A brief background on this specific question:

After meeting with a client and hearing all of their requests, requirements, and other comments about a specific software job, planning out the software functionality, design, and basic user experience, the client comes back with a comment regarding, "That is not what we are looking for. You can't do what we want to do."

Now, I understand the concept that not everyone understands tech, and that some people are more visual than others and may need to see things before they can be sure about something.

I also understand the process of revisions and other modifications to meet specific functionality demands or requirements that may only come up after you start putting things together. I mean, if everyone got it right in version 1.0, imagine how great a world this would be!

Given: There is no magic formula for a guaranteed success rate when a lot of the work is artistic in the sense that the same set of directions can be interpreted differently by different people.

I'm aware that asking the right questions is important, and I have done some research about what questions others are asking in similar jobs. I also have previous experience with clients (this isn't my first job), and through it all, I have developed my own little system for getting this information-- which has had a 99% success rate up to this point. Usually if I don't get it right the first time, it's fixed during the revision and modification process. I know I'm not perfect, but I've never really had a client flat out refuse what they asked for...

So how do you get relevant and useful information out of a client in regards to job requirements and specifics?


1 Answer 1



If you cannot agree a full set of specification up-front (and you should be able to at least get agreement on the intended product even if many details are missed) then you have to try the "other way", and build a continually improving prototype that the customer can see, verify and update as they realise what their needs were all along.

Asking how to ask a client what they want isn't really an answerable question. You'd need to find out why your meetings failed so badly. (I would guess that they have different teams working on this internally, and although one team agrees, the other may have different requirements).

  • Thats kind of what I was afraid of (that it would be unanswerable), just trying to work up a revised option, and was seeking advice.
    – c0nfus3d
    May 14, 2014 at 7:31
  • I'd still look to why they came back and disagreed with you. How is that possible after going through those meetings? Did you not understand their reqs, or is something else going on.
    – gbjbaanb
    May 14, 2014 at 7:39
  • As I'm continually talking with this client, I believe it was more of a "Spec work" situation.. They were hoping we'd deliver the moon, but for next to nothing. And now that they see it's not that simple, they're trying to back out of the sale....
    – c0nfus3d
    May 14, 2014 at 7:43
  • Marked as solved; will be going back to readdress this with the client (from the start if I have to!) Thanks for the feedback @gbjbaanb
    – c0nfus3d
    May 14, 2014 at 8:05
  • Are you still on good terms with the client? Going back to them, with no demands for work or money, might make for the best learning experience. If your guess about their naivete is correct then it would be good to find out exactly where their expectations deviated from what you thought you were proposing so you can catch that next time, but some clients are just difficult.
    – Encaitar
    May 14, 2014 at 8:28

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