Exactly a year ago I wrote a super important blog post for my clients and also for everyone who wants to design their own website, even if it’s only a simple one to start with.
I wrote about all the things you need to know and ask yourself before you design a website. A website is actually not done in a few hours. It needs some planning and proper thought. You want to take your website visitors on a journey around your little web space, your virtual office. So you need to decide beforehand what the aim of the website is and where you want your visitors to go, which answers they will find on your website, etc.
This is why I want to share with you the exact questions I ask my clients before we start designing their website and why I ask those questions.
You have a few seconds (some people say 3 seconds, some say 8 seconds - but overall it is very short) to convince a visitor to stay on your site. So a visitor needs to find out immediately if the website will solve their problem or give an answer to their question. That is why a website needs careful planning and can not be done overnight or by someone who doesn’t know anything about your business.
Here you can find my older blog post about what to think about before designing a website. This does not only include content but also the look etc.
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So these are the main questions I will ask and why.
1. What is the name of your business? What is the meaning behind the name?
2. What is the purpose of your website?
As I said before you need to be really clear on the goal you have for your website. Do you want to promote your services, do you want to showcase your portfolio, do you want to show customers your products or do you want them to buy your products from the site directly? Once you know exactly what you want to achieve you need to determine how you will get there.
3. What would be some successful outcomes from people visiting your site?
Don’t only think about the general purpose and goals for your website but also determine other outcomes you want to get from the website. Do you want to have people sign up to your email list? Do you want to have guest bloggers on your site?
4. What features and functionalities does your website have to have?
For example, do you need a blog, an email sign up list, do you want to incorporate a shop? Now or may be later on? Is there anything you need to know now what you will implement in the future?
5. What aspects of your brand could differentiate your website from others in your niche?
6. If you already have a website, what problems are you running into with your current site?
If you choose to design a new website, there must be a reason. And this reason should not only be that you don’t like the look anymore :-) There is always something, a functionality to improve. So go and look at your current website from a new user point of view and see what the journey of you on your website would look like. For example: where will you click next? Is that really where you want your clients to go next? Is all the necessary information easy to find? Is the contact button easy to find? Is the checkout process of your shop easy to use?
7. What would fix those problems?
What would make the experience of your visitors more pleasant?
8. What problems are you running into with your business?
Are your customers liking your products but now buying? Are they trying to reach you but are not able to? You know your company best and these are just examples. But if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to write them down even if you think they have nothing to do with your website or your designer. You never know how it can help you :-)
9. How might your website be able to fix some of those problems?
Maybe you can use your site to educate your customers more through a blog or a video about your product. Or you can add a Google map or better description of your physical location on your site. This is just a suggestion, you know the problems best and once you identified them you need to either interview your existing customers and ask them about things you can improve or you need to put yourself in the shoes of your customer again and go through all the steps in the buying process he or she would take. How can you make this process easier and more enjoyable? And how can a website help?
10. Please list any websites you like very much and briefly explain why.
I think this is self explanatory :-) Obviously this is not to copy other people but get ideas about what is out there, what you like, what is necessary, etc.
11. Is there a specific design/look your prefer for your website?
12. About your contact page: Would you like a contact form? A location map? An address? Or just your contact details? What are your contact details?
There is no right or wrong here. Some people want to keep if more generic and not include a personal email. Some don’t want their phone number on the internet. Some don’t have a physical location. But for those who do, a map is always good for example.
13. Do you require a blog? If so please specify if you know how you want the blog to look like.
Actually I could almost start a second questionnaire for this one ;-)
As Squarespace is not the typical blogging platform like Wordpress it is important to know a little bit about the look and functionalities you want to have for your blog before you choose a template on Squarespace and before you (or me) design your website.
So do you have any blogs you like visually? Why?
Would you like a sidebar? If so what would you like to have in there?
Do you want to show some blog excerpts or show the whole post on your blog page? The more information you know before you start the website, the better.
14. Which social media icons would you like to show? Please list and include their URLs.
15. Any additional details or creative considerations? I want to ensure we are on the same page throughout this collaborative process!
16. What your domain name/URL?
What is your provider name?
17. Site Map
First and foremost you need to have an idea about the content for your website and then you should write down a so called sitemap.
Many people know they need a website and just start designing one and then realize they don't know how many pages and which pages they need. And they haven't written any text yet, don't know where they want their images to go and how many they will need. But knowing all this is so important BEFORE actually start to design the website.
Think about it like building a house. Before you can start building you need to know how many rooms you want, how many bathrooms, where the kitchen will be, where you are going to have windows and power connections etc etc. Building a website is similar. You can not just start, you need to have an end product in mind.
Therefore please write your own sitemap!
A sitemap is a list of all the pages and subpages you want to have. I would recommend making an overview on a piece of pager (like the one in my questionnaire) or in an excel spreadsheet with all the main pages and subpages. And maybe even jot down a few bullet points about the content of each page.
Then you need to decide where you want those sites to be found and what kind of menu you would like.
Will all the pages be in the main menu at the top of your website?
Will the menu have subcategories with a drop down menu?
Sometimes there are two spaces, the main menu and a second menu in the top corner which links only to your contact page for example.
Are there any pages you want to be accessible from the footer?
Would you also like to have a menu on the side?
Also will you need a search function?
From there you need to decide the journey a visitor will take on your website. Where will they go from your homepage? Where DO YOU want them to go next? What will their questions be and how will you be able to answer them? So include all the internal links and connections of the pages in your sitemap. Even if it looks a bit wild.
Download my whole website design questionnaire here.
I hope this was helpful and as always let me know in the comments or via email if you have any questions.
P.S. If you haven't tried designing your websites with Squarespace yet, have a look at my FREE Squarespace START UP video course!
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