How many times have you gotten to the end of a project and said to yourself, “Ugh, I wish I thought about that before. It would’ve saved me SO much time and effort!”
No matter what kind of designer you are, you need to set goals at the beginning of a project so that you won’t end up with these regrets.
If planning is the key, then goal-setting is making sure you have the right key to begin with.
Here are 4 project goals and 4 personal goals you need to set at the beginning of a project.
Goal #1: Set the Goals of Your Product
Don’t be fooled into thinking this is something that only the product manager needs to know.
If you want to make the best product possible, you need to think about where your product should head ahead of time.
That means actually writing down specifically:
- What your product is going to achieve
- When your product is going to achieve it
Bad Goal Example: Our fitness app should have thousands of followers in the next few months
Good Goal Example: Our fitness app should reach 5,000 users by October 31st of this year.
Once you have your goals set, you need to lay specific ways on how you’re going to reach those goals.
Goal #2: Understand the Goals of the Business
This one might sound weird, but you need to understand the goals of the business.
The reason for this is because your business, your client’s business, or your employer’s business is the master of the product.
If your product’s goals are in contrast to the business’ goals in some way, the business’ goals will win.
The business probably already has a set of goals or values, so be aware of these ahead of time.
Goal #3: Set the Goals of Your (Potential) Users
At this point, you probably don’t know the exact details of your users.
Most designers fall into the trap of thinking they know all about their users and what they want from the very beginning.
But the truth is, they don’t know and will never know until they actually talk to their users.
However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write down your initial understanding of them.
You should create personas of your users as a place to start characterizing and understanding your users’ goals.
Later on, after you actually talk to them, you need to update these personas to reflect their true feelings and goals that you discovered.
You can find articles, videos, and tools for creating personas here.
Goal #4: Align the Three Previous Goals
This goal is VERY important.
You need to make sure that the product’s goals, business’ goals, and the users’ goals match up.
If they don’t, then there will be a conflict of interest.
Some potential pitfalls of non-aligned goals include:
- Loss of valuable time pursuing the wrong goals
- Waste of money, which also happens from heading towards the wrong goals
- Internal fighting from business heads, managers, etc.
- Users suffering from their needs not being met
This can all be prevented from simply stating the goals for the product, business, and users, and openly sharing them with everyone involved with the project.
This will ensure that everyone is on the same page from the very beginning.
If there happens to be a conflict in goals, discuss it and come to a resolution before going any further.
Another benefit is that if someone wants to add a feature that you don’t think best align with the product, you can point to the goals and tell them they’re veering off the goals everyone established in the beginning!
Goal #5: List What Skills You’ll Have to Learn
A great way to be prepared for the work ahead is to list ahead of time what you’ll be needing to know and learn.
By doing this, you can go into the project feeling more comfortable making decisions.
Not only that but being prepared makes you seem like an expert because you go in looking like you know what should be done while everyone else is fumbling around trying to catch up.
If you’re up for it, learn about things not related to design!
This could be basic coding, project management, or even stuff about a client’s history of work.
Believe me, if you know about a stakeholder’s previous work and interests (in a non-creepy way), they are going to be impressed that you did your homework.
Goal #6: List Ways You Can Exceed Client/Stakeholder Expectations
This is something I wish I had done many times.
Someone once told me,
Not only did hearing that make me feel good, but it made me know that I’m doing something right.
When you exceed people’s expectations, you gain a great reputation.
You show them that you’re prepared, hardworking, intelligent, and trustworthy.
People like this tend to attract other people to them naturally. And over time, the effect adds up and people start wanting to know you and work with you.
Exceed their expectations and you’ll reap the rewards.
Goal #7: Build a Lasting Relationship with Team Members and/or Clients
Connecting with the people you are working with will likely benefit you in the future, and you should really think about this very early.
If you’ve worked on goal #5, then you should be able to leave a lasting impression already.
However, actively seeking to build a relationship is important here.
Most people are too shy to even ask, but you never know if you might need their expertise someday–or maybe even a referral.
Start by doing something easy, like connecting on websites like LinkedIn or Dribbble.
Once in a while, take note on what they’re good at doing and acknowledge them on it. Some kindness goes a very long way!
When you need their help on something, be sure to lean on them. Most people appreciate you acknowledging them as an expert.
And maybe one day when you need something, tell them what you need and why.
For example, if you’re asking for a referral to the company they’re working at, give them reasons why you believe you’re qualified to work there. BE SPECIFIC.
Of course, this “scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” thing goes both ways. If you think they’re a good fit for a project or company you know, reach out to them and let them know about the opportunity.
Believe me when I say that at best, they’ll take the position and thank you, and at worst, they’ll truly appreciate the kind gesture that you thought of them in the first place.
Goal #8: Add This Project to Your Portfolio
Consider adding the project you’re working on to your online portfolio.
If you’re in the mindset of adding it to your portfolio and talking to future clients about it starting from day one, you’ll more likely hold yourself accountable for the results as well as the process that you took in getting there.
Be sure to write down major decisions made on the project, how you contributed to them, and how those decisions led to the outcome of the project.
On your portfolio, recruiters and clients are always interested in knowing what your involvement is on the project, so keep this in mind throughout the course of the project.
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