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    goal-centric ux design

    It all began with a group of particularly cranky engineers. Showdown at the UX corral as they ran amuck in their Agile world. <cue music> My eyes narrow. I whip out a marker and write down a single word on the whiteboard.


    Well, my life isn't really that exciting but I certainly do work in a lot of cowboy cultures. And I work in a lot of cultures filled with stressed-out people who are pressed to their limit. Whenever I encounter these environments I'm always drawn to running simpler and easy-to-implement process.

    Goal: Write a post about a simple and efficient way to guide and direct product development even in fast-changing cultures.

    Goal-centric design as I originally learned it came from the object-oriented programming world. Describe the objects. Define the relationships with other objects. See how well these objects and relationships perform as they are held against use cases. Over the years, I've adapted this concept to fit into a more process-centric UX context so that it could incorporate business goals, information architecture process and implementation realities.

    The basic idea of goal-centric UX design is stating clearly, for every part of your product or service, the goal that it needs to fulfill.

    When you begin a project this typically means creating and collecting an overriding set of business requirements that need to be met in order for this project to be a success. This may cover financial, business, brand, marketing and communication strategic initiatives and even scheduling requirements for the project.

    Then as you progress through your design process, the goals become more and more specific and contextual.

    Playing it out
    Let's say you're designing a multi-page site. You begin by looking at the overriding business goals, required features, content available and the development resources and talent you have. You architect a basic structure for the site and determine what information and/or features will be contained on each page.

    As you architect your site structure you create and keep an overriding site goal in mind:

    Site goal: Introduce our new online service to the world

    Already, this goal will help guide the conversations that come up as you begin to create the site design. "New product" means that excitement needs to be generated for a particular audience. Do we know who our audience is? There isn't a lot of content available. Messaging will have to be simple and educational. Visuals and language are needed that will communicate quickly and efficiently what this is and how it works.

    Then, you simply continue applying goals to each more specific part of the project.

    Home Page Goal: Get new users to sign-up for the service

    That certainly hones the conversation about what has to go on that page.

    This leads naturally to scenario planning. You have a stated goal, now how can you accomplish that goal with visual, informational, content and interaction design? How do others solve this issue? How will you best communicate with your audience using the technology that you've chosen? And so on.

    You could take it one step deeper by creating goals for the sections of each page. Title bar goal: Communicate corporate brand. Sign In widget goal: Provide returning users immediate access. Blog section goal: Provide up-to-date information on company's on-going development efforts.

    Ultimately though, only go to a level of detail that simplifies your process. And always remember to check your more granular goals against the overriding goal. Does this design decision introduce our new product to the world in a simple and clear way?

    Get it in front of them. Keep it there.
    Be literal here. Put the goal at the top of every whiteboard, image, flowchart, wireframe and document in the process. Keep it there throughout the process.

    In my experience, when working in an iterative product development process (prototype/test/build/test/tweak/test), engineering and implementation are where these types of goals are lost. It's also very easy to lose sight of any overriding goals when working with scattered teams and outside agencies to produce your product or service.

    When every engineer and creative that touches the project has the goal right in front of them, even the spur of the moment (read: cowboy) decisions are much more likely to be headed toward accomplishing your ultimate business goals. And there's nothing quite so effective at taming a team of cranky engineers, creatives and stakeholders than having a successful product.

    Your turn
    What kind of simple process do you run that allows you to keep your product development moving in the right direction?

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