Goals need to be 3D

Here’s something¬† I learned from a website overhaul project: Goals need to be specified in (at least) three dimensions, otherwise you’ll be running into trouble because you’ll be overthrowing the schedule multiple times. Three questions:

  • What’s the content? – That’s the first and most obvious question, what we will see when we open the box.
  • How will it look like? – The second and second-most obvious question, how the box and its content will look.
  • How will it work? – The third, most boring, thus most critical question. It’s not only how something seems to work (what the UI does when the user performs a certain action), but it’s the point where the people on the project need to decide what the minimum tech specs are, in terms of technical design and quality, accessiblity, documentation, and so forth. All the stuff that’s not fun because it’s not so cool (except for the geeks). But vital (not only for the geeks).

Once all of these questions have been covered (which is unlikely to happen in one single meeting, so everyone gets a list and checks off their items), it’s time to compare it to the status quo, and do this really thorough.

One of the biggest problems is people tend to think stuff that’s working is okay, because as long as it’s working there’s no need to look under the hood to see what’s really going on, right? But you need to do this before you make any guess about how long something is going to take from A to B. It avoids questions (and answers) that make at least one person in the room feel stupid at a later point.

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