Archive for May, 2009

Why Client Requirements Are Important

Sunday, May 31st, 2009 by Clyde A. Lettsome, PhD, PE

The thought of having a final product, whether it is a new website, new widget, or service is always exciting.  Many clients envision this new product and the many ways it will wow users.  Too often, clients believe that based on a small amount of input, a designer can envision what they see, go into the dark room, and return with a product that will deliver everything they imagined.

Unfortunately for these clients, without significant pre-planning, the end project they envisioned will never materialize, will not meet their expectation, or worse.  Often, clients are more concerned with the expected duration of the project and the price, rather than truly hashing out the details of what their product will deliver.  Some still insist on proceeding with a project without the necessary pre-planning, despite the failures of many in the past.  This is equivalent to hiring a building contractor to build a home with 4 bedrooms and two bathrooms and hoping that contractor builds a home that fits your needs based on a few conservations.  Sounds pretty silly, right?  If you would not do it with a home, why do it with products you are developing for your business?

An experienced designer recognizes these clients quickly.  It is the designer’s job to guide the client by:

  1. Asking a series of questions to become familiar with a client’s final goal.  These questions are asked with the purpose of:
    • Understanding what the client wants and needs.
    • Determining if the client’s goals are technologically achievable.  Note: Although it seems like we do magic, we do not.
    • Determining if the client’s desires are on par with the budget for the product.
    • Determining if the client’s desires are in the client’s best interest.
    • Helping the clients determine if they have or have not put the necessary planning into their own project.
  2. Documenting the agreed upon deliverables.  This document will serve several key purposes on the way to the final product.
    • This is the designer’s blueprint.  This is the road map that will be followed to deliver the final product.
    • This is also the client’s blueprint.  This reminds the client what was agreed upon and helps to keep clients from changing requirements on a whim.  There is nothing worse for a designer than a client that constantly changes the target.
    • Because this document serves as a blueprint for both parties, rework during the execution of the project is significantly reduced, thus saving a tremendous amount of time.
    • If litigation is necessary, this document helps the arbitrator/judge determine what was agreed upon.
  3. Using the requirements document as a check off sheet to ensure that they have met the client’s needs as written and agreed prior to the commencement of work.

If clients truly want to determine how long a project will take and how much it will cost, it is in their best interest to do much of the pre-planning before finding a designer and providing that designer with as much information as possible before the work begins.  It is easier and cheaper to get it right the first time by discussing, documenting, and signing off on the details than it is to perform rework because of a lack of communication.

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