Today I created a visual representation of my goals for the year. It got me thinking how it is too easy to jump into a new project without a clear vision on what is trying to be accomplished. For a web application or site to be successful there needs to be goals to measure that success against.
When I set my goals for the year, I decided where I wanted to go, what I wanted to do, and how it would make me feel. I made my goals SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely). For instance, I want to go to New Orleans (specific), where I will spend 3 days (measurable), getting there by airplane (achievable & realistic), leaving on April 1 (timely). Based on this I can then setup my saving plan, when I need to purchase tickets, and other tasks based on this. Sound familiar? It should. This is the same process you can set the milestones for your project based on the goal you are trying to achieve. Without these you may be going through a process, but not necessary one that will achieve the results you want.
When I sit down with a client for the first time, I want to make certain that they have SMART goals in mind. If not, I work with them to find out what their specific problem is and then find out the goals they need to have to move forward. The clearer I can make that goal for both of us, the greater value it has to the client (is worth their doing business with me) and it makes it easier for me to create something that works the first time at solving the actual problem.
Do you have clients who are sometimes unclear about what it is they are trying to achieve? Do you run across websites that seem to have no purpose or clear call to action? These are often the result of a project without goals. I continue to try to find out new ways to help solve clients problems, which is what I enjoy and why I am in this business. Making sure that I have a clear understanding of the problems and the outcome trying to be achieved not only makes my job easier, it makes for a lot happier clients.
Feel free to share your thoughts below. Especially any hints you can give all of us on how you determine goals or gather requirements from clients.