The web design process is an interaction between client and designer and includes a lot of questions from each party. Clients often start with costs and how long it will take to get the site online, but it's hard to answer those questions with any specificity without me asking them other questions.
There is some information I like to get in an early contact - maybe from a contact page on my site. For example:
- Do you want to improve an existing website or create a brand new one?
- What is the URL of your existing site (if any)? and it already exists
- Who is hosting your site?
- Have you purchased a domain name or signed up for a hosting plan? If not, what is your ideal domain name?
Once we are starting the design process, I will send them a link to my portfolio and to some other sites similar to what they want and ask which websites they like and why. They will often pick a very nice site that is way beyond their budget. Sometimes simple looking sites are not so simple/inexpensive because they use customer designs or include stores.
Not all my web design work is with businesses (I do a lot of artists and writers sites) but it is good to know which websites their competitors or peers are using and what they like or dislike about them. What makes your personal brand stand out from similar sites?
I do a lot of this process, especially this past year, via email and phone (preferred), but the face-to-face meeting is still the best for me when that is possible.
You can find a lot more questions to consider asking at business2community.com