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Important things to ask your client BEFORE accepting the web development project

As a web developer, landing web development projects is crucial to you. It doesn’t matter whether you are a big web development company or a freelance web developer, though. Signing up a client to get you to do their web development and design is probably one of your top priorities if you are in this business. Why wouldn’t it? Getting a client will not only help you maintain your business (regardless if you are part of a web development company or a freelancer) or constantly keep you updated with the current design trends. Signing up a client to get your web development services updates your profile and makes it more attractive in comparison to your competitors!

In theory, it is easy to get a client. Just the sheer volume of “tips” published online, pointing to the “right direction” how and where to get web development gigs makes everything sound so simple. However, it won’t take too long before you realize that it is not that easy. Reality will make you aware there are times when landing a client is easier said than done no matter how talented or skilled you are when it comes to web development. Especially if you are a newbie in this field, you will realize how important it is to build your reputation – making you crave to land the first-ever project badly!

Becoming “desperate” for a project, even if you are an experienced web developer, CAN make you careless, almost in a rush to sign up a client once it comes your way. Some web developers commit the grave mistake of committing to the first client even if they are not fully aware what the entire project is all about. However, doing so is not a guarantee it will work out for your benefit. In some cases, it might do you more harm than good especially if the project did not end up successfully.

Despite knowing how important it is to have clients around to keep the money bank rolling, you shouldn’t jump on every (or the first) opportunity straight away! Due diligence is necessary from your part to make sure that the client and project are right for you. And the only way to do this is to make sure to ask questions so you can uncover more information about the project.

Don’t think that asking questions to your client make you sound as if you don’t know your job. It doesn’t. In fact, some clients appreciate developers asking questions at the early stages of the project because it allows both parties to address potential issues early on. It also gives the client the impression that you genuinely want the project to succeed and have their best interest in mind. Asking relevant questions also allows you to come up with a successful implementation strategy for website development to reduce if not eradicate development roadblocks.

There are a lot of things you need to ask your client the moment they approach you to get your services for web development. But to get you started (and avoid getting overwhelmed), this article will only list down the MOST IMPORTANT questions for your reference. Feel free to ask more questions to your client as you’d like (or as necessary) but the items listed here should never be missed!

What is the nature of your business?

Web development and design require you to have technical knowledge and expertise to use development tools to create the website for your client. On a high level, it may seem like all websites are “similar” but do you know that the implementation MAY vary according to your client’s nature of business? This makes this question worthwhile to ask your client as part of the initial discussion. Especially if you are an experienced website developer, just by asking this will give you the slightest “hint” what you need to do to make the website development a success.

If you are a new web developer, asking this to your client allows you to study and research on the latest website trends on your client’s niche. Especially if your scope of work includes web design, you can have a look at other websites for reference on what makes a website a success based on your client’s nature of business.

Knowing your client’s nature of business also allows you to ask relevant questions further down the line. Simply put that this initial information works as a catalyst for you to think of other vital information you have to know before accepting the project.

What is the purpose of the website?

When a client approaches you for your web development services, it is obvious he/she want a website built. But by asking this question, you go to the “finer details” about the project. The client will then be obliged to give you additional information about what the web development project is all about. As a result, the statement may not be as simple as “I want a website” anymore. It could easily become “I want a website that <fills in the blanks with as much detail as you want>”. And if you missed asking this question, can you imagine how much potential trouble you’d end up getting into if you were unaware of it before committing?

Experience may make you think that you can “predict” what your client wants. But the reality is you don’t ALWAYS know what the client EXACTLY wants until you ask for the details. You may be surprised to have a client approach you to do something “unthinkable” or completely unexpected from his/her niche. So to make sure you are on the safe side – ask.

What is the scope of work?

As you know, web development and design have a very thin line separating each other. And it is not unusual for some clients to interchangeably use/misuse the words to ask what they need. Especially if you advertise you are capable of doing both, you REALLY have to ask specifically if the client expects you to do web design AND development as part of the contract.

Asking for the scope of work allows you to negotiate the contract terms with your client as necessary. As a sample, you are capable to thoroughly assess the timeframe provided for by the client (if he/she specified the due date of the project) whether the timeline is doable or not. And if you think the scope is “too much” for the given timeline, you have the capability to negotiate to move the date further or to de-scope some requirements to make it to his/her deadline.

Knowing the scope also allows you to plan your schedule and plot your activities accordingly. Especially if you are running parallel web development projects at the same time, you really have to be good in providing a reasonable timeframe to your client and at the same time, don’t compromise the quality and commitment you give both projects.

What features do you like your website to have?

If a client approaches you to do their website, it is likely they have a high-level concept of what they want on their website. Even the non-tech savvy clients will be able to describe what their expectations are, including AL LEAST the basic features they’d like to have. Of course, it is your job to develop the website – you are the technology expert after all. However, it is rude not to take your client’s ideas on board, too. So even if you think you know better than the client, don’t forget to ask this.

By asking this question, you will get-to-know your client’s knowledge about website development, too. You will gauge whether your client is somebody who is a complete stranger to technology or someone who knows what he/she wants but just needed an extra pair of hands to do things for him/her. And in effect, it also allows you to determine the amount of work and effort you need to go through to make sure your client completely understands the project.

If by chance you stumbled on a client that needed more time to understand web development concepts, make sure you take that into consideration, too. Don’t assume that if you land a non-tech savvy client, he/she will just accept things as they are without knowing the basics. Dedicate a time to train your client (or make an in-depth documentation) on the technical aspects of the website. Your client may not use it firsthand but will likely be used by the next web developer to maintain/upgrade the website – if it’s not you. Believe me, your client will appreciate and remember you for this!

When is your target launch date (or deadline for the website)?

Now that you have high-level information what needs to be done for the website, the next big important thing to know is the deadline or target submission date for the project. By this time, you know how easy or difficult it is for you to work on the project and more likely, you have a conservative estimate on the time needed to finish it. But is your estimate the same as the client’s expectation or forecasted date for the website launch, too?

Knowing your client’s due date allows you to negotiate (if necessary) on the deadline for the website. You may be surprised there are A LOT of clients willing to accept your proposed due date as long as you provide enough justification for the change. Especially if the project is not rushed, clients are more than willing to make sure their website is made with the highest standard and attention to detail to avoid major issues upon launch.

In saying that, there are also clients unwilling to change the launching date and would prefer sticking to their original plan. That is expected especially if the project is running on a tight schedule or late due to unforeseen circumstances. And if you encounter any of these, you may use that as the basis whether to still go for the project or not. Just make sure that if you commit to working on it, that you CAN truly accomplish what you were asked to do on the agreed date.

How much is your website budget (or how do you plan to setup payment)?

One of your top priorities as a web developer is to receive payment for your job. Regardless if you are a newbie in the field, it is very unlikely you will offer your skills for free! Asking the client how much is his/her budget may not be the ideal first question you should ask but there is completely nothing wrong discussing it at the early stages, too. Especially as you have gotten an insight on the complexity of the project – an amount “worth your effort” is already at the top of your head!

This amount is a result of various factors such as your skills, expertise, experience, and ongoing market rate for web development. It may just be a ballpark estimate of what “you think you are worth” but it is enough for you to use as the basis for determining whether the project is worth your time to work on.

Asking for the client’s budget before committing to work on the project allows both parties to move on if the expectations don’t match. It prevents wasting time for both parties in the event that a “compromise” can’t be achieved in this area. After all, money is an important element for both web developer and client.

Who to get in touch with in case of design/development questions?

Despite asking ALL the important questions before committing to work on the web development project – it is very likely you will encounter issues/questions as you work on it. It doesn’t matter how “critical” these things are. But anything that makes you stop and pause to think or hesitate whether it is the “right” path is enough to seek clarification from the client.

After you receive the go-ahead to work on the project or when contract’s been signed, your communication with the client should NOT stop. In fact, most clients appreciate when you give them regular updates on the progress as you go along. Silence is enough to make your client worry or think that you are hiding something or worse – scamming them!

Especially if you are working with a big company, it is very likely that the person who approached you for the job is NOT the same person to get in touch for clarification. So make sure you know of the right contact person for web design and/or development issues to avoid unnecessary delays!

What is the BEST or preferred method of communication for issues or development updates?

Asking for the right contact person for clarification along the way is one thing, but it also pays to know the preferred and/or best channel to get in touch with that person. While it is common to send an email for those things, it is worthwhile to know of the alternative and/or quicker channels to get in touch. You may be surprised that different clients MAY have different preferences on how they want issues addressed. So knowing of the alternative contact methods such as instant messaging or through phone calls might be useful to you, too.

As a tip, in case you used these alternative channels to make web development clarifications, make it a practice to send an email after every discussion. Especially if the discussion was done through a phone call, sending the email after the conversation is over allows you to have a recording in “black and white”. It also allows the other party to provide feedback in case what you’ve written is “not quite right” – so it’s a win-win situation for everybody!

When should I start?

If you are really keen to work on the project, asking this question indicates your willingness to do it. It prevents the client from looking for another company or individual to work on their web development project. And in effect, pretty much “seals the deal” for you!

In case the new client’s start date coincides with your existing projects – make sure to let your client know about it, too. Especially if you HONESTLY think that it will affect the time (hours) you dedicate on this project per day, making the client aware there are parallel projects allows him/her to set reasonable expectations on you.

To conclude

It is very likely that after asking for these things – more questions will arise. So no matter how “desperate” you may be to get the project, don’t be tempted to accept if it’s not right for you. Never get the contract if the deadline doesn’t suit your availability or the nature of the business is vague to understand. The essence of asking these basic questions before committing to a web development project allows you, the web developer, to thoroughly assess the project before putting your name/company on the line. Keep in mind that this project should end up as a “positive” record on your portfolio to gain more customers in the future and not the other way around!