Have you ever been involved in a design project that succumbs to repeated revisions and delays, dragging on for months after the deadline has passed? The project seems to circle the solution without ever approaching it, alternating between the design phase and the content writers, while the strategy and goals fly around elusively. This scenario most often occurs when stakeholders are brought on board late in the process. Having been left out of the kick-off meeting, their insights are not taken into consideration when concepts are being roughed out. Consequently, the design team produces something that fails to hit the mark, and the whole process starts over.
Collecting input from all key stakeholders will get your project started in the right direction, but there's more: stakeholders who are included in stakeholder interviews at the onset of a project become more vested in the outcome of the project. To say that a different way, by including your stakeholders in a formal process that asks for their input, you are increasing their buy-in. In essence, you are bringing them over to your side, setting the stage for a more productive, collaborative design process that is focused on alignment and finding solutions.
On the flip-side of the coin, when you neglect to get your stakeholders engaged, you invite your stakeholders to call your decisions into question, make last-minute changes, and potentially delay the project – all of which can have destructive effects on your team's momentum and enthusiasm.
Of course, there is a balance to strive for between launching your design projects in a vacuum, and hounding your company's executives for a lengthy interview each time you want to produce a new banner ad, and that is why it's important to be prepared with an efficient process for gathering information. This will demonstrate to your stakeholders that you respect their time, making them more likely to offer their engagement on this and future projects you're involved with. Here are some tips for conducting stakeholder interviews that will help you get the information you need while still demonstrating to your stakeholders that you respect their time.
7 Tips to Start Your Website Redesign Right
1. Identify All Key Stakeholders. The key stakeholders are those people whose feedback and approvals are required throughout the design process. Forget them at your peril.
2. Conduct stakeholder interviews individually if practical, rather than in a group format, as this can uncover unexpected viewpoints about the company, brand, product, or market, and help to avoid the “me-too” thinking that can arise in a group setting.
3. Record stakeholder responses to your questions verbatim, rather than paraphrasing. Don’t summarize or gloss over details, as these may be the hidden insights you are searching for that will make your project a success.
4.Allow your interview to go off-script if necessary, allowing your stakeholders to speak freely and to elaborate in the areas that are important to them. By doing this, you are more likely to discover information that you had not anticipated.
5. Don’t downplay answers merely because they don’t fit in with your set of interview questions. If a stakeholder brings it up, it matters to them. You can follow up with other stakeholders to see if this same issue is important to them also.
6. Be sure you understand the weight of a respondent’s answer. Is it a “must-have” or are they just mentioning it because it occurred to them?
7. Compile the information obtained from your individual interviews into a single document for distribution to your stakeholders to review and provide comments. Make it clear to your stakeholders that this document defines the focus of the project.
Sample Stakeholder Interview Questions
The free template in the sidebar contains our most favorite stakeholder interview questions - these are questions that have been very effective for us in uncovering the issues most important in a website redesign or other significant design project. But if you're not the downloady-type, here are a few generic sample interview questions to get you thinking about the kind of information you might collect from your stakeholders:
- What is the main reason for this website redesign, and why now?
- What is the primary goal of the newly designed site?
- How would describe success for the website redesigns?
- Who is the target audience for the redesigned site?
- What does the audience care about most?
- What don't you know about the audience? (What are your assumptions about them?)
- Why do your customers choose your company or product?
- What are the mandatory elements of the redesigned website?
- What are some of the nice-to-have components or features?
- What is the most important message we should communicate to the audience?
- What steps does your audience go through before making a buying decision?
- How does your audience currently think about your industry as a whole?
the Stakeholder Interview Template
Grab this template to get you started discovering what matters most to your stakeholders.
There are two formats to choose from (or you can download both) - an Interactive PDF or a Microsoft Word Doc which lets you add your own questions, or copy & paste just the best bits into your very own document.