UX

Wide Open Spaces Can Suffocate

I used to love to dump a huge pile of Lego’s on the floor and then brick-by-brick create something. This would keep me entertained for hours. A blank slate, whatever I wanted. I have friends who were paralyzed by the same thought. They needed the directions to show them how to assemble the finished product.

As a consultant, the worst question to ask a customer is, “so, what do you want?” You can guarantee what comes next is going to be a lot of “brainstorming” and opinions that really isn’t productive and will probably lead to more meetings, wasting everyone’s time.

I believe very few of us can approach an “open field” and build a house. Especially if a group is involved. There’s too many options, too much ambiguity. So you sit there with what seems like endless possibilities, or as Billy Joel wrote in No Man’s Land, “miles and miles of parking space”, and get suffocated by too many choices.

For most web projects you have to do the hard work of laying a solid foundation of strategy. There’s a reason you want this project to happen. There’s a value you are trying to give; an outcome you hope to achieve. Don’t build a single “wall” until you have your strategy foundation in place. It begins to carve up that wide open space into something a bit more defined. Once you have that strategy in place, you can move on to building your house.

Some questions/ideas to drive the strategy conversation:

  1. Where are we at and where are we trying to get to?
  2. Why now? What is the driver of this effort?
  3. What is wrong with how things are currently so we can make sure we achieve a better outcome?
  4. What do we want to build? Why?
  5. What is the user experience we’re hoping to get out of this when finished?
  6. What are the challenges that we anticipate?
  7. How will we know if we’ve achieved our goal?

I’m sure there are others you can think of (feel free to comment below), but to give your project a chance you have to get the foundation set first. Everything will build off that. Don’t just immediately jump into designing walls and picking out colors – there’s time for that later. Begin with the hard work first of aligning everyone around the strategy so every decision afterward has a guide for success.

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