Category: Marketing on the Internet

How to Get the Most out of a Design Questionnaire

So you’re a small business owner looking for a new website. Maybe you shop around a little and meet with a few different firms. Maybe a trusted friend refers you to someone. At some point in the process of procuring a website, someone is going to send you something called a…

Design Questionnaire

It’s okay to freak out. It’s a perfectly normal reaction.

After all, the thing looks like that final you took in high school that you didn’t study for. It might even have multiple choice questions. It’ll definitely have some longform questions. And if given the choice between filling it out and stubbing your toe of procuring badly, you might seriously consider stubbing your toe.

So, to help you out the next time you have to fill one of these out, we’ve come up with a few tips that will not only make the process less painful, but make it more fruitful as well.

1. Don’t assume you can skip the questionnaire and tell them everything you need in the face to face meeting.

There’s a reason there’s a questionnaire and a meeting.

The questionnaire provides a foundation for the meeting. It can provide details that are both necessary and nuanced. It also serves as the starting point for the meeting.

If you skip the questionnaire or fill it up with terse or vague answers, chances are, the meeting will have to start at square one.

If you questionnaire is full of answers that are detailed and thoughtful, the meeting can go much further in figuring out how to get you what you want.

Put simply, a poorly filled out questionnaire makes for an unproductive meeting.

2. Read the whole questionnaire before filling it out.

Reading through the entire design questionnaire gives you a good idea of the scope of questions they are asking. It also helps you structure your answers appropriately when you know how to break up the information properly. Nothing is quite so frustrating as answering a question and then realizing that the answer you put down really fits a different question much better. Also, reading the full questionnaire helps of procuring the next bit of advice.

3. Design Questionnaires are like Open Book Tests

Nobody expects you to remember everything off the top of your head, so don’t leave blanks in the questionnaire just because you can’t remember something. Reviewing your company documents and other materials is a good start, but also make sure they’re within arms reach in case you need them.

4. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help.

All clients are different, but generally a company will give you the same questionnaire regardless of who you are. The one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t always work, but that’s not your fault. If a question is confusing, or you don’t really know how to answer it, call up the company and ask for clarification.

5. Be specific and provide examples.

Nothing is more cryptic than an entire questionnaire full of unsupported adjectives. The more you give them, the more they can give back.

Writing that you want your website to be “edgy” isn’t really helpful. There are lots of things that are edgy, and making a company guess which “edgy” you mean isn’t always a great idea.

Writing that you want your website to be “edgy” and citing a particular artist is helpful.**

Providing images of pieces that you like by a particular artist is really helpful.

Doing all of the above and explaining why you like the piece and why you think it resonates with your company is about as helpful as you can be.

So when you find yourself in front of another design questionnaire, remember the above tips. The company you hired will be grateful, and when they’re finished building the website of your dreams, you’ll be grateful too.

**It doesn’t have to be an artist, it can be anything really.

Anomaly: How to Stand Out

One of the hardest things to do as a small businesses is to stand out.

In especially competitive markets, you’ll find competitors that offer similar services at similar prices with similar claims of quality to your business. We know your business is different. After all, you’re you, and they’re them. The problem is, it can be difficult for customers to see why you’re unique, and if they can’t see it, they’re less likely to remember you.

So, what can you do to stand out? This is where the principle of anomaly comes into play.

In design, anomaly is an interruption of a pattern. We use it to attract the eye to certain points and make those points memorable.

One example of an anomaly might be an interruption in a sequence. For example:


Even with exceptionally large amounts of data, people can spot anomalies quite easily.

A less fancy term for this might be “One of these things is not like the others.”

So, how can you use the concept of the anomaly to stand out?

The good news is that you don’t have to do everything differently. You just have to do one thing differently. The bad news, is that whatever you do differently, actually has to be really really different.

Let me give you an example:

I don’t travel a lot, but every once in awhile I hit the road and end up staying at a hotel. If you ask me for a list of major hotel chains I can rattle off a long list, but if you ask me for a list of hotels I’ve stayed at, I’d be hard pressed to remember if I’ve stayed at a specific hotel or not. The trouble is, whether it’s a Marriott, a Westin, or a Sheraton, I can’t really tell the difference. That’s not to say there are no differences. I’m sure there are variations in the threadcount of their sheets, the fluffiness of their pillows, the politeness of the staff, and the volumizing effect of their tiny bottles of hair conditioner.

They’re all nice places, but as an only occasional traveler, I’m not well versed enough with the long list of minor differences between each hotel chain (much less each individual hotel location) to tell you which one is which. Except one.

A few months ago I stayed at a hotel while on a weekend trip. I picked it because it wasn’t outrageously expensive, it looked nice enough, and it was close to everything I wanted to see. I was finishing up the check-in process and was about to proceed with my perfectly enjoyable, but utterly forgettable stay in their hotel when they did something that surprised me.

In addition to my keycard they handed over a warm chocolate chip cookie.*

More frequent travelers are likely familiar with this practice from this particular hotel, but as a novice, my mind was blown.

All they did was one thing that I’d never seen before from any other hotel. Just one thing. Whereas other hotels compete in my head on things like price, location, style, and dozens of other minute criteria, this hotel created an entirely new criteria that I call “The Chocolate Chip Check-In Cookie”** and they’re the only ones with that box checked.

Now, despite my stays at dozens of other hotels in my lifetime, I will always remember that I stayed at a Doubletree by Hilton.

As for anomalies, we can’t tell you what one thing to do differently here, but we can help you get started. Make a list of every criteria that you share with your competitors.

Done? The key to standing out is not on that list.

Just in case you’re not entirely sure how the principle of anomaly works, watch this delightful parade of animated cats and revel in how easy it is to spot the anomalies (the relevant portion starts at 1:03):