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Extracting user requirements from a person who does not know how to express himself

As a hobby freelancer I'm new to this. I've never had a non-technical client before explain to me what his future website is supposed to do.

A person wants me to make a website for him and he basically explained to me what's it about. However, he's not a technical person and he just doesn't understand what I need to know and how to properly describe/explain it to me.

When I ask him how a user is supposed to submit an entry to the website he told me "He fills out a form.", which is not really helping me. This was just an example, it goes on for other sections of the website as well which are a lot harder to explain.

The website will be aimed at a specific professional user demographic and I have no clue about their profession and how their industry works.

I tried to find some good Product Requirements Document templates on Google but none of them really seemed like they could help him understand how to write it so I can understand what he wants/needs.

Can somebody please give me a hint on how to deal with such non-technical clients?

marked as duplicate by Karl Bielefeldt, maple_shaft Apr 9 '12 at 15:17

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    When the client says "[the user] fills out a form" You say "Great! What fields are necessary on the form for this business transaction?" – FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Apr 9 '12 at 14:49
  • Of course, but this was just an example. It gets more detailed in other sections and unfortunately the answer is not that simple :) – Alex K. Apr 9 '12 at 15:08
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    Making a web application is the easy part as you are quickly realizing. It is sometimes easier to squeeze blood from a turnip than requirements from a customer. What works for me is that when they dither then act apathetic like they are wasting your valuable time. You will make them feel like they are inadequate or stupid for not even getting their thoughts together. They will either come back prepared or will get angry with you, at which point just walk away and act unbothered. They are probably not a good customer anyway. – maple_shaft Apr 9 '12 at 15:09
  • This is actually not a bad suggestion! I guess that comes with experience :) At this point I'm not sure I can lose him as a customer because no other projects are on the horizon and he pays well :( – Alex K. Apr 9 '12 at 15:10
  • Thank you for the link Karl. When I was searching before, Google didn't show me that one. I'm going to lunch and will read through it afterwards - it looks promising. – Alex K. Apr 9 '12 at 15:14