Don’t leave them alone with white paper and make them draw themselves. Clients often don’t even know what they want or they can’t articulate it. And after all, you
are the web designer so you have to come up with the ideas.
A general approach would be this:
- Ask him about his business and what values he/they stand for, i. e. what are they selling, “image” wise. Are they trying to come across as local family business or as company operating worldwide? Are they young and modern or are they conservative? Which customers do they address? The average Joe next door or professionals?
- Ask him about other websites he may like. Show him examples of other websites and try to find out in which direction it will go.
- Figure out specific requirements, i. e. what will the website be for, what will be displayed, how many pages are required (a rough guess for the start), how can the information roughly be organized (like, an “about” section, a “products” section, a “contact” section …).
After you’ve gathered the basic information you can start creating a sitemap to figure out how to organize the site, which relationship the pages are going to have, and how users are supposed to navigate on the site (in terms of guiding them through the site, determining what happens when a visitor does this or that (e. g. what should happen after pressing a button or sending a form). In combination with that you can start drawing initial wireframes that demonstrate the basic layout (header, content (1/2/3 columns?), position of certain content sections, footer, etc. – don’t work with colors and styling yet) and user interaction, and if that’s clear you go about the actual graphic design.
Sounds like a lot but for now all you have to worry about is getting to know the requirements of the company/website. The rest will come after the first meeting.
Hope that helps.