Yesterday, someone asked me, “When you are working on a web project for someone, how do you handle people who want to do things that you know are not a good idea?”
My brief answer is listen to them and educate them.
It’s possible that they may have good reason for what they want to do and you just need to help them execute it in a successful way. There are several ways to get people on-board for a project and one of the most powerful is to involve them in the project.
When you begin a project, identify the stakeholders (or owners) and question them about the high-level purpose of the site. By getting them to think critically about the importance and potential of their site as a marketing and communications tool, they are more likely put into words what their expectations are. By conducting these interviews, you are also communicating that you are building this web site for them and their audiences. And that you truly want to meet their needs.
For us, in higher education, the stakeholders will usually be vice presidents, deans, and chairs. Try to also include student, faculty and staff, especially people who might be involved the ongoing maintenance of the site or who might use the site often. Ask them specific questions about what does and doesn’t work with their current site (if there is one), who their target audiences are and what they want their audiences to be able to accomplish.
This lays the foundation for a successful project because what the stakeholders tell you will inform the team with guiding thoughts about what they need to accomplish.
After all the stakeholder interviews are conducted, report back to the stakeholder group with a stakeholder report and a proposal for the project based on the agreed upon goals and objectives of the project. If they agree to the proposal, this is the official starting point for the project.
As the project progresses and you have questions about something or you’re stuck, pull out the stakeholder report and the proposal agreement for reference and keep asking yourself, “Am I meeting stakeholder needs and expectations?” “Am I meeting the needs of their audiences?” “Is this within the scope of the project?”
If your answer to any of these is no. Then you need to rethink the direction in which you are going.
Do research. All kinds.
Research their target audience behaviors, what kinds of technology are they using, what information are they looking for, what do they need from this site.
Research the best examples of websites of similar units or departments. Get a feel of the specific language, tone, images.
Research what’s being done in the corporate world where they are devoting lots of resources to their websites.
Once you have assembled this information, hang on to all of it. Write a brief summary of your findings.
When you present the information architecture and the design concepts to the client talk about what got you here. Refer to the stakeholder report and the proposal agreement, refer to the research.
Doing this will not only instill confidence in your work and the project, but its invaluable information for the team who is building this site. Having all this information in your collective back pockets provides guidance throughout the project and can avoid messy complications, client dissatisfaction and scope creep.
Do you have more ideas about getting buy-in for project? I’d love to hear them. Please share.