What’s Your Ultimate Goal?

IMG_20130107_150314People who work with me hear the same questions over and over again, almost to the point of shellshock.  One of my proudest moments was when a VP sheepishly told me that in a meeting she had channeled me and asked those questions.  She felt guilty, but I thought it was the best thing ever.  It means she’s internalizing them!

What are these questions, and why am I so obsessive about them?  These are the questions that get the conversation moving in the direction I need it to, so I can understand the intent of the product or feature.  Without intent, you’ve got nothing and you’ll waste everyone’s time with design and spec cycles that are never right.

1.  What’s the goal for this project?

You have to ask this to get the conversation started.  You’ll get a complicated, detailed answer, probably.  It might involve metrics.  It will probably involve the name of an executive.  All that’s fine – it’s your starting point to dig deeper.

2.  Who is going to be using it?

Even if the goal answer told you this, you need to ask this question to get them thinking deeper about the end-users and the end-user result.  The answer is almost always slightly more complex than their initial response, so you should ask about other types of users and dig deeper to make sure you don’t miss those incidental, corner-case “other users”.

3.  So what, ultimately, do you want that user to do?

Follow this question out several steps.  So often the answer is “click the button.” but that’s not the ultimate goal.  The reason they want them to click the button is to proceed to the form, because they want the user to submit the form, because they want the user to sign up and take classes at a university.  So ultimately, what they want the user to do is to become a student, not click a button.

4.  What user problem or pain point are we addressing here?

Be cautious of a company that consistently does projects that don’t address a user issue.  They won’t be around forever.  However, understand that sometimes, the perfectly valid answer will be “This isn’t something that bothers users, it’s something we have to do to remain profitable.”  In those cases, use your past and current research to find user pain points you can address in the course of this project.  Never do a project without some tangible benefit to the user, if you can avoid it.

5.  So what’s the ultimate philosophic goal here?

No metrics allowed in this answer.  Make them talk about how the user should feel, what they should do, and how that affects the user’s relationship with the company.  Those are the key things that will influence your product design, whether you’re making the pixels, writing the code or penning the spec.

Sometimes, as you uncover intent, you discover an entirely new way of approaching the problem.  Sometimes you realize it’s not a project worth doing.  Sometimes you realize it’s way bigger than you previously thought.  But in every case, you’ll be able to approach it with a stronger understanding of the requirements and conviction that you’re doing the right thing.

Today’s Interesting Link:

http://quirktools.com/screenfly/ – There are so many ways to view your site across multiple devices out there.  This one is nice because it’s very quick, and it’s not bad to send clients to.

Today’s Usability Quote:

“For, is it not written the Holy Manual of Style :  “Lo, and the goddess of Eeuu Ayee did come forth down from the hill.   She did look upon the masses and Spake Thus to all.  ‘THOU SHALT NOT COMMIT THE CRIME OF BLINKING BUTTONS’ and lo it was so.”  – Martin
Bogomolni, referring to me.

Today’s Music To Design To:

I’m frankly surprised that I haven’t mentioned these guys yet, so if this is a duplicate recommendation. Soundtracks are so good for working, and Lagaan: Once Upon a Time In India is brilliant like that.  It’s exotic but familiar, sweeping and dramatic.  It’s hard not to be both soothed and energized when listening.  Check it out.