Introducing projects to someone else who will bring your ideas to life can get really painful. We know, we’ve faced it ourselves.
Most respected web design shops have identified this problem and have attempted to solve it by using questionnaires with 15 to 20 questions as a starting point of introduction. A long questionnaire, almost as good as detailed documentation can be difficult to answer at such a nascent stage. Thoughts at this stage of a project are usually clear at the micro level, but most macro level details get clearer only as one progresses with the execution. Many a times one looks to seek advice rather than knowing it all. Steve Jobs nailed it when he said “It isn’t the consumers’ job to know what they want.” We concur. Such questionnaires are a step to simplify things, but we think that it could be made simpler.
Going by our Keep it Simple, Stupid principle, we have come up with just 4 questions. These are the most basic and natural questions you would encounter whenever you go out to buy anything, be it a table, a shirt or a computer.
Hi, how can I help you?
I want to buy a computer.
My son, he’s 15. And sometimes my wife will use it, though she doesn’t know much about computers.
What will they use it for?
Well, simple things, maybe play some games and watch a few movies. And of course, browse the internet.
A customer should never be expected to specify how fast the processor should be or how much power the device should draw or even whether he needs a mouse (iPads for instance don’t have a mouse, but can still serve his purpose). If they know, that’s good, but we suggest consulting the experts before forming a mindset.
However, unlike buying things off-the-shelf, customised design and development jobs provide a huge room for flexibility. Hence it is very important to determine the size of the project. “I want my website to look like that” or “I want the website to have this feature” is a very small portion of the large pie. Micro level product definitions do not take into account the optionals like legacy browser support, responsive design, CMS integration etc. In many cases these variable components drastically affect the size of the project.
One way of defining size is by investing significant time and money documenting every little detail of your project. Unfortunately, making this list exhaustive is nearly impossible. Additionally, rarely does such a document go unaltered as a project progresses. No surprises that we prefer not taking this route. The other way of estimating size is by knowing the time and budget constraints. Well, everyone has a budget up their sleeves, but very few like to share it. While we understand their concerns for not being looted by a design shop, it is important to appreciate that the same goals may be achieved by drastically differently sized projects.
The 4 Questions
- Your project in 140 characters (or less).
- Who are your primary and secondary set of targeted audience?
- What are your 3 most important expectations from the users who visit your project?
- What are your time and budget constraints?
If clients share definitive and unambiguous answers to these 4 questions, everything else falls in place. That is why we have put soft constraints (140 chars, 3 expectations etc.) on every question. At this stage, we want only the essential ‘user-centric’ goals of the project. Our designs are user-focused and these goals have our primary attention throughout. We know that only happy users translate into long-term happy clients. Nothing else matters.