On website design questionnaires

Clients are often bemused by the questions designers ask them at the very start of the website design process. The ones that seem to cause the most confusion and trouble…

Nervous wide-eye Caucasian woman in front of a computer  keyboard

Clients are often bemused by the questions designers ask them at the very start of the website design process. The ones that seem to cause the most confusion and trouble are “what are your favourite websites?” and “are there any websites that you particularly dislike?”

The problem stems from the fact that these are really wide-ranging questions. If someone asked me, out of the blue, what was my favourite website, I think I would be hard pressed to answer. In fact, I think I would just reply with a whole host of questions of my own!

Why the designer is asking these questions

You have to remember the designer doesn’t know you well at this stage of the website design process. Over many years, a fairly standard set of questions has evolved to help the designer gauge a clients taste.

In order to try and deliver what the client needs, the designer has to create a design (or three) with various things in mind. The client’s taste is not at the very top of that list, but it’s an important piece of information all the same.

The designer will look at your goals, the audience that you are targeting, the marketplace that you trade in and finally at your taste; he will then come up with a set of designs that directly addresses those needs.

It’s not always possible to address all of the criteria within one design. Generally, you’ll be provided with three sets of designs to chose from which will each have pros and cons from an audience, marketplace and personal taste perspective. This isn’t how we tend to operate — we have a much more fluid and agile process than that.

Choosing which websites you like or dislike

Personal taste is subjective. A number of websites might spring to mind for each category, but in this instance, you need to  think critically about the ones that you identify for the designer. Don’t just think about the look of the websites you’re going to identify as ones that you strongly like or dislike. Instead, think about how you feel interacting with the sites, for instance identify:

  • ones that you are comfortable buying from
  • ones that you would never buy from
  • ones that you find easy to navigate
  • ones that you find impossible to navigate
  • ones where you find the content intriguing
  • ones where you find yourself bored to tears
  • ones that evoke positive emotions
  • ones that evoke negative emotions

It’s likely that you’ll be able to identify a couple of website designs that display one or more of the above. It’s also helpful, once you’ve done this to  provide a couple more examples — this time of websites that you find aesthetically pleasing or displeasing – based on colour schemes, fonts, layout and so on.

What if you hate the design presented to you?

So, you’ve been through the process – you completed the questionnaire, had a meeting with the design team, and you’ve received the first drafts for the proposed design(s). To your horror they do not reflect your personal taste as much as you thought that they would.

This is where you have to take a step back and look at the designers comments for each mock-up. Usually each feature and design element will be explained along with; the goals, marketplace or audience needs that it addresses.

Designers do not just design from the aesthetic perspective but with usability and customer experience in mind as well.

Putting aside your personal taste and thinking about your audience will allow you to look at the designs in a more objective manner. Try and put yourself in your prospective customer’s position. You’re the expert on your customers; if you’re in a position to, this is where you would normally introduce these concepts to a representative group of your customers to gauge their opinions. This process can be used for any sized business.

What matters is that you are making the decision on which website design to go with (or even to start the process again) based on sound business principles, research and analysis.

This quick look at why some of the questions are asked, how to answer them and how to evaluate the concepts that you are initially presented with should make the process a bit clearer and simpler for you. If you’d like any more information or have further questions just ask in the comments section below.

If you enjoyed this blog post, you might like:

Building A Functional Website (September 2019)
What To Look Out For In Your Next Web Designer (July 2020)
What Is The Investment For A Website? (June 2021)
10 Things You Should Consider Before Using a Website Builder (April 2021)
How To Talk To Your Web Designer About Your Business Goals (January 2021)

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  1. Monyelle on 18 January 2012 at 6:02 pm

    This is great! I feel like design and learning a foreign language are in the same category for most people lol They’re so confused and fearful of the whole process. You’ve given a great easy to understand break down of the various elements.

    • Kittie Walker on 19 January 2012 at 10:14 am


      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

      I couldn’t agree with you more – the whole process can cause fear and confusion. It is something that has to be addressed upfront otherwise whatever message the client is trying to get across to their audience will be lost.


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