In the early stage of any project, the first step we must take before start designing anything is to interview our stakeholders.
The first touchpoint between the design team and the client is the perfect way to start knowing the project stakeholders, their business objectives, and expectations. During this interview, we aim to gather the required information to understand the problem to be solved and the context to make a plan that fits the project's needs.
Also, this space is created to let our stakeholders know us better and start building a relationship with them. This time spent together is golden, and we use it to let them know more about our background, our methodology, and what to expect from us or the team during this process.
The Stakeholder interview is a moment for creating knowledge and bonding between the parts involved in this project.
Communication is Key
A good UX designer must develop high communication skills for his role. Being able to make the right questions must be one of our main abilities, and that will allow us to clear the fog around the project and find clarity. It’s our role to guide the interviews in order to obtain meaningful information. As designers, we need to be empathetic with the stakeholders, be sharp enough to put the focus where it’s needed, and keep the conversation away from what is not productive.
Of course, these abilities need to be developed and improved with time and practice, and for that, it’s recommended to be prepared for every interview beforehand.
Before the interview:
Before you meet with your client, it is mandatory to know what the project is about and learn about the market in which the company/product operates. You need to gather all the information you can about your client and the product you are working on. If your client’s product is already live, use it. Also, it would be very useful if you get to know the competitors by doing a benchmark of similar companies or products and identify what they are doing great, and where they have room for improvement. Take notes and make some preliminary conclusions.
Of course, the objective at this point is not to become an expert in the field. But it will help you to define your interview goals and choose the right questions. Also, it will help you to have a comfortable conversation with your client using a common language.
When you are conducting an interview, it’s important to maintain focus and aim to get the information from your client that you are looking for. But the interview must not feel like you are checking bullets from a list. Make it flow like a conversation and it will become a very rich experience for your stakeholders and your team. Always try to choose questions that are clear and open enough, to let your stakeholders give you the answer you need but also let them tell you about their values, opinions, and previous experiences.
If you don’t know where to start, this is a brief list of questions that can work for almost every project and can serve as a starting point to create your own questionnaire, tailored to your client's needs:
About the Stakeholder
What is your role in this project?
How can you define success for this project?
What’s the scope of this project?
What’s the budget for this project?
How would you like to be involved in the rest of the project? What’s the best way to reach you?
Is there anyone in your organization that you think we should talk to for gathering further information?
About the Project
What is the problem or need we are aiming to solve?
What is the business opportunity we want to achieve? (e.g. acquisition, activation, retention, revenue, referral, etc.)
What does the website/product/process/application need to do?
What are the biggest obstacles we need to overcome?
Who are the main decision-makers on this project? Which are their expectations about it?
Have you been working previously on this project?
What have you tried that has worked? What hasn’t?
What were the learnings?
About the competitors
Who are your main competitors?
How are you better than your competitors? What do they do better than you?
Are there any relevant products we can look at?
Other related information
Does a live product exist?
Do brand guidelines/style guides exist?
Does any other related documentation exist?
What tools/technologies/languages are the developers/other designers using?
The stakeholders’ expectation for every design project is to boost their business in some way. Start asking questions early in your design process and you will gather valuable information about their thoughts and expectations. This will help to put everyone in the project on the same page and will give you the direction and focus needed to plan your next steps accordingly.