How Clear Priorities Can Help Your Project

When an organization starts the process of designing or redesigning one of their websites, it can be tempting to try to meet the demands of all the internal teams and stakeholders, each of whom has a vested interest in the website supporting their department or division of the company. Everyone wants to have the latest promotion for their department’s product shown front-and-center, which can quickly result in a perception that everything “needs” to be addressed on the site.

Whether it’s the latest marketing campaign, or an important newsletter, or the full list of product offerings; once the floodgates are open to ideas, it can be hard to know what combination of features and content will result in a successful website. As the saying goes, “If everything is important, then nothing is.”

At Crux Collaborative, we know that unpacking and reassembling a website or designing one from scratch can seem daunting, but through years of experience, we’ve found prioritization is key for any successful website project.

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What does the business hope to accomplish with the project?

No website project can hope to be successful without clear goals and objectives. Ideally, these goals and objectives tie directly back to your company’s strategic goals. Designing a site means that you’ll bring a number of the internal teams to the table to share their perspective on how the site could serve the company. Getting input from many areas of the organization is critical to make sure you’re not missing anything that should be addressed by the site. It can also lead to a lot of opinions about what is most important. Clear goals and objectives help you start to prioritize those opinions.

At Crux Collaborative, when we kick-off a new project, we facilitate a working session with the client team to gather inputs that will help us plan the project. During the working session, we identify business objectives, risks, and measures of success, in addition to identifying the wish list of website features and content. This gives us the foundation against which we can determine if the identified features or pieces of content belong on the site at all, and, if so, how much prominence they warrant.

How will thoughtful prioritization help the project?

Setting your priorities at the beginning of the project is critical for a number of reasons.

  • It helps the team make sure the final site aligns with overall strategic goals of the business.
  • It gives the team a clear path forward, which will allow resources and budget to be spent on the most valuable features and content.
  • If a shiny new idea comes up during the project (which it will), the team can easily see if and where it fits on the feature list. If the new idea doesn’t advance the goals of the project, the team can confidently rule it out.

Now, let’s explore how we identify the priorities of the project.

What do we prioritize?

Once you know what your goals are, you need to identify the features and content that need to be prioritized. No doubt the team has several ideas of what to include on the site, but don’t forget to include your most important stakeholder, your end user. You may not know what your user wants and needs to do when they visit your website as well as you think you do.

One of the ways we identify the features and content that a site should include is by conducting 1:1 interviews with project stakeholders. A stakeholder can include everyone from internal employees who may use a system, to key customers, to internal staff who maintain the system, to customer service reps who help your users when they can’t use your website to get what they need. These interviews allow us to ask in-depth questions about what that stakeholder (or the end user the stakeholder represents) needs/wants to be able to do on the site to ensure that we don’t lose track of anything as we design the site. It’s not uncommon for these interviews to reveal major challenges your users face that may have gone unnoticed.

If you’re redesigning an existing website, a baseline usability study can be another great way to see if you are meeting your current users wants and needs. By recruiting a small group of people who represent your customers, we can see if users can find key details on the site, what they struggle with, what they’re interested in, and what they may be looking for that you are not currently providing. The findings of a baseline usability study should be the basis of your top priority features.

How do we prioritize?

Once we have a list of desired features and content for the site from all of the stakeholders and project team members, it’s time to take a hard look at the list and make some choices.

First, we evaluate the list to see if there’s anything that simply does not align with the site goals and objectives. Sometimes those misaligned features are easy to spot, but not always. As a team, review your list and see which goal or objective that feature or content supports. If you can’t tie it back to a stated goal then it doesn’t belong on the site.

Now that you have a list of features and content that aligns with the goals and objectives of the site, you need to decide which are most important. One great tool for this is dot voting. Each person in the working session gets a series of different color dot stickers and they’re told to vote for their top features. Often we use three different dot sticker colors and give everyone three priority 1 stickers, five priority 2 stickers, and eight priority 3 stickers. Team members can put their stickers on whichever features they want (including putting more than one sticker on a particular feature) and when everyone is done, the features that get the most votes get more priority on the site. This process often helps clients start to see how the site can focus on the highest priority items while still addressing other features and content with lower priority.

Prioritizing your features and content can also help as you’re developing the site, by allowing you to direct precious development and content generation resources to the highest priority features first.

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