Collaborating with Your Clients
So, what we wanna kinda dive into right now is how to collaborate with your clients. You know, if you may remember the diagram from earlier where we had kind of the learning, discovery process on the left and then we had all the sprints on the right. Well, I wanna kinda talk a little bit about what we do during that learning process. Now this may be a situation where you're in where you've had the opportunity to work with a client and they're like, "Okay, let's get started." What do you do next, right? Like what's the next thing that you need to do? And it always to me, like how do we kinda get the ball rolling? So a lot of times it just means like let's get them into a room and let's start talking. That's gonna be the best way. So in order to do that, make sure that as you're trying to kinda set up the workshop with your clients that you have all the key stakeholders in place. It doesn't really help that much if half the team that are gonna be the decision makers are not part of kind ...
of the workshop experience. Really make sure that the timing is right so you can kinda get them all in one and then you'll be able to have dialogue. And so, you know, the great thing about workshops is that you're just facilitating and the best workshops you don't really have to do that much work because you're really kind of allowing a conversation to happen with the internal team members. You know, a lot of times it's amazing when you kind of start meeting with your clients and you realize that the stakeholders themselves don't often have the luxury of having kind of a dedicated time to talk things out, right? They're getting things passed through email, they're kind of like, kinda have a general sense of like what their roles and responsibilities are, but they don't have a bigger picture. I really love this quote by Laurel, who's our Director of User Experience at Favorite Medium. "Design is about solving problems, but first we must understand the problems before we start creating the design solution." And I think, you know, I've noticed a lot of times with people early on in their careers, they're very eager to start to solve the problem. Right, they wanna get into a program like Photoshop or start to bust out some wire frames, and it's all premature. They don't know what the problem is that you're trying to solve. This is also why I have a, kind of a hard time trying to respond to RFPs, which are requests for proposals where they're asking you to do comps. How could you possibly provide a comp to something that you don't know what all the problems are, right? So it seems like it goes through the motions and they wanna see how you're thinking but there's better ways to use some of that time, right? So my suggestion is if you get an opportunity to have an RFP, and you're trying to respond to it, and they're asking you for comps, then don't kind of go into that. Instead, try to look for ways to, you know, build off of this discovery process. Maybe it's having like a little bit of a phone workshop or something like that, where it can kind of build into a natural process. Show them how you guys think rather than trying to provide a solution. So what I wanna do now is kinda dive in and talk a little about how I help clients prioritize their business goals. So, you know, what you're first gonna wanna do, you're gonna need to understand client's business goals and that includes everything from creative goals, technical goals, content goals, there's a whole mix. You're gonna have team members that are representing all these different areas, and again, you're gonna wanna make sure that they're in the room. So what are the types of questions that we're gonna wanna ask? So you know, we kinda just talked about all the different types of goals. What are the problems that they're trying to solve, right? So you know, a lot of times, you're gonna go in and there's gonna be a reason why they're redoing the website in the first place. Well, what is that reason, right? Do they have to switch technology platforms? Does it feel outdated? Is it finally time to make it a responsive website? You know, a lot of times there's gonna be these other goals but then there's gonna be something that's like underneath that kind of finally made them motivated enough to kinda get the budget, you know, go through the process and try to kinda figure this out. Now as you're kind of starting to go through the goals, do all the stakeholders agree with the goals? And this is kinda part of the process of just getting them on the same page. And then as we look at this, there's gonna be kind of two different types of goals, very you know, high level. You're gonna have your short term goals and your long term goals, and it's important to kind of distinguish those with your client and your stakeholders. Because they can kind of get blended in and you know, you're gonna wanna say like, "Okay, well let's kind of bucket these out as short term goals and then what we'll do is we'll start to identify some of the long term goals so we know where we're going, but really we need to understand what's next." And being able to have that conversation and tease that out is gonna be really critical. And then something else that's really important is what is the business model? So this is some type of web service or product. You know, hopefully there's a business model behind it. How are they actually planning on making money? This is going to influence you know, a lot of the solutions that you may come up with, for example, maybe they rely on ads. Well now you know that you know, there has to be ad units that are gonna need to be built into the pages that you're designing and the experience and they're gonna be some of the components that you're gonna need to consider. Others that might not be an issue at all, right? And so, really, that's gonna be really important to kind of consider what is their business model, and if they don't have one, that's gonna be a big red flag. So, this is a tool I have to use called the prioritization pyramid. And it's really simple and it's really powerful. The idea here is that you have kind of three sections. You have high, medium, and low. So we're gonna kinda get our clients, our stakeholders, to make sure that all of the most important goals are at the top, then there are gonna be more in the middle, and then the most at the bottom. And it's a pyramid by design, right? You wanna make sure that the experience itself, excuse me, the goals that you're prioritizing, do not feel top heavy. So say we had ten goals. You might break them down something like this. We'd wanna kinda make sure that there's two goals at the top, three goals in the middle, and then five goals. Now this sounds good in theory, but what ends up happening is you start to prioritize, all the clients are gonna be like, that's high priority. Oh, yeah, that's way up top, you know, and then you're gonna have this upside down pyramid and that's kind of where you have the opportunity using this tool where the designer doesn't have to play the bad guy right? Like you're not trying to say you can't have that, I'm not gonna give that to you. You're like, no no no, what we need to do is just really understand what to focus on because where we wanna focus is the top and then we're gonna kinda put more effort, or excuse me, slowly effort towards the other areas, the medium and the low goals. But this is a way to have that conversation to kind of understand what is truly most important to them. Now, stickies are gonna be your best friend during a workshop like this, you know. You're gonna wanna start to write these down and we're gonna kinda do a little bit of an experiment later, but you're gonna wanna try to write them down and be able to move them and shift them around and that's kind of key, you know, you're gonna wanna regroup things and kind of reorganize a lot of the stickies. So what you're gonna do is you're gonna get your client to start to tease out and they're gonna start shouting loud at you, you know, all the different stakeholders are gonna kinda say like, "Oh, here's a goal, I had this in mind." So, some goals, as for an example, could be something like foster a community. Right? That's very broad and very big. Increase brand awareness, you know, that could also be a really important, relevant goal. Or another one could even be expand service by 25%. That is very specific and also great to have. You know, in there there's a level of something to try to reach, where others might be a little more kind of high level. But you just wanna kind of start to capture whatever they're saying. Now one thing you might start to hear is features, right? So you're gonna have goals versus a feature. So a goal might be foster a community, where a feature might be something very granular like comments on articles. And so, if you start to hear, you know, more feature requests, well, don't kind of just throw them away. Still capture them, but kind of put them off to the side, because those are gonna be really important and we'll kind of start to figure out how to capture those later, but the question you should ask yourself as you're starting to work with your clients, a goal should have more than one way to solve it, right? There's a lot of ways that you can go and figure out how to foster a community, whereas comments on articles is much more of a granular request. So there's a lot more opportunity to how to kind of go after fostering a community. So listen for those things. It's very important. Now what you're gonna do is you're gonna start to end up with this big group of stickies, and they're gonna kinda be all clustered together and you may kind of notice that certain ones have kind of a similarity between them. You know, so for example, in this cluster here, it's foster a community, create a platform for dialogue, increase employee engagement. So you know, maybe those are all wrapped under around kind of a larger one of foster a community and then you're kind of like tucking the other ones underneath that they're all kind of part of that, right? And this is a little bit of you know, an art of the facilitator to figure out how to group them, and it's just trying to use your own logic of organization and trying to figure out that maybe there's actually a lot of them here, but it's fewer goals than it appears. With these ones up here, you know, update visual language, create a living experience, make the visual experience on brand, increase brand awareness. You know, there's something around branding that those are all grouped around. So it's sometimes nice just to see how they fall into the clusters 'cause you're getting a bigger sense of what's most important to them. So if we were to kind of look at some of these, you know, here it is, we have kind of gone through the process and we've identified all those clusters, and now we started to be like, "Okay, let's try to organize them." So in that hypothetical made-up experiment there, you know, maybe it's the kind of thing that expanding the service by 25% is the most important thing as well as increased brand awareness. We have those as the top two, and then in the medium we have something like foster a community, create a living experience, inspire beauty and awe. You know, those are all kind of become important but not quite as important, and then at the bottom we have all the extras. Now, if you're starting to kind of communicate with your client throughout the courting process, you're probably gonna understand a couple of these goals already, right? You're gonna have insights because maybe they sent you you know, an RFP, a request for proposal, to kind of indicate some of their primary goals. Maybe that they have, you've had conversations with them formally or informally over the phone or you've gone out to lunch, and so you're starting to kind of tease out what was most important to them. Well, start to capture those because some of those will be a great starting point for the workshop. You know, don't just start with a blank slate. Have a couple ready to go. It'll start to kinda help break the ice a little bit, you know, with the clients and getting them to start to talk and be like, "Oh right, then there's that one and that one." And now they're gonna start to kind of naturally start to shoot out a couple more. Um, but you wanna make sure that the client understands that you are listening to them. You know, that's the other thing. Like you've already had a certain amount of knowledge so if they're starting from scratch, they might get a little frustrated.
Do you ever use a mechanic like voting to help distill some of this value? Like consensus in the group or again, like are you saying, is most of this value extracted from that dialogue and that counsel?
A lot of it is extracted from the dialogue. You know, I think there's a lot of ways to go about it.
And part of it depends a little bit on numbers, so you know, if you're having a hard time and people really can't decide, then that's where you can say, "Okay, you know what, we have a general sense of some of the most important ones, but we wanna really hone it in one level further." And so in that way, what you can do is say here it is, you know, we can't quite decide what the top bar. Let's maybe do a little bit of a voting exercise. So there's definitely ways to kind of, you know, evolve that and just kind of figure it out. What you ultimately want to get though is a clear sense of what the biggest, most important goals are for this project.
I've found that voting works best when more people from more parts of the team are available.
Like, you don't wanna do voting when just two people from this very specific branch of the business are there, 'cause then you're gonna get weight. You wanna make sure you have a diverse, equal group of people to represent the whole company and then voting really starts, in my experience, has really started to get closer to consensus, so.
Exactly, and you know, something that's really interesting is that since our team is very remote, some of these things we can do remotely. You know, so we will use Google Docs, as an example, or Google Slides specifically, and we'll kind of set up, you know, a pyramid, and then we can start to run some of these exercises, we're just like capturing stuff, just like really quick, very informal, and then all of a sudden, after that we can go and try to prioritize them. You know of course with any remote workshops, just having the ability, I think, to have a shot of the people and then a shot of the screen is really critical. You know, and so that's kind of something that's really key is just being able to see both the people and the screen that everyone's looking at. But it becomes this much more kind of playful thing. Of course, if you have the opportunity to get everyone in a room, that is always best, and definitely try to do that first. But sometimes it can be tough if you have a remote member of the team, and say a stakeholder can't quite participate but they wanna be involved.