I noticed on Whitespace a link to Clear:left, a new collaborative company effort by Andy Budd, Jeremy Keith and Richard Rutter. What I found interesting on their site was their Client Worksheet (near the bottom left) which they ask their potential clients to download, fill out, and return so that they can respond with a proposal for them.
First off, kudos to the guys for the attention to detail in the worksheet. You don’t see too many companies putting something like this up front and center (center left actually!) on their websites, informing their potential clients up front that they need to fill this out before they can assist them. Of course what this immediately does as well is weed out those clients who aren’t serious and committed about working with them. As I’ve said in the past, you can’t help someone who doesn’t truly want your help. They have to want your help before you can give it. I think the quote by Tom Cruise as Jerry Maguire is quite appropriate here. "Help me, help you."
As a related side note, I’m actually surprised that someone hasn’t specialized in offering these services yet. What I am talking about? The discovery phase of a website. In the work that I did in the past for large firms (i.e. Vivendi, Activision, Konami, etc), it was critical that the client fully understand the scope and direction of the project. If they didn’t then we implemented a discovery phase before even beginning to work on their site so that both of us (the client and ourselves) could fully understand the project scope and details. For small projects and sites, this discovery phase was often included in the development cost because it was completed quite quickly. For larger projects and sites though, it was charged separatedly from the site development because of the work involved. I mean sometimes the discovery phase could be as detailed and as intensive as the site development itself. Anyways, my point being is why hasn’t someone created a consulting service specifically for clients to help them determine their project scope. It would be quite interesting if the entire design community got together and collaborated on this (maybe with a wiki) to gather the best questions and then simplifying them so that this discovery phase was as effortless as possible for the client.