Don’t start that next optimisation project. “Why?”, you ask?

Are project names like “Optimisation product A”, “Product B enhancements” floating around at your company? Just optimising something does not achieve the underlying goal that you should address.

What problem are you trying to solve?

Ideally, you should have a clear understanding about the problem that you are addressing. The problems can be made visible by looking at data, asking users, conducting expert reviews, looking at competitors etc. If you start working for a project that doesn’t mention the problem, ask.

Why are you doing it?

If you can’t answer this question, the premise for the project might almost certainly be wrong. Ask the project sponsor why your company is engaging in the project, and why exactly? Ask the question multiple times to dig deeper to the root of the problem by applying the “5 Whys”-technique. If you don’t know why the project exists, ask.

Make the outcome measurable

Just finishing a project on time or in budget is only part of the success. Ideally, the project goals define measurable outcomes that you try to achieve (e.g. less calls reaching your call centre, increased conversion rates, increased NPS numbers, etc.). Otherwise, the whole project looks just like an acvitity excercise to keep your team busy. If you don’t know how the project’s success is measured, ask.

Example

This brings us back to the initial statement about the labels “Optimisation” or “Enhancements”. You might indeed optimise something (e.g. code, to achive better page load), but the real problem is not that the page needs a better loadtime — instead users might leave the page too early, therefore revenue is lost, users are not returning again to your site etc.

So, in that instance you should re-label the project’s title so that everyone knows what’s it all about.

Bad: “Product page optimisation

Good: “Increase conversion rate for first-time visitors

What this example shows is that the desired change can happen on the product page — but also everywhere else on your site. And it is measurable as well: If the conversion rate for first-time visitors goes up, you’ve done it.

So, now go back to your list of projects that you are leading or where you’re playing a part. If you can’t answer one of the questions above, ask.

I live in Melbourne and design user-centric solutions for large Australian companies.

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