WordPress Website Developers: 5 Crucial Questions to Ask Prospective Clients

Posted on November 1, 2015 by in Tips & Tricks | 13 comments

WordPress Website Developers: 5 Crucial Questions to Ask Prospective Clients

Whether you’re new to the business or an experienced pro, your main objective as a WordPress website developer is to deliver a perfectly functioning site on time, every time.

In order to do this, it’s essential to effectively manage expectations ahead of time with prospective clients. You want to be crystal clear on what they expect (and what you can actually deliver) well before signing any contracts or actually starting work.

With the above in mind, we’ve put together five crucial questions to ask prospective clients when you’re discussing a potential WordPress project. Knowing the answers to these five questions will help you land the job, develop the best site possible for your client, and – last, but very definitely not least – get paid.

Get these questions in early and you’re on the way to a successful project and future referrals from happy clients. So, without further ado, let’s dive in!

1. What is Your Site’s Purpose?

No matter how vaguely it might be articulated at times, your prospective client has a purpose in mind for his site. Depending on what this purpose is, the site will be looking to attract potentially vastly different types of audiences so you need a clear idea of this up front.

For example, if the client is looking for an extremely intricate design, but his audience is novice web users who are not very computer or internet savvy, visitors may have difficulty engaging fully with the content.

There’s no need to get fancy in terms of methodology with this question. Put it to your prospective client straight – what is the primary purpose of this website?

Be prepared to thrash this out little. You’d be amazed at how many people – even those with existing websites! – have never actually sat down and really thought this question through. If you’re dealing with a slightly larger organization, make sure this question is answered by different stakeholders. Not every department will have the same overall goals.

It’s well worth taking some time to really explore this question up front. Getting a clear picture doesn’t just increase the chances of future client satisfaction, it can also substantially reduce your own workload. With WordPress in particular, it’s all too easy to end up throwing the kitchen sink at a problem in terms of plugins and custom development. When everyone is on the same page in terms of goals from the outset, that’s a lot less likely to happen.

Question 2: What Do You Want Site Visitors to Do?

Once you’re clear on what the overall purpose of the site is, the next question is what users should be doing on the site to reach that goal. This is where site goals and conversions come into play.

Your client may be primarily looking to connect with prospects, or they may be looking to sell direct. Perhaps the site is simply part of an overall branding strategy without hard conversion targets that have to be hit.

Being clear on the big picture allows you to start getting very specific with the client early by simply asking – what do you want site visitors to do?

For example, let’s say the overall purpose was defined as driving more leads and prospects. When you press further by asking what visitors to the site should be doing, two obvious priorities emerge: newsletter signups and lead magnet downloads. Straightaway, you should be able to put some simple but powerful options in front of your client.

Depending on the overall complexity of requirements, you might talk them through options for integrating Contact Form 7 or Gravity Forms. You’ll want to get obvious follow-up questions like “do you have any current content prepared for lead magnets?” out of the way here to avoid chasing your own tail down the line.

Get specific with solutions like Contact Form 7.

Get specific with solutions like Contact Form 7.

Discussion of newsletter possibilities will naturally lead into discussing options such as MailChimp plugins, your client’s current newsletter solution and whether bespoke options are needed.

The key purpose of this question is that rather than essentially hitting and hoping in terms of eventual solutions, you can clearly discuss options before a line of code has been committed and get general sign-off on approach.

You can also get a clear idea of what sort of tracking and analysis will be required in terms of conversions and goals here. Depending on your overall role in the project, you might not be in charge of implementing that particular part but it’s good to clear up expectations early.

We mentioned the prospect of bespoke development a few paragraphs ago and that leads us naturally into question number three – the one very few people relish asking.

Question 3: What Is Your Budget?

Every web developer knows all too well that what a client wants and what a client can afford are two very different animals. Negotiation is always necessary to find a sweet spot for both you and the client and it’s not a subject you should approach with trepidation.

At the end of the day, you can only work with what’s actually there so bringing this up early in as clear a manner as possible is in everybody’s best long-term interests. Negotiation is a complex area, and slightly outside the scope of this particular article, but we’ve covered the subject in depth before here on the Elegant Themes blog if you’re looking for practical tips.

Some clients will have genuinely no idea what their budget is and will instead just want flat prices on a variety of options to choose from. Make sure you have all of your design, development, and SEO prices figured out ahead of time so you can confidently inform your client on your basic prices for particular services, without potentially committing yourself to unsupportable costs.

If you’re new to web development and still not really sure what to charge in general, make sure you check out our A General Pricing Guide for WordPress Websites article.

One point is worth stressing here, asking what the budget is can be a little intimidating the first few times you do it, but it reliably clears up one potential issue – whether you’re dealing with a possibly problematic client or not. Nothing raised red flags more reliably than a straightforward conversation about pricing.

The type of clients you’re after will have no problem discussing budget as they will be looking at the project in terms of overall value to their business, rather than trying to nickel and dime developers on every last detail.

Question 4: Are You Already Familiar with WordPress?

This question is important for a number of reasons. Firstly, you want to see what level of expertise you should be conducting the general conversation with in mind. If the site owner has no experience at all with WordPress, there may well be someone else in the organization who does. That’s the sort of thing it’s good to know in advance.

Secondly, it helps you factor potential training costs and general hand-holding into the overall budget for the project. If the client is new to WordPress but wants to maintain the site himself, you will need to allow for some training and general onboarding.

Resources like Lynda.com and WP101 (which you can actually choose to integrate with your site) are great for recommending to clients, but you can’t simply tell them to work it all out for themselves. Some sort of project wrap-up is essential.

WP101 WordPress training videos

Resources like WP101 are great for helping newbie clients get up to speed.

The third reason for asking this question is a slightly precautionary one. One of the classic signs of potentially problematic clients is that they are convinced they can do your job better than you. A quick enquiry as to their previous level of experience with the platform will often uncover possible future communication issues nice and early.

Question 5: What Three Sites Are Closest to Your Vision?

All of our questions so far are important, but number five is one of the most helpful when you’re actually sitting down and trying to hammer out implementation details.

With the best will in the world, it’s very difficult for people to end up with a shared project vision unless they’re referring to real examples along the way. Clients will do their best to try and explain what they’re after, but it won’t always translate into the same picture for you.

The best way to get a firm grasp on the client’s particular requirements and design tastes is to ask them for links to three sites that best match what they’re trying to achieve.

Get specific here and ask them to explain why they chose each one. Was it the overall structure of the site? A particular set of colors and fonts? The way video was integrated throughout? A particular checkout experience? The more information you can extract using this question, the better.

Following on from that idea, it’s often sensible to also ask for a list of your client’s three least favorite sites while you’re at it. Everyone’s tastes are different and doing this can help you avoid unnecessarily choosing easily avoidable options that won’t be to the client’s liking.

Conclusion

Successful web projects are ultimately about problem solving and communication – particularly with a tool as flexible as WordPress operating behind the scenes.

Asking the right questions at the outset goes a long way towards making sure everybody will be happy the whole way through the job. Let’s recap the ones you should be putting to your clients:

  1. What is the site’s purpose?
  2. What do you want site visitors to do?
  3. What’s your budget?
  4. Are you already familiar with WordPress?
  5. What three sites are closest to your vision?

Once you’ve gotten the answers to these questions clarified, you’re in great shape to knock it out of the park in terms of delivery. You might even find yourself using one of our premium themes to really seal the deal!

We’d love to hear from you. What are the crucial questions you pose to your clients? Let us know in the comments!

Thumbnail image via jehsomwang / shutterstock.com

13 Comments

  1. Thank you for your adviced on this blog I love it, But every time my customer need only the first page after search on Google and They don’t know the wordpress is..

  2. Great sum up of important questions!
    Especially 1,2 and 5.

    In my experience 3 is a topic most often opened by clients anyway.
    And some clients just don’t care about 4. If they are not tech savy you might skip this question, to make the whole process seem less of an effort.

  3. Hi, questions to ask the customer are exactly what you have written . Your theme DIVI applies perfectly to almost all customer requirements . I hope in the future we can still improve in small details that are missing design . Good job

  4. Arian, I agree that it could be overwhelming for clients if they assumed that being asked question 4 was implying that WP experience is necessary to their website goals. However, I do think it would be important for the website design/development team to know how comfortable a client is with the WP platform (or whatever platform is being used). You’ll need to know how involved with the site the client plans on being once it’s up and running and secondly, you’ll need to know how comfortable they are using the site’s back-end platform. Based on the client’s responses, you could use plugins that would help simplify back-end functionality or offer training services on basic functions such as adding blog posts, changing graphics, etc. Perhaps you could use different questions, like “What’s your plan for future site management and updates?”, “How involved do you want to be with the site’s ongoing maintenance and updates?”, or maybe, “If you plan on making updates to your site, do you feel confident navigating the admin tools and features?”. But no matter how you approach the topic, I think it’s important to find out the client’s plans going forward and their comfort level with executing those plans.

  5. Very well summarised! I would agree that managing expectations from day one is key to creating happy customers so these really help with that.

    I often found that clients will have a few examples. But to achieve them they really need to up their budgets.

    🙂

  6. I do not agree on no. 5 at all. As web developers and designers, we can not set out to make lukewarm compromises from the start, ripping of other peoples mediocre ideas. The two fundamentals should be: What is your business aim? Who are the users?

    • Anders,

      If the point of question 5 is, as you’ve suggested, to copy/plagiarize an existing website’s design, then I would agree with you 100%. But based on Elegant Themes highly esteemed reputation and the way question 5 is written, I highly doubt that they are suggesting developers ask their clients “What other site’s design would you like me to highjack and use for your site?”.

      I think question 5 (at least from what I understand) is simply a way for clients to provide visual examples of the ideas they already have for their new site.

      It’s extremely common for clients to have no idea what the “right” words are for the various design elements website developers use when creating websites. Instead, clients often say things like “I want one of those picture things that has words on it and it sort of pops out or slides out kind of from the side.” and they will know exactly what they are talking about, but you, as a developer, can’t be certain based on that loose description. I can think of a few design elements that would fit that description, but the client is thinking of only one specific element. If I just guessed, I may get lucky and guess correctly, or I may irritate the client by guessing one of the other possibilities.

      All that frustration can be avoided if you ask your clients to give you examples of the elements they want based on websites that are already using those elements. Question 5 isn’t about using other sites as an exact match for what you will create (that’s why they suggest asking for 3 sites), it’s just about using real examples to better explain the ideas of the client.

      Once the developer SEES what the client means by “those picture things that has words on it and it sort of pops out or slides out kind of from the side”, then the developer can know with absolute certainty what element the client wants and create it in a way that is unique to the client’s business.

      I hope that helps to explain the probable meaning behind question 5 a little better! Have a lovely day!

    • Hehe… It’s WordPress. You’re website is going to be nearly identical to a thousand other sites unless you want to take the time to build your own theme

      • Not if you know a little CSS and understand basic design. An original colour scheme with original images using the Divi theme and you can easily create a website that looks like no other.

    • In regards to questions 5. Personally I’m not arrogant enough to think I have all the answers and I welcome my clients suggestions for the type of look they want. If I feel the examples they provide are not a good fit for their business I will tell them so and provide better alternatives.

      Anders unless you believe you are superior to all other designers and all other work is mediocre plenty of inspiration and ideas can be found looking at other designers work.

  7. @Ethan: First of all, it’s “your” not “you’re”. Second, only DESIGNERS care about a site having to be unique. Clients want a site to do what they want, look good, look like them, and be inexpensive. Lots of folks drive the same color Escalade and NONE of them feel common (hehe). They tweak their purchase to make their own. And they are happy.

    @ Anders: I’m not sure WHY you think that having a client show you what they like will lead to “lukewarm compromises.” Other than your belief that only web developers and/or designers can have the perfect answer. Do you really believe it’s BETTER to give a client what YOU think they should have than your best version of what they would LIKE to have?

    @ Ashley: A great response. Much more tactful than I.

    @ Tom: I have been using these 5 principles for years BEFORE I got into doing my own WordPress work for clients. Thanks.

  8. I deal with small businesses and generally skip question 4 unless they express interest in how the site will be built. But 99% of the time, they don’t care, haven’t got the time to learn, and any tech talk will make their eyes glaze over.

    I tend to also ask them general questions about their business that they will certainly know, ie. who are their target audience, what is their unique selling point, their top 10 products, etc. Then I can suggest features for their site.

  9. Hi, Randy. Thank you for sharing those five awesome points. I love the fifth one. It makes communications so much easier with clients when they give you examples of what they want. Just want to give you a shout-out for this awesome article!

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