Working with nonprofits whose programs are coming to an end may not sound like the type of problem that many UX professionals would have, but translate this nonprofit’s need into something like: “We need a way to put our content online so…,” and you have a common issue that abounds in the world of UX design. In fact, there are many methods in our UX toolbox that can help us to solve such problems.
Out with the Old
If time and budget were no issue, we would have approached this project just as we’ve approached successful projects in the past—with an in-depth discovery phase that might have lasted anywhere from a week to many weeks. This phase would start with us interviewing stakeholders, so we could collect, define, and prioritize organizational and project goals. Next, we would conduct user interviews, which would lead to our creating detailed personas that would model the user types that are the audience for the organization’s content. We would then create an inventory of all of the content, so we could determine the content’s strengths, weaknesses, and gaps. Lastly, we would set priorities and plan our strategy and roadmap for the organization’s content. All of this is consistent with what we’ve learned about how we should do good UX strategy—given certain circumstances. But we should ask ourselves: what makes these methods so good?
Well, the first thing that makes these methods good is that they work! Taking the time to talk with each stakeholder to understand their individual business needs and goals, then bringing the entire group of stakeholders together to discuss everyone’s goals, needs, and priorities is not just good practice. It is a sure-fire way to come up with a prioritized list of organizational goals to guide design.
Interviewing users to understand their behaviors, goals, needs, and tasks, then modeling these into detailed personas is a great way both to understand users and to help others to have empathy for them. This understanding is at the center of the user-centered design philosophy that UX professionals live by.
And lastly, given content inventories’ detail and structure, they provide a perfect tool for understanding an organization’s content—both what is available and where there are gaps. They let us look at the big picture, giving us an eagle-eye view of an organization’s content. Once we have that overview we can start to see what content should be digital and what should be analog. This was exactly what the nonprofit organization that hired us needed—an organized and prioritized view of their content.
However, these methods that we have come to know and love are not all roses….
The first and perhaps the greatest issue with incorporating these methods into a project is that they take time—and lots of it. On this project, we did not have a great deal of time for interviewing each stakeholder, conducting in-depth user research, and modeling personas; then sifting through, cataloging, and prioritizing a potentially endless amount of analog and digital content.
The second reason that these methods wouldn’t work for us on this project—and this relates to our not having a lot of time to dedicate to this project—was that the organization we were working with did not have the resources to pay two consultants to do full-time, long-term work. In short, the funds were just not there to cover an intensive, drawn-out discovery phase.
The third and most important reason why these traditional methods would not work for us is philosophical and methodological. Through many years of working both in-house and as external consultants, we have both come to believe that the best work happens when UX professionals are embedded with a team on site, teaching and facilitating the doing and the learning among the team members and its stakeholders. Following traditional methods wouldn’t have allowed us to spend as much time empowering the team to understand their own organizational content goals, users, and priorities.
Thus, we knew that we needed to achieve somewhat typical outcomes—an understanding of the content that the organization already had, what content they needed, what content was missing, and what content should be digital versus analog—using non-traditional methods that would be possible on a small budget and in very little time. So we devised a repeatable approach that would let us prioritize goals, understand users, and assess and prioritize the content—an approach that we like to call storymapping.