Someone wrote me yesterday looking for details on how I work with clients. I was saying on an N-TEN blog that it's important to perform an internal needs assessment before you really begin to work with a website developer.
People generally know when they need a new site, but many tend not to start by asking what purpose the site should serve, what kinds of issues it should resolve and how it should look. Of course, this step is important in all companies, but I find it an absolute necessity with nonprofits that are governed by a board or committee.
So the first step we take with a new client is to encourage them to have these conversations together internally before talking to the website developer. That's the idea behind a questionnaire we developed and hand out to our new clients before beginning on a project. I encourage our clients to send out copies to everyone on the team (from receptionist to CEO), have them fill it out independently and decide together what the final version should look like. Then they come to me with a filled out copy, and we talk through it together.
Everyone's always really glad of this exercise, because people at organizations often don't realize how different their thoughts are about their website. And it saves a lot of time and money when it comes to making a solid decision and putting together a reliable schedule.
Make sure to read through this blog posting on how to go about asking for a new website. It's about what to expect from the company you hire. This is very important, because I find increasingly more often that a designer or a web developer will offer to build a website, but a designer lacks understanding of the underlying architecture, and web developers lack an understanding of how to bring it all together aesthetically.
We work with a project manager, a web developer who is an expert in human factors (meaning the way people naturally interact with technology) and a designer. All of us are able to address many questions before they're asked and we consider our chief role as that of advisor. Inevitably, with expectations set early on, everyone is always happy with the final outcome.
You can find more info on our site on the kinds of sites we build. Oh, and we also have a deal with N-TEN members, so we can offer a discounts there, depending on what you need.