For me, the most important thing to know before commencing work is: what is the site's objective? If you don't know what a site is supposed to do, you can't know when you've succeeded. A client may have a specific application that they want built, but in the majority of cases, web sites are a combination of brand-promotion and application. I'll use a phone interview or workshop to establish objective. Some useful questions for guiding this kind of discussion: - What does the client do? - Who do they do it for? - Why? - Who are their customers? (get as much info as possible on the range) - How do they know their customers? - What do their customers need? (How do they know?) - How does the client serve their customers' needs? - How well does the client serve their customers' needs? - What are the client's strengths? weaknesses? - What are their main barriers to success? - What is the image they portray? How do they communicate that? (brand) - What is the image they choose to portray? - What is the client hoping to achieve from the site? (Get below "have a site"; there are goals behind that, e.g. reposition brand to be..., increase leads/sales..., decrease customer support costs...) Once you've got clearly-communicated aims, you can jointly agree reasonable objectives of the project. It's great for clients to have ideas about what they think *works* on other sites, but what they *like* is relatively unimportant. It's the designer/developer's job to deliver effectiveness, using his or her expertise and skills. To give a client a blank sheet at the beginning of a project is dangerous, because it sets their expectations that they'll get exactly what they want. Another danger with giving away control to the client is that they might change their mind halfway through, and again, expect you to change the way you're working accordingly. Again, if you haven't agreed objectives, you can't complain that they're being changed. The trick is to welcome the client's ideas, but to create clearly and to maintain the boundary of authority. One way to do that is to remind the client that you're on their side, and to maintain regular open communicaiton, providing clear reasons for any decisions that may step outside their expectations. - Ben Carlos wrote: <snip> When I plan a new website </snip> Bob wrote: I sit down with the client and go through a worksheet of what they want to see in their web site, what their goals are and so on. But as a part of that they usually point out some sites that they seen that has struck them as the type of site they may want to have as far as functionality, text, whether or not they want something done in Flash and so on. For me this begins my though process for the design.