UX Method of the Week: Project Brief

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  • A project brief helps you get aligned on expected outcomes for a user-centered design project.

    Often, when a project is beginning, everyone involved has distinct ideas for what the right outcome looks like. In team discussions, it’s possible for people to express their point of view and think they’re all saying the same thing, but actually have very different ideas of what they expect to see. A project brief states directly what goals or expectations should prevail as the main mandate for the work.

    The brief, as its name suggests, capitalizes on the cardinal virtue of brevity to distinctly and clearly summarize the overall plan for the project: what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, relevant constraints that will drive your work, and what outcomes you expect. Another bonus of the brief is that by being a short description, it’s more likely that people will actually read it. This creates an opportunity for everyone to agree or, if not agree, at least have a productive conversation about the focus and goals of the project.

    Project Brief Example
    An example of a one-page project brief

    Ever done a project brief? If so, how did you involve others on your team? 

    Post your reply as a comment below by Tuesday, 11/5, midnight PT. The best reply wins a free copy of The User Experience Team of One.

    8 Responses to “UX Method of the Week: Project Brief”

    1. Talk and, most importantly, let people talk. Ok, talk but about what? No restrictions, anyone should be able to talk about anything, related to the domain, so let people talk about concepts, visions, ideas,… But never assume anything, something that seems clear or logical to you is just a product of your mind and people can’t read in your mind.
      So first step, explain the domain, the purpose, your vision,… and put a word onto each of your ideas. Then let people talk and ask them to developp their ideas.
      Never leave any ambiguities or assumptions.

    2. The writing of the brief is crucial:
      – If it doesn’t reflect what the meeting’s participants were trying to express, they won’t be loyal to it.
      – If it’s missing some information that people will need to know for the project, they won’t have faith in it.

      To write the brief well:
      – If people disagree during the meeting, start sketching a solution so that they have something more specific to discuss.
      – Make sure that the brief will answer who, when, what, where, why, and how.
      – Use active verbs to prevent ambiguity.

      • Jeff Collins

        “If it doesn’t reflect what the meeting’s participants were trying to express, they won’t be loyal to it.” – incredibly important point. Especially the ‘trying’ part – so often glossed over in enterprise sized projects.

    3. The beginning of the creation of the project brief is the brainstorming of the expectation of a common outcome that a project will deliver when finished. This is the single most important point when stakeholders can visualize and outwardly express their vision, and how they see their vision executed. The most important action of this exercise is the ability to facilitate and act as a moderator making sure to summarize and create concise consensus of the idea brought forward.

      For a user experience strategy perspective, the facilitation must emphasize the known user’s objectives and goals when utilizing the product. Very often, the business side of the ideation process makes a lot of emphasis on the business objectives, and while those are important, a user-centered product must revolve around user goals primarily. This is when, if known, well developed preliminary user research documentation come in handy.

    4. All our projects start with a requirements gathering session that’s part brainstorm and part rapid ideation session.

      The goal is to leverage the client’s insight, experience, intelligence and creativity while leaving their pre-conceived ideas behind. Depending on the nature of the project, we may include customers, partners, board members and other stakeholders.

      We typically start by establishing the vision using fun, collaborative excercise so like ‘back-casting’. So we pretend we’re five years in the future, winning an award. We ask the groups to list who’s giving us the award, why, what do they list in their talk about us, and what do we have to do to get to this reality?

      This leads us a statement about our mission, and we can use this to inform all kinds of decisions for the rest of the project.

      Next we move on to strategy, which to us is about defining User Needs and Site Goals.

      To establish User Needs, we list the communities of interest who could care about the mission we just talked about. Then we get them to name a living example for each community, and to walk us through their role, responsibility and how the site might help them address it. Honestly, what’s in it for them?

      To establish Site Goals, we discuss the types interactions we can measure. How does the website help our clients sales funnel, marketing strategy, HR, R&D, etc? The goal is a list of actions like: phone-calls, downloaded documents, shared posts, filled in forms, newsletter sign-ups, etc

      From this session, we can define the site scope: an MVP of content and features that should offer value out of the gate.

    5. Thanks everyone for your smart comments. Some things I love about what’s been said so far…

      * Tada’s emphasis on listening. I find that it’s surprisingly easy to find yourself slipping into advocating rather than listening, so this is a always a good reminder

      * Alan and Terry’s recognition that it’s important for stakeholders to see themselves in the brief, to see their own goals and contributions.

      * Barry’s… well, Barry’s everything! This is a thorough and succinct description of how to kick off a project the right way. I love the emphasis on starting in a collaborative, interactive, and fun manner, taking time to explicitly address which users you serve, and ending with something you can measure.

      I’m happy to announce that Barry Martin of the communications design firm Hypenotic is the winner of a free copy of the User Experience Team of One. Well done, sir.

    6. I just bought the Kindle version of this book and came to the site looking for the free templates offered with the book and they don’t seem anywhere to be found. Talk about the user experience and feeling disappointed :/.

      • Hi Elli,
        I’m sorry that you can’t find what you’re looking for. Our site has gone through some transitions and lost some things along the way. Can you tell me specifically what template you were interested in? You can email me at karen@rosenfeldmedia.com