Working closely with agencies or as an in-house User Experience designer has proven that stakeholders/clients are always in a hurry to get their stuff done hence ignoring the crucial part – proper briefing.  I’ve used the word proper because often times, I see a brief that looks like: “we need a website that looks like Apple’s website for our product. How long will it take?” OR “We just need a really nice website that would sell our product, nothing too complicated”


While these clients may think they have given you a ‘brief’, it remains your responsibility as a UX designer to go back and ask more specific question. Being a UX designer/researcher requires you to take leadership and responsibility of any project that lands on your desk mainly because you are helping the client get to a destination they imagined in a better way and also taking their users by the hand and walking them through this completely foreign platform you just made.


So, here are a couple of questions you can ask.


1.   What problem are we trying to solve with this?


While this may look like a dumb question – it’s been proven to be a crucial one and like my friend, Chris likes to say, there is no such thing as a dumb question, only dumb answers. The answer may be obvious but ask your client anyway. Sometimes you get an answer that will totally change how you look at your client’s product or service, allowing you to think better of the product/service hence giving you the edge to provide a solution much faster.


2.   Who is our audience?


As I like to often say, knowing thy user is the beginning of user-centered design. This question is crucial even though you could almost tell who the audiences are from the first time you had a meeting with your client. It’s important to let your client tell you the sort of people they want on their platform. You need a specific user group, one if possible. The narrower the answer, the better it is for you to design a relevant solution.


3.     What are their expectations?


Most users often have a set goal in mind before landing on your page or stumbling on your product/service. Do you provide solution to them faster than anyone else? Do you help them answer the question they have in mind? What are your USPs? What information are they looking for? The easier it is for them to find information and get things done with your product/service, the more likely they are to come back and use your product – better still; recommend it to their friends and family.


4.   What do we want them to do?


You do get some scenarios where the client expects users to do ABC but users come to the website to actually do XYZ. It is your job, again as a UX designer, to find the middle ground for both parties, creating a win-win ecosystem without annoying the users.
For example, LinkedIn wants users to pay for their Pro Membership but most people just want a free LinkedIn account. Hence, LinkedIn continues to show free users the perk of using a Pro account until that resolves into a paid user but they do this without annoying pop-ups that you have to close hundred times before you can use the website.


5.   What are the flaws of the current version?


If you are redesigning a product that already exists, ask them about the part of the current version they don’t like. The things their competitors are doing better than them. The page where users tend to leave the website.
Having this information helps you focus on the designing real and practical solutions for your client and giving their users a better experience.


In conclusion, make sure to ask these questions before you start designing. Some clients will let you present a first draft design and tell you how much they don’t like your work before they give you this sort of brief, ideally, you want to avoid this type of scenarios.
Ask early, design better, finish faster.