Two years after passing the certified usability exam offered by Human Factors International, I attended some formal usability training in Minneapolis. The User Centered Analysis and Practical Usability Testing courses offered by HFI that I took last May were all I expected and more. The instructors, Steve Fleming and Drew Falk, and even the area director, Eric Anderson, served up all I needed to institutionalize usability back at Asynchrony. What stuck out most in my mind was the Design Strategy.
I would never have thought that a 7 point bulleted list would help a team gain focus so quickly. I started at Asynchrony in 2001 after the first dot com crash. I went from contractor to full- time designer and helped shape the design department into a user experience group. And now, after all these years, I was sent to a class that offered a simple way to get all the stakeholders to come together at the beginning of a project, release, sprint, iteration, spiral, week, task, story… whatever.
And it makes so much sense! A Design Strategy is a living document that takes about 2 hours to complete, and it’s best if most of the stakeholders are present. Just work through each of the 7 points, identifying business goals, target users, general tasks, technological and environmental constraints, marketing goals and critical success factors while keeping your focus on what’s right ahead. As things change, the design strategy should be updated to reflect the new direction.
Your design strategy will help the whole team focus on what is important right now! Yes, all of the product’s potential is important as well, but by narrowing your focus to a few key things, it is more likely that you will accomplish them all in the time you have.