Multidisciplinary teams are usually the best way to tackle complex projects, including the Web. I asked some talented colleagues how they begin Web projects well.

Today we’re going to discuss gathering those pieces of information experienced Web practitioners absolutely MUST have when they begin a Web project.

My panel includes:

  • Alice Coleman, Information Architect
  • Daniel Eizans, Content Strategist (@danieleizans)
  • Michael Hogenmiller, Visual Designer (@mhogenmiller)
  • Chris Moritz, Information Architect (@chrismoritz)
  • Jeffrey Rum, Visual Designer (@jsrum)
  • Randall Snare, Content Strategist (@randallsnare)

As always, you’ll find my takeaways at the bottom of the panelists’ answers. Thank you to my talented and fantastic panelists.

Question Two

My next question was about information gathering. How do you get at those pieces of information?

Randall Snare, Content Strategist

Randall finds stakeholder interviews valuable:

We have stakeholder interviews as part of our "discovery process" that begins all our projects. That always works -- I'm surprised how forthcoming people can be. The only problem comes when you can't get hold of people. There's this thing I've noticed in big corporations, where people say, "I'm so busy I don't have time to breathe!" And usually that's more of a company attitude than an actuality. Usually if you just ask, you can talk to anyone -- but you have to be accommodating.

Jeff Rum, Visual Designer

Jeff thinks that kickoff meetings are the best way to gather the information:

Typically, the information is collected during our initial kickoff meeting. Oftentimes, follow-up conference calls or meetings are required as we move into the design process to make sure we nail it!

Michael Hogenmiller, Visual Designer

Michael likes Skype for collaborative conversations:

I'm a big fan of 1-on-1 conversations on Skype. Meeting in person can be inconvenient and requires a lot of buy-in from each participant (scheduling, travel, etc.), and simply talking on the phone isn't quite personal enough for me. On Skype, we can see each other, we can start to build a rapport, and that leads to brainstorming, ideation and real problem-solving. I used to use client surveys, project briefs and all other sorts of documentation, but eventually gave them all up for good, old-fashioned collaborative conversation.

Daniel Eizans, Content Strategist

Daniel likes a mix of things:

When it comes to business goals, that’s usually a confab between the client and myself. Arriving at business goals in a collaborative way allows for best practices to help permeate what may be an unrealistic goal in the first place.

For consumer insights, I rely first on product/consumer insight provided from the clients. Depending on the depth and information available in those insights, I might conduct more research specific to user behaviors and expectations. I’ll then blend that insight with MRI and Forester reports. If it’s available, social technographics from a reliable provider such as Radian 6 also go into my dashboards for users.

Chris Moritz, Information Architect

Chris likes stakeholder interviews, research and interaction with clients:

I use three primary methods to get quality answers to these questions:

First, wide stakeholder interviews. I try to reach as many different perspectives as are made available -- marketing people, corporate communications staff, customer service operators, front-line sales people, database administrator, etc. All have sharply distinct interactions and knowledge about the customers/prospects. Upper management (if they’ve got time) come last.

Second, I ask for any and all primary and secondary research that has been generated or commissioned in the last couple of years. Analytics report, usability studies, surveys, customer service logs, consultant reports -- all are great sources for “better-than-my-gut-feeling” ideas. I favor the executive summaries (usually too much to go through) but some things deserve a deeper dive.

Third, there’s nothing like interacting with customers and prospects directly -- this can be traditional interviews and studies, or (my favorite) a social sentiment analysis, showing what people who care enough (negatively or positively) about a company, product or service say about it in social sites.

Alice Coleman, Information Architect

Alice likes one point person:

I usually start with the Project Manager, who will usually either identify whom I can get the information from or broker me getting the information.


Our panelists recommend an exchange of information with the client, but in different ways:

  • Stakeholder interviews
  • Kickoff meetings
  • Conversations over Skype or in-person
  • Various types of reports including analytics, competitive analysis, surveys, etc.

What I found interesting in the range of answers is that some prefer to do a deep dive, and others try to gather as much information as possible -- more like casting a wide net. I think that probably has a lot to do with what the project really needs.

Next week, we’ll ask our panelists the following question:

Do you have a set process at work for collecting that information, your own internal checklist or does each project require a certain customization of gathering and discovery?