How to Integrate Strategy-Focused Activities into Your Process

Most clients think they know their business and when they approach User Experience professionals, they’re anxious to get wireframes cranked out. How do we get clients to take a step back and engage in  strategic type activites to optimize their technology solutions?

For me, this didn’t happen overnight. I stopped obssessing about whiz-bang interfaces and took an active interest in helping clients think about design in terms of return on investment. Because I always spoke my mind and  articulate ideas in terms of how they drive the bottom line, clients began to include me in strategic meetings. Below are some of ways I incorporate strategy focused activities into my process.

Propose the Value Proposition

When I first consult with new clients about a project, I  let them know  that  analysis and research are an integral part of my process. It allows me, the UX designer/Business Analyst/IA Minion  to understand their business from the inside out.  I explain that analysis, interpreting metrics, product roadmapping,  etc. can optimize return on investment. By interpreting indicators on usage patterns, we can  pinpoint what’s not working and leverage winning features. The result is a cohesive product vision that differentiate the client from their competitors.

Speak About the Project in Business Terms Not Usability Goals

Articulating your design in business terms is a great marketing strategy. Before my first formal meeting with the client, sometimes even before the contract is signed, I always  conduct a quick site  audit. This gives me a fresh perspective before I know anything about the project and clients love a fresh perspective. I record my impression on branding, business objectives, and how well the design and implementation drive the business objectives.  I always think in terms of return on investment. This gives me fodder to speak about the project in business terms as opposed to design terms.  Incidentally, if I get the contract, I bid the hours I spent back into the job. If I don’t get the contract, then it’s good PR.

Request for Quantitative and Qualitative Data

Request for reports at the first meeting. Be prepared to explain what trends and patterns you hope to discover or why you want look at data for specific feature sets. If you don’t yet have an idea which reports you need, tell the client that you will email a list of reports that you want pulled. This lets the client know that research is an integral part of your process.  It the project is a start-up, conduct topic and keyword research  to  define search volume.  For qualitative analysis, inquire to see  whether any surveys or focus group testing have been conducted and  what the findings were.   Finally, ask the client how or if  the business has responded to the results from analytics and surveys.

Prioritizing Requirements and Use Cases

Don’t be a gatherer of requirements. Be an expert. When conducting interviews with stakeholders, don’t just gather requirements. Work with clients to prioritize requirements and use cases based on business objectives and the research that you’ve conducted. You may propose new requirements to refine and simplify workflows.   Always couch your input based on business objectives and the bottom line.

Use Business Objectives,  Usability Goals/Strategies  as the Measuring Stick for Your Design

I always preface wireframes with business objectives  and usability goals. Clients gets sick of this after subsequent meetings, but they learn quickly to evaluate wireframes based on the real business goals. This is also helpful when your wireframes are circulated to other team members, because the business objectives and usability goals is a reminder of the foundations of the project.

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