Q: I’m designing the UI for an application, and people here have different ideas about what this product should do. How am I supposed to design when I don’t know what I’m designing?

This is a common problem, especially when requirements haven’t been written down and agreed on by the project and business stakeholders. We recommend doing a stakeholder survey early in the project, to help align the stakeholders. The survey should ask each stakeholder to define:

  • key business goals of the project (increase user adoption, reduce support costs, etc.)
  • user experience metrics (efficiency, learnability, etc.)
  • which personas or user types to target
  • key use cases or user tasks
  • the top features and functions
  • relevant technologies that will affect the user interface
  • branding guidelines
  • etc.

Try to limit the number of stakeholders here to 6 people. Good luck with that.

Some of the stakeholders won’t have data or opinions about some of the questions, and that’s fine. They can skip those questions.

Analyze and summarize the data, and present the results to the stakeholder team. Get everybody in one meeting, and point out where there is agreement and disagreement. Where there’s disagreement (and there might be a lot), get the stakeholders to discuss, iron out the differences, and achieve alignment/Nirvana.

Often, stakeholders disagree because they rely too much on their personal opinions and guesses instead of on data from customers and end-users. You can make this whole process go smoother if you are armed with good data to inform the team’s decisions.

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