I love the beginning of a new project.
You’re given a set of parameters to adhere to (or very rarely a clean slate), you have a specific amount of time and usually some form of budget or lack of one. With those parameters and limitations you’re then set loose to come up with an idea. Blank slates excluded, it’s usual to have some form of a goal defined for you and a set of targets to reach.
Increase sales, redefine brand x as being for people y, launch a product, make one person say ‘wow’, educate, entertain – there are a lot of reasons for what we do, sometimes on a day to day basis. The important thing is to know which one of these goals is the most important for any given project; which one matters above all else and, if delivered, would count the project a success. Setting your main goal, defining its purpose and scope, and wrapping it up into one neat, concise sentence can make the difference between a tight design and a sloppy one.
Golden Goal Rule (Not ‘the one who has the goals makes the rules’ though I was tempted)
All goals should answer one simple question in order to be effective; ‘What’s the point?’
Let me explain. If your example goal is something like ‘Increase number of clients by summer’ it’s easy to get diverted. There’s no reward built in and there’s no definite point at which you can cross it off your list as complete. Not very motivating and if you ever venture into the land of late nights/early mornings for this sort of goal you’re likely to start wondering if you can just forget about it instead!
At least, I would. Raw stubbornness can only take you so far.
Let’s go back to the point at the start of the project where we’re all happily bubbling away over new ideas and dancing around gleefully at the thought of having something fun to do (maybe that last part was just me, but you get the picture). Right then you may know perfectly well what you want to accomplish and why, or at least you’re in the best place to figure it out. While you’re enthusiastically yet diligently writing out your initial plan (right?) it’s worth taking a moment to write this sentence:
[Action] [Object] to [Goal] for [target audience] (by [timescale]).
Let me wash the mud off the window:
- Action: Create, Redesign, Realign, Launch, Increase, Decrease
- Object: Tutorial interface, website, logo, ebook, sales, bounce rate
- Goal: Make sharing easier, to reflect the new branding scheme, for a more professional look, to teach people how to skip, from 5% to 10%, to 60%
- Target Audience: students between the ages of 16-25 studying 3D, adults working in offices full time, sophistocated young investors, children 6-10 years old, teenage girls with an interest in drawing, visitors from USA.
Formatting the first example so we can see it properly: Create a tutorial interface to make sharing easier for students between the ages of 16-25 studying 3D.
Someone asks you what you’re doing? You can tell them your statement.
Get stuck or muddled part way through the project? It’s right there to remind you of where you’re going.
Focusing too much on an unimportant area of the project? That statement brooks no excuses.
Of every piece of planning I’ve ever done for a project this is the quickest part, and also the part that provides the most benefit (says the planning addict that usually has at least 10 pages of stuff). It’s also the part that’ll make you want to throw the most objects our your window, but that’s another story.