If your favorite part of engagement is when the client asks, “What will we see along the way to know we are getting there?” or my absolute favorite, “Can you describe your process?” then this column is for you.
The goal of this series is to identify how different sub-specialties in UX can inform each other about their own well-developed processes so we can create some best practices around Web projects. You can read Part One, which focused on best practices in general, and last week’s column “Web Engagement Strategy: Creating Deliverables that Deliver.”
My panel includes:
- Chris Moritz, Content Strategist/Information Architect (@chrismoritz)
- Jeffrey Rum, Visual Designer (@jsrum)
- Daniel Eizans, Content Strategist (@danieleizans)
- Alice Coleman, Information Architect
- Randall Snare, Content Strategist (@randallsnare)
- Michael Hogenmiller, Visual Designer (@mhogenmiller)
You’ll find my takeaways at the bottom of the panelists’ answers. Thank you to my talented and fantastic panelists.
Q: When determining deliverables, do you align them to the primary goals that you set during discovery?
Chris Moritz, Content Strategist and IA
Chris tries, and when not possible, tries to keep it simple.
Always. Well, how about almost always? Wherever possible, I like to tie every deliverable up to a master set of objectives and/or priorities. However, a lot of times I find myself in the weeds of a given project, giving input and POVs on relatively small details. The alignment for these details is usually one level of granularity up. For the sake of brevity, I usually leave off the entire chain of connected rationale (we should adjust the functionality of this widget in this way so that this use case is optimized for that user and so that her secondary objective is more likely met and we contribute to that strategic objective).
Jeff Rum, Visual Designer
Jeff feels strongly that each deliverable should be aligned.
Yes, each deliverable must be aligned with the primary goals set during discovery. This is as important as the design itself. There’s nothing worse than delivering a beautiful visual design when, at the end of the day, it doesn’t help the client sell more products, educate more people or book more appointments. The goals determined at the start must not only be revisited before the website launches, but these goals should be written with a nice black marker, placed on a sticky note and read at each step of the project. A very wise content strategist once reminded me of the old James Carville line, “It’s the economy, stupid.”
Daniel Eizans, Content Strategist
Daniel uses deliverables as benchmarks against the original project goals.
I always try to align deliverables to the goals that were set with clients. Whenever possible, I’ll use those goals as a lens for determining whether deliverables support the metrics that were agreed upon and that any content/design/artifact produced does the same.
Alice Coleman, Information Architect
Alice thinks flexibility is the key to creating deliverables.
Yes, in most cases, the deliverables are aligned to satisfying the primary goals. It's also important to be flexible because often (most) times we have to create interim deliverables that are not anticipated but reveal themselves as we work through the set determined during the Discovery phase. It's all about being flexible.
Randall Snare, Content Strategist
Randall doesn’t necessarily use deliverables to check in; she keeps her projects on-goal by getting everyone on the same page.
The objective of the project is agreed upon in the beginning and is like this silent presence through the project. It's like always remembering that you're on the earth. You don't talk about it, but you know not to build stuff that will fly.
With the objective, all you need to do is make sure it's true, i.e., make sure everyone agrees, and tweak it until they do. The deliverables are the standard ones to get the project finished, so they are more relevant to smaller project milestones than to the overall objective. We'll check in at various stages, particularly when we're presenting work to clients, but it's not heavy-handed objective-specific deliverables.
Michael Hogenmiller, Visual Designer
Michael employs a strategic approach to deliverables.
As best I can. While many clients believe that they understand their problem when they come to the table, I often find during discovery that what they perceive to be their problem can often just be a symptom of another problem. I always try to cull, revise and amend the deliverable set as much as possible during discovery so that I can provide a final product that directly addresses their core issue. I'm very big on the sniper over shotgun approach; let's take one great shot at this and get the job done, rather than throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks.
In this case, the panelists were a bit split on how to align deliverables to project goals, but I think that may have to do with their disciplines. For visual designers Jeff and Michael, they do align deliverables to primary goals because the design is so front and center. Alice, an IA, commented on the need for flexibility.
- Be flexible when it comes to deliverables -- understand you may need to tweak and even create mini-deliverables along the way.
- Consistently check in on project goals and use them to keep on task.
- Be strategic in your approach to discovery so you create a list from the beginning that will satisfy the project -- and your clients.
Next week we’ll talk about benchmarks our panelists use to make sure a project is going well.
Editor's Note: Read the entire article series:
- May 2, 2011 Web Engagement Strategy: Creating Deliverables that Deliver
- Apr 25, 2011 Web Engagement Strategy: Best Practices in Web Projects: Starting Well
- Apr 18, 2011 Web Engagement Strategy: Best Practices in Web Projects: Gathering Information
- Apr 11, 2011 Web Engagement Strategy: Best Practices in Web Projects: A Panel Approach