One of the most important aspects of the web design process is getting to know the client, their customers, and the specifics of what they want and need to get out of the project. Without this knowledge, you could create an amazing design, but it really won’t matter if it doesn’t fit the specific needs of the client and doesn’t communicate effectively with their customers. Most designers would prefer to get to the actual design work quickly, but it’s important to do your due diligence during the client intake process.
Communication during the client intake process is critical because it is needed to get the designer and client on the same page, helps to avoid lost time from unnecessary revisions, establishes the responsibilities and expectations of both the designer and the client, and it sets the foundation for design decisions that will be made throughout the project.
Having a set flow for client intake can help streamline the process and save time. Additionally, it will also help to ensure that nothing is missed or skipped accidentally, and it will help to make the communication smoother and less time-consuming for clients. While there will always be differences from one project to the next that may require special attention, the major aspects of the client intake process will be applicable to almost all of your projects.
In our shop we have a resource that we feel can be an extremely valuable resource for helping freelancers and small design agencies with the client intake process. Many designers use questionnaires to help with gathering information from new clients, so we created a resource to help with this process. Our Design Brief Print and Web Template has an InDesign template that includes a variety of common questions that help to gather the basic information that is needed on most client projects. The questions can easily be edited in InDesign to customize the document to meet your needs.
While the InDesign document is certainly helpful, we know that many designers, and many clients for that matter, would prefer to complete the questionnaire electronically rather than dealing with printing a paper version that may require mailing, faxing, or scanning. So we had the design brief coded into a template that can be quickly and easily uploaded to your website. The template includes a PHP form. You can upload the directory to your site and send clients a link to the form. They will then complete the form right on your site and the responses are sent to you by email. This version can also be customized to suit your own needs. You can see an example of the design brief here.
How to Set Up the Design Brief On Your Website
To start with, you’ll need access to the template file. Once you have downloaded the file you will need to unzip the file and make a few simple customizations.
The first thing you will need to do open the data.php file. Here you can add a link to a logo image to be included in the header, and enter the email address where you would like to receive the responses. You’ll also have the option to customize the subject line of the email, the confirmation message that is shown to users after completion of the form, and the error message that is displayed when required data is missing, but you can also leave those items as is and it will work just fine.
$logo_path = 'css/i/logo.png'; $user_email = 'email@example.com'; $name = 'Your Name'; $subject = 'New Design Brief Submission'; $confirmation_message = "Thanks for completing the design brief. We will be in touch shortly."; $error_message = " Some required fields are missing.";
At this point you can upload the directory to your website (you can change the directory name to something other than “design-brief” if you prefer) and as long as the php mail() function is enabled on the server, which is typically the case, it should be working right away.
If you would like to make minor changes to the wording of specific questions you can simply open the index.php file and find that particular question. You will see code that looks like:
$ui->createToggle('material',"5. Do you have materials like a logo and photos to use in the design?");
You can simply change the text here. So an example of a slight change would be:
$ui->createToggle('material',"5. Do you have materials like a logo or other branded graphics that you want to use in the design?");
If you want to add a new question, that can be done rather easily as well. In the index.php file find the location where you want to add the question. For this example we will be adding a new question to the “Tell Us About Your Company” section. So we’ll find this code in the index.php file:
<h2 class="title">Tell Us About Your Company</h2> <div class="content"> <?php $ui->createTextarea('company_brief',"1. Please provide us with a brief profile of your company"); $ui->createTextarea('describe_products',"2. Please describe your products and/or service"); $ui->createTextarea('target_audience',"3. Please describe your target audience"); $ui->createTextarea('primary_comp',"4. Who are your primary competitors?"); $ui->createTextarea('apart',"5. What sets your company apart from the competition?"); ?> </div> <!-- End of page content -->
We’ll add our new question at the end, so before the closing PHP tag we’ll enter it based on the following format:
$ui->createTextarea('field_name',"Your Text label here");
So here is the code that we will enter:
$ui->createTextarea('mission',"6. What is your mission statement?");
This code tells it to create a new text area that we have titled “mission”, and it asks the question “What is your mission statement?” You don’t need to change anything in order to get this question to be included in the email that is sent to you, it will automatically be included. So you can see it is rather easy to customize the form to meet your own needs. Documentation is also provided in the download that explains how to add other types of fields, such as ones with checkboxes.