“Must be Intuitive and Easy to Use”: How to Solidify Vague Requirements and Establish Unknown User Needs

We’ve all received that RFP from a prominent organization filled with adjectives and buzzwords… “The new site must be ‘engaging’ and ‘inviting’ and ‘interactive’!"

Every web project begins with some sort of requirements gathering processes. Sometimes it’s done by a technical team, sometimes by a business strategist or marketing department. Needs typically seem straightforward to the people closest to the project because of personal pain points they’ve experienced.  Many stakeholders will talk about how very obvious the need for improvement is without referencing specifics from the user's point of view.

“Requirements are initiated by senior managers and company executives as policies, aims, objectives and other high-level statements of intent. This necessitates considerable scoping activity as requirements start with vaguely expressed intentions and users’ wish lists...”
~ Usability in Government Systems: User Experience Design for Citizens and Public Servants by Elizabeth Buie & Dianne Murray

When stakeholders come from a variety of backgrounds and multidisciplinary groups, submitted requirements documentation can be varied and inconsistent - from a 30 thousand foot view, to incredibly granular, often with a focus on a few key features combined with sweeping high-level passes at others.

Typical requirements gathering activities are business analysis, stakeholder interviews, reverse engineering current systems, wireframing and brainstorming with a goal to identify project objectives and limitations, identifying critical success factors, and defining project deliverables. However, because user involvement is one of the greatest challenges in requirements identification, a different approach (originally from Suzanne Robertson), describes how there are actually three distinct categories of requirements:

  1. Conscious Requirements - Problems that the new system must solve.
  2. Unconscious Requirements - Issues already adequately addressed by the current system, and important not to overlook
  3. Undreamed of Requirements - Items that would be considered important if it was known they were possible or if they were better understood

 

This presentation will introduce the concept of 'Undreamt Requirements Analysis'.

The following UX problems will be addressed: 

  • Users cannot always articulate what they truly want or need
  • Users do not have the necessary technology background and expertise to ask the right questions
  • Users cannot be expected to provide reasonable answers
  • Users only know what they have experienced
  • Users are not committed to the product
  • Users do not have the incentive to think hard about the problems (or solutions) 

 

Vanessa has been having fun with Drupal since 2006. Starting out as a volunteer content creator for a non-profit, then moving into Drupal administration, training and support before beginning a career specializing in Drupal as a full time solutions architect and in 2008. She has finely honed the ability to translate business requirements and website usability research into detailed UX and functional specifications for many different verticals including education, ecommerce, publishing and enterprise. She enjoys collaborating with stakeholder groups and multi-disciplinary teams to solve complex user journeys and workflow challenges.

Speaker(s): 
Session Track: 
Business + Community
Experience level: 
Intermediate