We, at Think 360, work our fingers to the bone to deliver the best. Be it usability, aesthetics or finesse in design, we don’t settle for less than perfection. But whatever be the factor it all stems up to one point- communication, yes, our ability to communicate. In particular, it is our job to ask right questions. The first and foremost task in any project is to gather all the information, so asking questions here is a must. It is always better to ask these questions at the beginning to draw out the plan for the working methods.
Now, the figured problem and the actual problem might come out different. With this challenge at hand, how can you frame just the ideal questions? As we know, we all are born inquisitive and are adroit at the art of questioning right from childhood. But this gets suppressed as we grow up and often not every answer is obtained. Remember, given the answers or not, it is still possible to ask better questions. This article elaborates on the questions that should be asked to the client before starting a UX project-
1. Know Your Audience And Their Goals
The most significant question to be asked is ‘who is your audience and what do they want?’ This might seem obvious still, you can’t ignore the value of this question. Knowing your audience and understanding their goals is crucial for any design brief. The question is quite broad and it is definitely not possible to get a complete answer in the first meeting itself, but some points are good for time being. Get that initial kick and then figure out the other relevant details later.
Get one thing straight; don’t ask the clients about the solution rather enquire about their perception of user needs. You don’t have to deviate them by providing certain layout or features ideas. It is your duty as a designer to devise solutions, not influence them before taking up the proper process. Channelize as per the priorities. There are chances that the product will have multiple audiences and each category will have separate goals. Certain features are pertinent over others and the design must show this. A good way is going for the higher or the lower game in sticky notes in the meeting with the client.
2. List The Pain-Points
Next ask, ‘which are the main pain-points of the current version?’ If you are in the process of redesigning a website or application that is already present, then it can be said that there is at least something that the client hates about the product. If you can trace the problematic areas of the existing product that is troubling the client, then you can direct all efforts in amending the design. Be careful that these attributes are properly calculated after your research and user-testing. The reason is that they can raise arguments in future conversations.
3. Vision For Success
Further, your concern should be as to what can be counted as a success for the project. Work on knowing the internal business need that governs the project. There are certain metrics that decides the extent for improvisation such as enhancement of the average value of orders or spreading awareness of our brand or pulling more investor inquiries from the website etc.
Gauging the business goals implies that we can pick up the apt tools and techniques to measure them. It also throws some light on the client’s priorities. User experience depends upon both the user and business needs, so keep in mind both of these at the initial stages only.
4. Defying Logic
Typically when you ask the ‘what if’ question you intend to amalgamate ideas, defy the stereotypical approach and alter factors so as to toughen up the challenge. There is no stop to this as each experiment churns out a workable element in design. Actually, this process is known as divergent thinking, much the inspiration behind H.B. Reese’s peanut butter cups as he made the same with a question, ‘what if peanut butter and chocolate are combined together?’ It is always advisable to exhaust the ‘what if’ types in the list.
By dealing with all the limitations, teams can evolve from their current paradigm and pave a more successful direction than the previous one. As a fact, the ‘what if’ stage is really daunting for the established firms, but for the ready-to-explore startups who are in for unconventional stuff, terms like ‘innovation’ and ‘disruption’ are a pedestal for growth.
5. Existing Data For Use
Moving on, now, look if there is any prevalent research data that can be utilized. Devoting time to user research is tough, but it can be eased provided some relative data is in your hold already. A smart client generally collects some valuable feedback before embarking upon the project. There are chances that some online analytics data from the current version might prove beneficial to familiarize with the audience habits.
Research performed through different teams might put forth useful insights. After all, some research is better than no research any day. Remember there might be some important information already in the horizon that the client might not have thought of. Nevertheless, if these questions fail the mark for the project, they might prove pivotal in other ideas for user research.
6. Head To Reality
Time for action; the ‘how’ question. You got to devise solutions, make testable hypothesis and conduct lot of tests to gather insight. To label, this is the prototyping stage where you have to chalk as to what elements of your ideas can be realized in design. The ‘what if’ question scenarios fire up the design to come up with a single solution. But at the end, it is just a hypothesis that still requires being tested before investing resources.
In the ‘how’ phase flexibility should be kept while creating shareable prototypes. Prototypes must be inexpensive to be left behind quickly. The current motto of the startup movement is failing faster. Try to take over the hurdle before losing the race and place in the market.
7. User Involvement In Design Process
Can the users be a part of the design process? Talking about research, this meeting can clear a number of involvement users can have in the design process. There are companies who come up with research panels that are keen to be associated with the tasks, thus saving a lot on time and money else spent on recruitment. On the flip side, there are organizations where accessing the user base directly is a big challenge.
This can be in the cases where audiences are very time bound as in doctors or executives or where audiences are different time zone. Be aware of these constraints right from the start so that other alternatives in user research techniques can be put into practice.
8. Technology Constraints To Tackle
Another question to throw is, ‘will the users have any technological limitations that we should reflect over?’ The client is usually aware of the different technological needs that the user base has. And yes, some of these influence the design tremendously, so keeping them in the loop is very important.
Take, for instance, an application is created to be used in a supermarket’s back-office, but the computers in the store are configured in a way that doesn't support traditional browser, such as, even the usual features like ‘back’ button is not accessible, here the design has to adapt and evolved accordingly.
9. Signing Off The Design
This might seem trivial, but is actually a significant concern to be rightly thought about, ‘who will take the role for signing off the design?’ It is seen that the client you are teaming with to make design decisions is not the final individual to pass the end-result. This is a normal case in big companies. The person who has to make the final call isn’t involved in the design process until the end stages have been reached.
And ultimately when this person turns up, they aren’t familiar with the context and suggest ideas diverse to those of the wider team. This tends to cause problems so much so that the worst is to maneuver with the drawing board again and that too at the final stages. The technical term for such a process is ‘swoop and poop’. Getting hold of such a situation in advance, you can ask the client the best possible way to make this person a part of the process earlier.
Agreed, time doesn’t come easy for them, still getting them involved earlier can keep a lot of troubles at bay. Simple ways can be to invite them to the kick-off workshop or make them review a work-in-progress report of the design.
10. Collaborate For More
Finally, you must decide, ‘how collaborative you want to be?’ Some clients are more proactive than other folks. There will be kinds who would give you the entire charge and just look over the designs at the later stages, but there are also individuals who are more interested in being a part of the work discussions. If the client is inclined to be a part of the design process, let them be. Invite them to the workshops and sketching sessions.
It would be a great idea to let them be a part of user research and testing sessions. Basically, behave as if they are associated with the internal team. If they are engrossed in the process, they can understand the context behind the design results much better. They will feel as if they own the product in every way. This approach will ease out sign-off and will foster a strong relationship in the long-run. Let the ideas flow in, be it from clients!
Even though we imbibe the ‘out of the box’ approach, unfortunately, our questions waver in the ideology. We have rather enforced a culture that appreciates the employees on the metrics of output whilst grueling those who are fond of too many questions. Be it any stage from concept to creation, a team has to implement varied approaches, fail and move towards better. Thus, it is important to lay stress on questioning in order to obtain desired results.
The UX and product designers can only nurture their skills if they have a questioning mindset. There is no doubt that apt questioning pilots potential outcomes and in turn leads to change in paradigms within firms. Give that little push if you want, but also contribute in flying towards a new direction and unite others in spreading their wings high.
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