By and large, web designers are screwed from this point forward unless they ask the most important question next. Unfortunately, only the only ones I’ve ever seen do this are those that have been burned and learned, or have studied their superiors enough to catch it. The most important question is not hard. In fact, it’s only one word.
That word is why. Why do you want a website?
Wait, what? Someone comes to me with a project and I’m questioning their intelligence? Are you out of your mind?!?
No, you’re not questioning their intelligence. You’re questioning their plans. Whether they’ll work. Whether they even have one. So many times when a small-business owner comes to us with a simple “We need a website, how much will it cost?” request, at least 80% of they time they haven’t thought about how a website will actually integrate into their current marketing campaign or business goals. They are acting on the same fallacy as they usually would with Facebook or Twitter: “Everyone else has it, we need to sign up too or we’re not cool!”
I have literally watched projects that could have and should have been awesome go through the floor because we didn’t have a clear idea of the goals we were trying to achieve when building the site. For the record, “Get the website built” is not a goal. It’s a step to the goal. The goal for small-businesses is by and large to make money. The website, the twitter account and facebook page are all tools used to achieve that goal. Nothing more. A great website or engaging social media tools may help you reach that goal faster or from a new demographic, but they are not the goal.
A hammer is not a chair. Likewise, a website is not a profit. It’s a tool to get you there. Never forget that.
(Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/drachmann/)