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What to Ask a New Client Wanting a WordPress Theme

Published by Chris Coyier

[original photo]

With any new client, before you start choosing technologies, you should be finding out more about them. What they are all about, why they need a website, and what the goals of that site are. But if you are past that stage and it becomes clear that they need a blog, and that blog will be powered by WordPress, here is a list of things you should ask to get started (in no particular order).

  • Will there be multiple authors? Should the site clearly be displaying author info?
    Some blogs like to promote the authors of the content, other blogs are more anonymous. WordPress has a little section for adding Biographical Info for each registered user. There is a PHP function for pulling that text, which is great for creating little "About the Author" sections. There is also a plugin for adding photos for each user.
  • Are there multiple styles of blog posts, like longer feature posts and shorter quick posts?
    On most blogs, every post is treated about the same. But that doesn't have to be the case necessarily. It is possible to have different styles of posts. It's good to know the plan of what type of content the owners of the blog intend to be publishing.
  • What other kind of content will be on the site?
    Sideblog? Contact page? Blogroll? Photo Gallery? There are plugins to handle all this stuff. Remember that just because it's a blog doesn't limit the site to only being a blog.
  • Does the site need to accommodate for advertising? What type? Sizes?
    This is a big one! You don't want to get along in your design process only to find out you need a 768x90 banner stuck in there somewhere. There are lots of possible common sizes you may need to accommodate like 125x125, 300x250, 160x600, etc. Knowing this upfront will allow you to design around them and make them a part of the design.
  • Do you plan to use categories? tags? both?
    Many blogs categorize their posts into categories. It can help users browsing archives or who may only be interested in certain topics. You can put serious emphasis on this, or ignore it completely. Again it is a good idea to get a feel for what the client intends to be writing about so you can envision together how it can be organized. Tags are similar to categories but it is more common with tags to apply several on each post to identify sub topics.
  • How do you want to handle archives?
    There are lots of ways to allow visitors to browse past articles in WordPress. Category and tag pages are one form of this, but WordPress offers archives by date and by author as well. There are also plugins for more robust archives. How many options do you want to provide visitors?
  • How do you want to handle search?
    WordPress has built-in search, but its generally regarded as pretty poor. Many blogs use Google Site Search which often does a better job of displaying results. There is also a variety of third-party search solutions out there. The search results page is a very important page. Might as well make a decision and get that designed properly right away.
  • Are you going to be presenting source code in the posts?
    There are a variety of ways to handle source code in posts, including JavaScript library plugins and WordPress plugins. They all have a little different requirements so finding the right way to handle it from day-one is important.
  • Are there any other blogs that you really like?
    Clients are notorious for not being able to explain exactly what they want. But if they know they want a blog, chances are they already have some favorites. By asking about other blogs they admire, you may be able to incorporate some ideas from those blogs and impress them.

Have I about covered the basics? What other questions would you ask a client wanting a new WordPress theme?


  1. Great Tips! Thanks Chris for this great post.

  2. Excellent List, the more front end work we do in the research, the better the development will flow.

    And the client always appreciate a little "Due Diligence" from their developer!

  3. Murray
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  4. That picture is hilarious!

  5. Some good points for consideration. Thanks.

  6. Permalink to comment#

    Great post!

    I think people under estimate wordpress, they think… wordpress = just another blog,
    but they are forgetting, or they don't realize what it can do after you get a few plug-ins or fiddle with the settings.

  7. WOW…thanks for this post! Great tips and I'm sure I will be using this as a template for all my new customers from on on!

  8. Permalink to comment#

    Under what circumstances would the client need a WordPress mu install?

    Could you do a section on WPMU sometime? Maybe this week…

    As always, great post Chris!

  9. Really Good post, everybody should read this article.

    WordPress is NOT just another web blog!

  10. Great article Chris very helpful as usual, Love the old skool pic

  11. I believe the #1 reason is being able to manage blogs literally on different top-level domain names. I have never even installed it before, but it sure would be fun to, to test out. If I ever do, you know I'll write about it =)

  12. I would definitely start out by saying all the questions are optional, so they don't feel to hammered by questions. You are the expert so you can suggest answers to the questions as well. But they more they do answer, the better chance of them actually liking what you come up with.

  13. Paul Demers
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    The pic for this post is priceless! I am excited to see the rest of the articles for the week. Always a pleasure to read the quality posts on css-tricks! Keep up the great work.

  14. Yeah of course. Really you could also get them covered in any sort of fluid text you write to them or talk to them about when you are starting the project. It'll get them thinking if they haven't before anyway, which is almost always good I think.

  15. That's what I get for searching Creative Commons on Flickr for "Design Meeting" =)

  16. It sure is a great content management system overall, it's so simple for the user and designer really. It can be used for many sites who aren't looking for a blog in particular as well.

  17. as great as the article is, the old school photo really puts the icing on the cake :P

  18. Permalink to comment#

    great article, cant wait for the rest in the series…

  19. Permalink to comment#

    I would also ask the client if they want this to be a stand-alone blog or to be integrated into an existing website where you would have to match the look and feel.

  20. Permalink to comment#

    Maybe the other missing question in here is if they plan on generating content in english or some other language.

    A great article though. can't wait to see the resto of the series.

  21. I like to keep a list of the standard ad sizes handy. Besides a reference, it lets you easily grab place-holder images for your designs or for when you're coding.

    IAB used to have a good one that I can't find now. This looks to be a fairly exhaustive list of the commons sizes though:

  22. Great points, trying it out on a new project I'm going to be starting right now to see how those one works. I think those with others are in for a success but I do wonder if some are a bit too advanced for some people, mainly regarding the search type. I'm feeling that I'd be asked to "solve it" myself a lot of the time.

    Nonetheless, great list, it's good points to try on yourself as well if you are starting a more "freehands project".

  23. Jason
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    You could also tell them that WordPress is horrible, and there are way better CMS applications out there, like Expression Engine.

  24. Permalink to comment#

    A good reference for showing clients how their costs are calculated:

  25. You should elaborate Jason. I'm open to other schools of thought on this. I've built ExpressionEngine sites before where it didn't quite fit the bill. I've also built sites WordPress sites where it didn't quite fit the bill. I'd love to hear a few examples of places where ExpressionEngine works better and why.

  26. Nic
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    Ariyo ………….Hilarious and sooooooo true !

  27. Permalink to comment#

    Great article! I definitely need to save this list to use in the future.

  28. jon
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    i like to ask people which sites they DONT like, i find it can be as helpful as finding out which sites they do… :)

  29. Permalink to comment#

    I would ask them these as well. Nice list.

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