Reactive to proactive designing

In dealing with the perpetual quick-fire nature of a start-up, I’ve begun to develop and apply a useful approach to help manage the swirl of seemingly random chatter and work streams—and when you’re the sole person in charge of UX, it comes in fast! In particular is a mental model for handling the intensely reactive mode of “fix this UI problem” requests per some pre-determined project schedule. Instead of simply indulging in the face-value request of “fixing” a screen for an arbitrary deadline, I’m cultivating a more proactive approach, which hopefully demonstrates “good behavior” for non-designers on the team. There is a series of questions structured in the following manner:

* What appears to be the actual problem? Let’s frame and phrase it not in terms of “I don’t like” but in terms of the issue and consequence. Focus on the (de)merits that negatively impact the user’s task outcomes.

* Who will benefit the most from fixing this problem? The company? A buyer? A user? A middle tier partner or reseller? Let’s be clear about who’s really impacted here.

* What is the impact if this is not fixed? This will help prioritize and get a sanity check. Focus on facts (or reason, at least), not fears! This also shapes a dialogue around perceived needs and goals.

* What is the probability of this problem actually happening to the identified target? Is this really more of an edge case vs a frequent issue? Under what contexts or conditions does this problem occur?

* Is this problem entirely preventable via some other method or approach of changing various controls or options or wizard steps, etc.? This forces deeper look at how this problem is triggered in first place.

* Any other prior issues or precedents within the product related to this? This helps uncover broader thematic issues beyond this problem, expanding the scope of insight and looking a range of considerations, towards a more strategic outlook.

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