Focusing on users at the very beginning of a project sets a solid user-centred foundation for a project. It can be difficult to remain focused on users when technical reasons, business aims, project objectives all combine to kick off a new project. To help you remain focused on users here’s five core questions we use when we first get involved in a project.
The questions we’ve used here are for a website redesign project, however, they are just as relevant for any digital product or service, whether it is being re-designed or developed from scratch.
1. What’s the story of how the project has got to this point?
Start with the big picture. What has generated action on the project? Is it technology-driven? Is the website under performing? Have business targets or a shift in strategy triggered a change? Or has the website grown organically and become stale? Understanding why the project team are motivated to start the project is critical to seeing where you can help, and understanding where users fit into the overall picture.
2. Who are the different types of users? What are their goals in using the website?
It’s surprising how many times we get a vague answer to these two questions. If you sense hesitancy, confusion, or fabrication in their answers this will clearly point to the need for you to start the project with user research to understand who is using the site and why. Once this research is complete, your next task should be to design user profiles to help everyone remain focused on users (See our previous article: How to do quick and effective user profiling).
3. What other sites (or other sources) will people to use to achieve these goals? Why will they use this website instead of alternatives?
It’s critical to understand the wider context in which the site exists. Are there a variety of other websites, apps and offline resources already available to users? If there are several alternative methods, your initial research must set out to understand what sources they use, why they choose those sources, and what user needs exist that are currently un-met. An in-depth understanding of what the site needs to do to migrate users from what they use at the moment to your site is the key to the success of a project.
4. What are the aims of the project?
By this point, you should already have a good understanding about why the project is important. However, it is still important to ask this question. Sometimes there can be additional aims that have not yet been discussed. You can also use this question as a guide when setting out the tasks you plan to undertake. It can be useful to set out the UX tasks and deliverables you will complete in order to help the project team achieve each aim.
5. In the future when all your concerns and challenges have been overcome, how will you know it is successful?
Finally, you must understand how they will track and measure success. Some projects have complex aims but very basic success criteria. Sometimes, the project team are focused on the wrong metrics and this is a good opportunity for you to highlight some more user-centric metrics they could use to measure success. It’s also a great opportunity for you to set out some before stats to use as a benchmark to measure against at a later date.
Having a set of questions you always include in kick-off meetings can be a really useful way to ensure you have a good understanding of the project aims, who the users are, and also what UX activities you are likely to start with. In your next kick-off meeting you’ll now be prepared to ask the right questions and really make a difference to user experience. When you’re done, come back and tell us about how you got on.
If you’d like to talk to us about how we can help you integrate UX into all your projects to generate more online revenue, please get in touch.
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About Damian Rees
Damian has worked as a usability and user experience consultant for over 13 years. He has worked in senior roles within companies like the BBC and National Air Traffic Services where he has researched and designed for users in a variety of different contexts including web applications, voice recognition, and air traffic control interfaces. Follow Damian on twitter @damianrees