When you start a new design project with a client, it’s exciting! Your first instinct may be to jump head-first into the process and start making things. But a few weeks down the road and things might change. Your client might disapprove of all the concepts, or make cuts on budget and time.
As a general rule, it’s wise to step back and ask some key questions to make sure you and your client are on the same page. If you begin without getting the requirements or constraints of a project, you may be spending a lot of time on something that you don’t fully understand–which leads to frustration and bad design down the road.
Here’s how to begin a project to ensure a smooth process and make sure you and your client have essential information that you both agree on, before starting any work.
Let’s begin by asking ourselves some important questions:
1. Who Are the Stakeholders?
Who are the people you need to work with to ensure the success of this project? Find out who those stakeholders are, whether they be an engineering counterpart, a researcher who will test your concepts, or even a higher level manager who may have final say on what designs get chosen. It’s important to know who you need to be working with and who your work involves ahead of time.
2. What is the Overall Purpose?
What user problem are you trying to solve with this change? If this design change comes from a single source, is that source trustworthy? Is it based on a real customer problem? Finding the answer to this question allows you to prioritize the work based on the end business impact it will have.
3. Where Will I Get Assets (Content, Imagery etc.)?
As a designer you may need to work with content writers, or other creatives to get the right assets you need. Find out what tools and resources you may need to have access to, in order to make the best deliverables.
4. When is the Next Milestone or Timeline?
While stakeholders may only be able to give a rough timeline, most people know when the next milestone is. So determine the timeframe for when you will meet next with your collaborators ahead of time, to keep everyone on the same page. Set up meetings (and follow up action items if needed) to say organized, so you can make incremental progress.
5. How do You Define Success?
What makes a project successful may vary depending on what the end goal is. Your clients might be wanting to increase signup for an onboarding flow, or improve retention or engagement with a different product. Find out these high level goals so you can keep them in mind.
Now that you have your key pieces of information, here are a few questions to ask yourself before starting the design process:
What Are the User Goals?
- What is the user trying to accomplish? List the top tasks they may encounter.
- What are some constraints and pain points they have today?
- How do they get to the stage you are designing for? Define the overarching scenario and task flow.
Who is the User?
This is an opportunity to use UX research to get a better understanding of what tasks/pain points are front and center for your customers. Finding out user behavior and mental models around the current product can also give a baseline to how customers feel about using the product as it is today.
What is the Business Need?
The “business need” refers to the goals and objectives that an organization is seeking to achieve. These may be related to revenue growth, revenue retention, or costs. The role of a designer is to create solutions that meet both the business need and the user goals.
Focusing on starting a design project right early on. In this way you’ll work smarter and develop efficient solutions by understanding the framework which your clients, customers, and partners need. You should strive to start any design process with a clear understanding of who the users are, and what they need to do.