Category: UX advice / Research articles

5 key questions to ask clients when starting a new project

Photo by Marcos Luiz on Unsplash

I always start my UX projects with new clients by getting on a call, and just a half hour chat is an opportunity to learn a lot. It’s important to listen and understand what they need but it’s also your chance to learn some key things.

I’ve made various lists of questions to ask in the past but haven’t stuck to anything detailed. However I’ve realised if I can get answers to just five questions then I’ll have enough context to put together a proposal and get started. Whilst unbiased data is the ideal, clients are a valuable source of evidence about their product and shouldn’t be ignored.

You may not need to ask the questions directly as the answers can arise in conversation but here’s the five areas I think it’s important to get information on and why.

“What’s the history of your product?”

Some context is always useful to understand why you’re being asked to get involved. Knowing a bit about the history of the product will allow you to position your solutions appropriately.

Are they looking for a big redesign and do you have carte blanche to change anything? Or has the website only recently been redesigned? In which case they probably won’t appreciate you suggesting they throw everything out of the window and start again.

If it’s a brand new product without much in the way of history, then it’s your job to find out what has led them to create it. There should be a core user need at the heart of any good product and the design should reflect that.

“What data have you looked at to understand current performance?”

If they’re looking to bring someone onboard to redesign or improve their site/app, how do they know it’s not performing as they want? What data have they used for this and what else do they have available? Often the answer is either sales or Google Analytics but it’s useful to get the current benchmark for conversion rate, or whatever metric they’re using to measure success.

It’s useful to know what other sources of evidence they have to learn from too. Do they have session recordings set up? Have they run surveys of their users? Have they been gathering customer feedback in other ways? All of this is useful stuff to get hold of when you start your research (and saves you from duplicating things that have already been done).

If the answer to this is that they haven’t looked at any data but they have a strong idea they want to change things, then you might need to dig a bit deeper to understand why. There’s usually a reason, even if it’s an anecdotal one. You can then try and help them prove or disprove their hypothesis with some metrics.

“Who are your audience?”

I’ve found that many clients have experience of dealing with customers and have a good idea of who their audience are so it’s always worth asking them. You can gain a bit of insight from Google Analytics but otherwise it can be hard to understand without a big piece of research.

Knowing this means you can keep the user in mind as you work and will give you a persona to measure your design solutions against. Age, income, and experience of the product/sector are three of the most useful things to understand.

Of course if they don’t know who their users are then a piece of research is something you should suggest.

“Why do users come to you over competitors?”

Ask this question to understand the product’s USP. By asking it this way hopefully you understand the real reason that users are coming to their site rather than any marketing spiel. You can then check against their website to understand if this is being promoted correctly.

A lot of branding overlaps with UX design and getting the two working in sync is key for success. If you’ve identified a real user need and are able to state throughout the user journey how you solve it in a way that others can’t then you’ll have a powerful product. If you’re selling the wrong USP then users can get confused and if you’re failing to meet a real need then users will go elsewhere.

A follow up question here is to ask “who are your competitors?” This is obviously good to know if you’re planning on doing a piece of competitor analysis but also more informally to quickly get a sense of the rest of the market.

“How many users are coming from desktop v mobile?”

If you’re working on a website it’s important to understand early whether you’re mostly dealing with mobile or with desktop users. Of course the time has long passed where websites could be designed for desktop and mobile was a distant afterthought but there are some where the split is starkly in favour of one device and as such more effort should be spent on that.

Most clients are now aware of where their traffic comes from but for those that aren’t, the process of finding this out can be an eye-opener. This is almost always because mobile makes up more of their audience than they expected.

I’ll sometimes have clients tell me that they get more users on mobile but more conversions on desktop and as such desktop is the more important platform. In fact this is probably because the site is currently optimised for desktop and mobile users represent an untapped opportunity.

Last updated on 6 November 2019
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