Part four of Towards a better client survey explores the second section of the standard Kelly Goto client survey: Objectives. We examine the questions, why they're important, but why they can come up short. Read more...
So you've figured out the basics. Your intended URL is available, you've identified key stakeholders, and even (gasp) received a budget range to work within. You've identified an ideal launch date, coinciding with your clients' big event. But where do you go from there? We still haven't asked the question that I believe is paramount: Why do you need a website?
Today we're going to be getting into my favorite part of the client survey, Objectives. They can also be thought of as business goals – it doesn't really matter. What matters is that you're about to identify the why of web design. I would suggest any webdev shop who's working with small clients to ask straight up: why do you need a website. If the answer your receive sounds something like, “Um, well, because our competitors have one,” or “Because you need a website! Everyone needs a website!” then your potential client just threw up a flaming red flag.
Web development is all about applying technological solutions to business problems that already exist. When potential clients fail to provide reasonable cause for a website design or redesign, it shows that they're out of touch with their audience, and perhaps with their own business. It also shows that the potential client hasn't done their homework, and probably doesn't take the web development process all that seriously.
This section contains three, short questions:
What are your main reasons for commissioning a new website?
Well folks, here we have it. The holy grail of web design. But seriously, part of me wonders why this question isn't 48 point bold capital letters at the front of the survey. Part of me also thinks that if a client could completely and thoroughly answer this question, then we'd be able to make a great estimate based on that answer alone (well, that's a bit of an exaggeration but you see where I'm coming from).
This is also the question that is most often misunderstood, written-off, or over-simplified. Really what we want to be doing is telling our potential clients that this question should encourage them to examine their business and the unearth the core challenges they face in day-to-day operation. It isn't productive for a client to call us up and talk about the technology platform they want to use (we want a website that uses flash!), those recommendations are, after all, what we're here to do.
What is useful is a potential client who says, “You know what, when I google my products, ebay listings are appearing higher up than my company's website. That must be killing us, so what can we do about it?” Or, “we're getting forty-five phone calls a day asking us where our store is located, and our sales reps are losing real opportunities on the floor.”
Things like that often slip under the radar of potential clients. We should do a better job reminding them to take a big step back and a long look into the mirror.
List the business objectives for your website in order of importance. Eg improve sales, increase customer satisfaction, reduce time spent searching for information, etc
Here's a great question. But it's a question that requires a client to be savvy and informed about the possibilities the web has to offer. In other words it assumes that the client knows a)the business challenges that they face and b)how those challenges can be addressed on the web. Wouldn't we be better-served if we just asked, “list your business objectives in order of importance?” Usually our best ideas that we pitch to clients, the ideas that get people really excited about redesigning a website, are the strategies that address their business objectives ("You mean, our website can do that?). So instead of asking them how the site itself should accomplish objectives, we should just ask for the objectives and put our money where our mouthes are.
How will you know if the site is a success? Eg 20% increase in sales, 70% of surveyed users expressing satisfaction, 30% reduction in time spent searching for info.
This is a complicated question, and it's extremely important. Not only do we recommend getting this question answered before setting out, we recommend that you make your clients sign off on the metrics that you'll be using to measure the success of your redesign. Furthermore, ensure that your clients actually believe in these metrics, and stick to them.
But it gets hairier (sp?). In our industry we know that statistics are only as good as the ones you're comparing them to. What do you do when a client comes your way saying, “we got a MILLION HITS last year!” Make sure your new client is bringing reliable and reasonable analytics to the table. If they're not, then don't even bother using them. Either track their old site for a month or two using correctly-installed GA code, and use that as a metric, or if you can't wait, consider the metrics you'll be using for the first two months and build from that point on.
So here's my micro-conclusion:
When I first saw this section of the survey, I had high hopes. There were three, short questions. But upon closer examination, I think that we might not be saying enough. Every client has her or his own way of assessing their business and the challenges they face. Every client has different ideas about how the web can help them out. But the more I think about this survey, the more I see a need for direct communication where these ideas can be really be teased out and given their full weight.
I think we can take some lessons out of this exercise and use them to inform our website survey redesign, and consider how the observations gathered today can inform how we frame our questions, how we deliver them, and what we must emphasize when navigating this process. I hope you can join me next time when we discuss the assessment of the client's current site.