Client Interview: "...Look everything is fine. We just want a new website."


Hey Everyone!

Currently I’m re-designing a website for a non-profit as a portfolio piece and I’m running into a road-block during initial client interviews that I’ve come to before.

You may have come across this; the client seems convinced there is nothing wrong with the business and nowhere to improve. You are just there to “make the website modern.” I feel the right thing to do is to stay skeptical and poking around for client problems. I’ve recently sent an e-mail requesting they outline three short and long term goals for the business to help with this.

As an aspiring web developer I have a few questions:

  • Are there any resources/tools you might recommend to help identify business goals?
  • Is this a common road block dealing with clients?

Thank you all!


I faced this when I was working as a freelance web developer.
Sometimes clients just don’t want to listen to your opinion.
They are very much like “I’m paying you to specifically do X, so do it”.

Here is how I used to go about it:

  • I try to understand how their business works. They are willing to divulge information if you explain how it’ll help you improve their website.
  • With this in mind, I Google similar websites and generate my own reports or notes. I write both the good and the bad stuff.
  • I present an initial prototype made quickly with Photoshop and get it approved. The approval rate was about 60 to 70%. The others just wouldn’t agree. So its fairly common.

There were scenarios where people wanted their entire website to be Blue or Black, because the owner likes it.
I cringed at the outcome, but sometimes there is just no getting through to people.


I suggest doing a usability test with their existing site. Follow it up with a SUS test to show them what the satisfaction rating for their site is. A few interview questions after that would be good, too. Something you can pull quotes from. “Did you find what you needed? Why or why not?” etc.

If you don’t have time or have trouble getting permission to arrange for in person tests, there are a number of tools where you can do similar, quick-and-dirty ones online.

Anyway, the SUS will show them how bad their site is and the quotes will that up with where and why there are issues.


First of all I should say this is definitely a common issue happening with the clients, so don’t worry about it, it’s part of mostly any re-design project. Our job is to help the clients to be open minded. It sounds easy but it takes a lot of work. Here is a how I would approach this problem, considering a combination of both Lean UX techniques and Google design sprint:

  • Go to the client with a very open mind to let them know that I want to know about both business and the users as the other main stakeholder of any design project.
  • Invite them to a meeting in order to prioritize their goals. In the lean UX book there is an amazing simple technique to prioritize business goals in stakeholder interviews. Encourage them to find out all the goals, give them some limited number of picks, and find out which ones are the top 4-5 important goals.
  • Then invite them to an expert interview (discussed in the Sprint book) and try to frame the “How Might We” phrases. That allows you to really connect with the business and their dreams about what they want to do for future growth.
  • Then quickly put together personas, using proto persona technique.
  • Once you came up with the personas, it would be nice to have them all in an empathy mapping session, that allows them to find out about users feeling, thoughts and desired actions, so they can connect with them much better.
  • As an optional step, at the end of these collaborative tasks, you can also invite them to have a Design Studio, yeah it’s maybe tough to make everyone sketch, but that is an amazing opportunity to make them talk about what they really mean by “modern” and how they are able to justify they reasoning, considering the all the activities they have done.

All of these activities allows the stakeholders to be open minded and helps you to learn a lot about the business, stakeholders and the personas in the project. It also helps you to find a lot of valuable points to shape your design and reasons behind any new improvement that you are proposing.


Stakeholder interviews are great! I’ve found them so very helpful. I always had some problems with working with stakeholders to make proto personas, though. Thing is, they have a lot of assumptions. This is fine for lean, but only if you’re able to follow up on those assumptions and test them. Too often I find stakeholders are so set on the assumption that they don’t see the need to test any of them later on when they come up and need to be addressed. Anyway, I’ve just found that it works well for clients already familiar with lean processes and are open minded, but not for clients with rigid ideas.


Haha oh boy. Sounds like I have a lot to look forward to in my career :smile:. Thank you, I actually did in desperation spit-ball some potential ways I can help improve their website to get them talking. Even if it’s not necessarily the solution you’ll go with, it does pique some interest.


Ali - thank you so much for your feedback. Your sound advice was exactly what I was looking for to engage a client. I can see why you are a senior designer, you’ve done this before. I’m going to do what I can to get my hands on a Lean UX book, it sounds like it’s benefited you.

I’ve followed you on Medium, do you have any more… up to date blogs yourself? I see the last post was from October.

Thank you.


Thanks for your feedback @redrobinmeyer. I still believe I should never give up on this process, if something is right, I should try to find the best way to sell them to the client. These days dealing with the tough assumptions, like the ones that you mentioned, is not that hard anymore. There are a lot of great MVP and A/B testing techniques that allow you to quickly show them whether their assumption is right or not.
Clients, and in general stakeholders, care a lot about numbers, which is great, so we can take the most advantages of this fact. In my experience I definitely had people who believed so hard in some facts in their business, but I ran tests and MVPs, that absolutely changed the game. Although, there are always exceptional situations that some designers may dealt with and I haven’t experienced them yet :slight_smile:


Thanks you so much @christopherwgodowski :slight_smile: this is so nice of you. I’m so glad what I shared seemed useful to you.
Thanks for checking my medium channel. I was actually working and moving around in the past few month so I haven’t had a chance to sit down and write more articles. There are some cool topics that I would definitely sharing them soon in my medium, so please feel free to share your thoughts on them when they are published. :slight_smile:


@christopherwgodowski, as someone who hasn’t been involved with web design etc. since Netscape was around, I don’t know how relevant what I have to say is. There are great points made by the other posters here.

Having been part of a project from the users’ perspective, I will chime in on what I think was the most difficult aspect of getting the right information. The external development team were trying to get something right that involved the Accounts team that I was a part of. Unfortunately, the developer or BA (can’t remember what his position was) had the same questions and unknowingly called my supervisor during busy periods.

I felt bad for both of them. I don’t think anyone was to blame but I think perhaps if it was communicated that the questions were designed to help them understand how everything works and therefore build a better product which meant less work for us in the long run, that would help. Oh and perhaps, he needed someone else to explain the concept to him. This is not to say that either one is dumb, I just think their thinking and communication styles were incompatible. Another thing sometimes, it’s really hard to schedule client interviews around other things like month end, producing important financial documents etc.