your client. If the client doesn’t have one, this might be a good time to talk brand tone, colors and preferred fonts.
7. What is your marketing or monetization goal?
Most of the time your client will have business goals in mind. They’re talking to you to help them get there. Ask what their goals are. Is it to drive website conversions? Get a million app downloads? Find Waldo? The answer will completely shape the design.
8. Do you have content/assets for this project?
I make it a rule of thumb to not start a project unless we have enough content, assets and anything else we might need. Content is king, and you should always know what content you’re designing for and with. Assets like pictures, videos, audio, etc are very important, so make sure to ask for them (or if you need to buy/find them yourself).
9. What is your anticipated deadline for the project?
Love this one. You get such a variety of answers like “Oh I don’t know, sometime next year?” or my all-time favorite that goes something like “In the next two weeks we need to go live!”. Once again is all about expectations, be sure to set them. Do you have the time and resources? Is the client being realistic?
10. What is your budget? (Or my rates are $X)
Possibly the most important question on the list. You’ll save a lot of your (and the client’s) time by setting budget expectations. Nothing wrong with asking the client. Sometimes the client will just shoot the question back, I’ll just give them a sense of pricing and timeline. Once again, it’s all about expectations.
You can save yourself a lot of time and kick off a project right if you ask the right questions. These are the ones that help me see if a client is fit to work with Ideaware, I really hope you find them useful too.