Whenever a potential client asks me for an estimate, I ask a few key questions. We discuss these before design details because it helps me understand the goals for their website. Most of the time, they catch people a little off-guard. Usually, they’ve seen my work and just want to know how much it would cost to “get the same thing” as another client. However, that can lead to an inaccurate estimate because function matters just as much as design. Below are the first questions I ask as a web designer in Lynchburg, VA.

Do you offer a product or a service?

This key distinction allows me to divide website projects by your call-to-action function. If you offer a service, you’ll likely have a need for customers or clients to book appointments online. If you offer a product, you want them to buy a product online.

They’re two separate development tasks. This helps me start the conversation about what your website can do to ease that process — appointments vs. shopping.

Do you already have a website?

If you don’t have a website, this leads to more questions about the purpose of your new website. Some clients are looking for a robust website that will integrate with their current workflow. For example, a doctor’s office may want a new website that hooks into their patient system. Or a brick-and-mortar store may want to shift from selling goods on Etsy to their own domain.

In other cases, clients simply want an online presence. Sometimes, an attractive single-page site with a company overview and contact information will suffice. Knowing this at the beginning can help me draft an appropriate estimate.

If you already have a website then, we discuss why it isn’t working for you. Sometimes, this can help avoid a total rebuild or relaunch — saving you time and money.

I often find that clients think they need a new website when they just hate their homepage or their website theme. Sometimes, I can update single pages or sections without reworking the entire site.

What is your overall digital presence?

I find it’s helpful to know how active my clients are online. Even if they don’t have a website, they may be maintaining social media accounts, eShopping sites (ex. eBay, Etsy, Amazon), or profiles with online listings (ex. Google My Business, Angie’s List, HomeAdvisor).

Some have a robust email list or a client portal. Knowing about these assets helps me plan how to connect with their current, successful efforts.

What software do you currently use?

Most businesses use several software and services to make appointments, process payments or manage workflow. Often, your website can integrate with these. As I plan a website project, I like to know how we can connect call-to-actions on the website with the client’s current business workflow.

How do you expect your website to perform?

Whenever I help a client launch a new website, there are two key areas I like to discuss. First, I often ask them how they expect the website to affect their business. For example, a new online store means you will have to fulfill the orders (from inventory management to packaging, to shipping). Similarly, a service business may not be ready to receive appointments through an online form.

This can catch people off guard if they’re not used to digital communication. It’s important to plan for the changes to how you do business when going online.

Second, I have to talk about paid versus organic traffic. If you build a website, you have zero sources of traffic. It simply exists. Search engines won’t acknowledge it for months. Social media will only find your content if you already have an established social presence. The same goes for every channel from email to online listings. If you don’t have a robust digital presence prior to launching a website, you’ll need to work to generate website traffic. This can take the form of paid traffic (ads) or organic, content-based traffic. Either way, you’ll need to create a strategy to generate traffic.

Otherwise, your customers will struggle to find your new website.

Stay Inspired

As you’re looking at website themes on Pinterest, or sketching out a wireframe for your homepage, think about the tools you’ll need to support the functions of your business. Any function can be styled to “look” the way that you want. So, it’s more important to think through your business needs before committing to a particular skin. 

As a web designer in Lynchburg VA, I always try to find the most cost-effective and time-efficient option.