Starting a new project can be an intimidating task, particularly if you are working for a client. It is tempting to just dive head first into a project and start designing or coding, but look before you leap! Take a moment to ask these four questions before you begin any project and the road will assuredly be smoother.
- Why are we creating this? This question is absolutely crucial to not only starting, but finishing the project. It is equally important for projects that are for yourself, as well. Asking a client or yourself why will make sure that everyone is on the same page from beginning to end. Sometimes, the client has never even thought about the why. They just think they need a feature or product because it’s popular or seems like the right thing. Asking why can help them make sure. Maybe you’ll discover that what you need is not a webpage, but a native app or instead of removing a feature that isn’t working, it just needs to be tweaked. Always start by asking why and write it down.
- Who are we doing this for? Is it for you? For a large company? Is it a project that’s being run by one person, but it’s really for another company? Knowing who you are working for and who all the people making decisions are is crucial to getting the project done. Remember that each person is approaching the project from a different perspective and each has a different idea of success. Having these perspectives in mind and upfront will help the project run more smoothly.
- How will we measure success? Building on the previous point, there should be clearly defined, realistic measures for what is successful within the scope of the project and the parameters given. Are there milestones that you need to achieve along the way? Are there certain features that must be there or ones that are optional? What makes your part of the project complete? Working within these clearly defined values, and only these values, will save you and your client time and work.
- What can we realistically do with the given constraints? I have never been part of a project that didn’t have some kind of constraints and limits. Generally there are two major factors: time and budget. You need to clearly lay out exactly what you can realistically achieve given the time and budget and, in many cases, technology. Will you have to learn or relearn a new language or create a ton of wireframes? Will you have payment up front? At the end? How long do they think it should take to be complete? How long do you think you will need? Asking and answering these questions before any work gets started will help prevent extra work, potential frustration, and confusion. Having this clearly defined to the smallest detail will save you a world of hurt when the project is completed.