A well thought out, and organized client onboarding process is essential for getting web design projects off to a good, organized start.

Why? Because it sets the tone for the project and establishes what the working relationship between the client and web designer will be.

Onboarding starts once the two sides have reached an agreement. Because of this, it’s essential for you to know what to expect.

We also believe its an important question to ask during the web design consultation process. It’s a great way to qualify web designers to see if they have a professional process in place that can produce great websites.

In this article, we’ll look at why client onboarding is vital and what to look for to see if your web designer has really thought this out.

The better the onboarding process, the better chance you have at creating a beautiful website that produces results for your business.

Why Client Onboarding is Essential

Client Onboarding“Onboarding” is a term born out of startup land. It means to get one up to speed on a company’s processes and workflow. The goal of it is to integrate someone as a member of the team as quickly as possible.

“Onboarding” is a term born out of startup land. It means to get one up to speed on a company’s processes and workflow. The goal of it is to integrate someone as a member of the team as quickly as possible.

Think of it as basically an orientation (apparently that word wasn’t cutting it for Silicon Valley).

Now, when you hire a web designer to create a website for your business, you and your company are the ones that get the onboarding treatment.

Why is it necessary?

Because designing a website is a team effort. Web designers and developers need significant information and input from clients to create a great website.

You might think all of this input on your part is unnecessary. However, it’s not.

After all, it’s your website, and you want to influence the direction of the project. But without a clear working relationship and the necessary resources, that can’t happen.

The client onboarding process serves to facilitate the creation of a great website right from the start. It takes care of all the administrative housework right away and immediately gets the ball rolling on the project.

There isn’t a definitive right or wrong way to approach client onboarding. Our guiding principle is that the process should be tailored to the needs of the client and project.

No two clients or website builds are the same, so why would the onboarding process be too?

Ultimately, when evaluating a web designers onboarding process, you want to ensure it does the following:

  • Immediately takes care of administrative housework (trust us, you don’t want to be dealing with this in the middle of the project)
  • Gets the ball rolling on resources that need to be provided to web designers and developers
  • Introduces the clients to all of the tools used during the project
  • Schedules a web design kick-off meeting (more on that below)

To give you an overview of what a well thought out client onboarding process looks like, we’re going to dive into ours below.

Proposal Signed & Invoice SentWeb Design Proposal

The client onboarding process begins once the proposal is signed.

In the proposal, we include an overview of the project, the scope, deliverables, timeframe, and terms and conditions. We explain the entire rationale behind the project and encourage our clients to ask questions and give feedback.

Once the proposal has been signed, we send over an invoice per the terms of the project proposal. Work begins on the project once that’s been paid.

Trello Board Set Up

Tools That Make Working With a Freelance Web Designer Easy

Source: Trello

Once the first payment is in, we get to work setting up the software we’ll be using for the project.

We create a Trello board for all of our web design projects. Trello is a terrific project management tool that makes it easy to get a high-level overview of where the project stands.

Trello also makes it super easy for both the client and web designer to work together. You don’t need to be tech-savvy to use Trello, and the app makes it easy to stay up to date on the project even when you’re on the go.

We effectively use it as a client portal. All of the assets, pictures, copy, and resources to be used for the project are stored in Trello.

Trello also makes it easy to collaborate on the project. In each card, you can leave comments, checklists, tag someone for their attention, and assign due dates for items.

Trello is an all-around fantastic (and free) project management tool. It is essential for keeping both sides accountable and ensuring the project is organized.

It’s intuitive and easy to learn, and once you use it, you’ll wonder how you got by without it.

Homework Tasks

Yes, we know you aren’t in grade school anymore. Trust us; we don’t like sounding like our parents back in the day either.

However, by taking care of a few tasks right out of the gate, the project can get off to a much better start.

We assign our clients some homework tasks to complete once they’ve signed the proposal. This is because we need information from them to get started creating the brand strategy that will define the direction of the project.

Also, we can’t always get started on a project right away. So when a project is booked a few weeks in advance, we still want to be able to make progress.

That’s where our homework tasks come in to play.

The homework tasks we assign to our clients are dependent on the scope and deliverables of the project. In general, here’s what they look like:

Content Worksheets

First, let’s take a quick step back. Before we even send over the proposal, we have all potential clients to complete an in-depth discovery document.

This document is a thorough questionnaire we use to define the project’s scope. Once that document has been filled out, we know everything the potential client would need from us and can give them an accurate quote and project timeframe.

One of the main ways we do this is by having the client specify what web pages they need.

Of course, we don’t have them do this in a vacuum. We have consultation calls before to determine what web pages the website would need to have to be successful.

Once the client has signed the proposal, we send them over a content worksheet with the pages agreed upon. We use Google Docs to easily collaborate.

Each page of the website gets a separate section on the Google Doc. From there, the client fills in the goal of the page and describes specific things they want mentioned on each page.

Generally, we prefer to write the website copy.

In our view, to create a great website with maximum marketing potential, the design and copy need to go hand in hand. They must complement one another.

And that can only be achieved when the same party is responsible for both.

So, we generally have clients write down bullet points of the major ideas they want to get across on each page. From there, we take care of the rest.

Web Design Inspiration Worksheet

We also send over a worksheet with 5 – 10 websites that we think serve as good design inspiration for what our client is looking to achieve with their website.

We ask them to picture the websites as if it were their own and rate how satisfied they would be with it. We include a range of different styles and design elements so we can get a thorough overview of the type of design our clients like.

We find this to be very helpful. Communicating what you like about design is hard (even for web designers). Often you don’t know what you want till you see it.

This worksheet lets us know what design direction our client wants to take the project towards. From there, we can confidently design a website that they’ll be proud of.

Web Design Ebook/Reading Materials

We also send over this Ebook from Webflow so they can get a thorough overview of what’s in store and the rationale behind every step in the process. Our clients don’t have to read it, but we think its an excellent primer on what they need to know regarding the web design process.

We also send them content from our blog that is relevant to their project and other articles from around the web.

Now, we don’t require them to read it, and there isn’t a quiz at the end or anything (told you it wasn’t that bad).

We send them over reading materials because just reading a few articles can provide a significant knowledge advantage. This makes it easier to communicate throughout the project, and everyone understands why we’re doing what we’re doing.

Asset Gathering

Lastly, we encourage our clients to go online and find any examples of stock videos/photos, colors, or any other creative asset.

We have them put this in the Trello board and write up a short description of why they like it.

This way, we can be sure to include it in the design or use it for further inspiration down the line.

Kickoff Meeting


Last but not least, the project cannot truly start until both sides have met up for a kickoff meeting. The goal of this meeting is for both parties to get a thorough overview of the following:

  • The client’s business. This includes the company’s history, culture, service, products and anything else we should know
  • The target audience of the client and how they want to reach them
  • Competitors to our client’s business
  • Assessment of the client’s current website
  • We then provide an overview of the project including a review of the proposal, timeframe, goals, and milestones
  • The client is briefed on all technology, procedures and project management tools to be used
  • Overview of the content the client wants to use for the website and a review of their current content strategy
  • Assessment of the client’s SEO strategy and optimization opportunities
  • Homework tasks review
  • Project timeline established

The web design kickoff meeting concludes the client onboarding process. By the time the kickoff meeting is in the books, we have everything we need to get started on the project.

Making the Client Onboarding Process Work For You

No two clients or businesses are alike, and that means the onboarding process shouldn’t be either.

Different projects with different scopes have different needs, and that should be reflected in the client onboarding process.

If you believe your business needs a personalized client onboarding process, we would advise you to hire a freelance web designer or developer. Especially if you’re a small business, where that extra touch can make a world of difference.

Bailey Canning

Bailey Canning

Bailey Canning is a digital marketing consultant & web designer based in Northern New Jersey. Right out of college, he founded Inbound Web Development - a marketing-focused web development firm that helps small businesses generate leads and grow online. Feel free to reach out at bailey@inboundwebdevelopment.com to discuss a project, or be featured as a guest on the podcast Business Talks.

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