And what other things to take into account

The right question, at the right moment and context, can make a significant impact on how a feature / product is going to end up.

When I was starting out, I could not understand why designers weren’t taken seriously by companies when it comes to high-level decision making for products. I worked in several startups and the attitude was more or less the same — after the management team defined the path and solutions we need, they came to the design department for the “candy look”.

A couple of years later, I understood that if we change the conversation from “Ok, I will get right on it” to “Sure, but what business problem are you trying to solve? Will the change achieve the goal?” it changes how things are perceived. Asking the right question will only make you a better designer and will help you to have a proper business conversation. And with time and patience, you start getting that seat at the table.

Asking the right before beginning any type of work, is what will define if we will achieve something significant or not.

Whether you are launching a new product, feature or service — asking the right question is like the water that cleans the dusty front window of your car. More questions you ask, the clearer the front view becomes.

I run a design studio, and we use a set of questions that help us assess what the client is trying to achieve. These questions help us at different stages of problem definition and design. They help us keep a clear focus and not deviate from the core goal. They are not for agencies only but for product/service companies too. So I decided to share them with you and hopefully it will add an extra small drop of value to your process.

This list of questions is not a blueprint, because asking the same question for different contexts may end up bad. Rather it’s a good conversation kickstarter. They will help you assess certain situations and what should be done next. So you can use the list below for almost every stage of a design process.

Defining the problem

Never accept a problem at face value. Instead, try to find what the real problem is — the problem behind the problem — by asking a few questions:

  • What’s the main problem we are trying to solve?
  • Is this the right problem to solve?
  • Is it worthy of our best efforts?
  • What other problems could we solve that would bring more value to our company or customers than this one?

Important: What will be the impact on your business if we don’t redesign/change the ____? Let’s say we leave it like it is for the next 1–3 years.

This question is critical to answer after you have defined the problem. I had a client who told me that nothing could go wrong, because he would not allow it. That’s a sad and unpractical way of looking at things. If you don’t know what could go wrong, than how would you know when it’s not wrong? Also, this allows you to see if you really need to focus on that issue or not.

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