Ask Clients the Right Questions With Osmosis

While working as an account executive in my previous jobs, I quickly learned that clear communication from the very first meeting is crucial to understanding a client’s needs – and now, working as a freelancer has reaffirmed that many times over. It’s not easy though – between multiple meetings, scores of emails back and forth and countless phone calls, you’re bound to miss out on certain details.

So what’s the best way to figure out exactly what a client wants – and stick to it? Ryan Scherf believes he has the answer – and he built an app to prove it. What if you could simply create a questionnaire, send it to clients, have them respond and use that as a starting point to build your project on? Osmosis lets you do just that, with ease. But is it really up to the task of solving communication breakdowns? Let’s dive in and find out.

Overview

Osmosis allows freelancers and teams to create simple questionnaires for their clients to respond to, making information gathering a painless process. It doesn’t stop there – you can even share files, links and notes and invite your clients to do so as well. The app is aimed primarily at designers but will also professionals in other sectors who have non-technical clients. It’s got a clean design that focuses on the content, in a way that’s reminiscent of the Solo project manager app.

The Osmosis Dashboard

The Osmosis Dashboard

Getting started

Osmosis has two plans – Solo (for individuals at US$9/month) and Team (for companies/groups at US$29/month – unlimited users). Both plans offer unlimited projects, questionnaires, storage, clients, leads and custom branding – they only differ in the number of users per account. You’ll need to provide your credit card details when you sign up, but won’t be charged until your free 14-day trial is over.

The interface

This is a nice-looking app that’s mostly easy to get used to. When you login you’ll first see your Dashboard, which shows all project activity, including stats on your leads, open projects and average project duration, and also when your card will be charged next for using Osmosis.

If you have a contact form on your website you can hook it up to Osmosis to gather new leads – the Leads section provides the HTML code required to do so and leads generated from your site’s form will show up here. Once you’ve got a lead, you can convert it to a new project. I’m not much of a coder so I wasn’t able to figure out exactly how to set it up – a few more instructions would’ve been very helpful here.

Creating a new project

Creating a new project

The Projects section allows you to view all your open projects (a single client can have multiple projects) and create a new one. When you do so, you can give it a name, add a URL for reference and specify which questionnaire is to be used for gathering information.

The Questionnaires section is the heart of Osmosis, and it’s where you create and edit your info-gathering tools. The idea here is to create reusable questionnaires that apply to the different kinds of products or services that you/your company provide, which can be used for various clients and projects easily.

You can add your clients to the Contacts section, before or after you’ve created a project for them. Once you’ve done so, you can easily share your projects with them from within the app. The Team section simply lists your colleagues and shows you which projects they’re working on.

Sharing a project with a client

Sharing a project with a client

Using Osmosis

To see if Osmosis would really help, I created a team account for my photography business and added a few questionnaires for some common projects I take on, such as portraits, event coverage, food shots and band profile pictures. I then sent it out to see how easy it would be to get information and ideas from clients.

Creating a questionnaire

Creating a questionnaire

Creating a questionnaire was simple, albeit overly so. Only plain text is allowed when creating questions, and responses can only be entered in either a single-line plain text field or a rich-text editor. I don’t see why the rich-text editor is available for responses, and why I can’t create multiple-choice questions or add skip logic like in a survey.

When your questionnaire and project is ready, you can share it with a contact from the app via email and your client can respond without having to sign up (which is great). Clients will see the Osmosis interface with your logo on the top left and can navigate through sections pertaining to only that project. Except for changing the questions and inviting others, clients can contribute to every section in a project.

Answering a questionnaire

Answering a questionnaire

The Contacts sections shows all the client personnel invited to respond to the questionnaire. The Questions section is where clients can respond to your queries. In the Inspiration section, you can share links to your work, references or anything to fuel ideation. You can upload images and documents to the Files section and finally, discuss the project in the Notes/Comments section.

Comments from a client on a project

Comments from a client on a project

The first thing to note is that it’s not made clear that a client must, most importantly, fill out the questionnaire – you might have to mention this in your project description. This could’ve been designed better with non-technical clients in mind. And I didn’t see the need for the Inspiration section, since it only allows you to add links (which you could do in the Notes/Comments section too).

Also, designers often need to use written communication from clients as a reference when drawing up proposals and while estimating/invoicing – so it’d be great to be able to lock the project after enough information is gathered. While they can’t edit comments, clients can change their questionnaire responses at any time, which allows for the possibility of an embarrassing situation.

Viewing responses in a project

Viewing responses in a project

Conclusion

Osmosis is a great idea in theory, but not quite so in practice. There are some bugs and quite a few issues with the UI including the outdated rich-text editor, and could be a bit more intuitive to use. I’d like to see the ability to lock projects or at least export collected information, as well as increased flexibility in the question creation process.

It’d also be nice to be able to embed questionnaires or share questionnaire links publicly on websites – because at this price, the app needs to do what it says on the box and then some.

With a little work, Osmosis could be a great app that’d save professionals a lot of time and worry. But at this point, I’m not quite comfortable using it to replace my email correspondence with clients. If you’re still somehow intrigued, take it for a spin with the free two-week trial.

Editor’s Note: The good thing is, Osmosis’ developer, Ryan Scherf, is actively listening to feedback from users, and has already fixed some of the problems we noticed with Osmosis while we were reviewing it. If you’d got any suggestions for the app, I’m sure he’d be glad to hear them as he’s working towards making Osmosis an even better app.


Summary

Osmosis allows you to create questionnaires for your clients - even the non-technical ones.

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Responses

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  • Sweet! I’ve been looking for something like this I will def. check it out!

  • As mentioned in the Editor’s Note, I’d be more than happy to assist with any questions or feedback you have. I’m doing what I can to listen to users to build the product you all want, and I’d love your input on every single detail.

    • Thanks for checking in here, Ryan. All the best with taking Osmosis to the top!