When embarking on a web design project, we often give importance to user interviews. But there's another form of interview that's equally important: stakeholder interviews. Mayra, a UX researcher at Edgar Allan, shares her expertise on why they're crucial and how they shape the success of a project.
What are stakeholder interviews?
As Mayra explains, "At the outset of our website projects, we aim to understand what the website should do. Whether it's to replace existing online processes or to support offline operations, these insights emerge from stakeholder interviews." This is the project's bedrock, balancing user needs with business goals.
What’s the first thing that happens when people do a website project with EA?
When we start a new website project, the first thing we figure out is what the website should do. Some websites are meant to replace offline stuff, like an online marketplace. But marketing websites are a bit different — they're there to support what happens offline.
Stakeholder interviews are our guiding principles or north stars, a way of making sure we're on the right track. They help us take big business ideas and turn them into practical website user-centric goals. So, we make sure the website does what it's supposed to do and meets the needs and expectations of the people using it.
But it doesn't stop there. Stakeholder interviews are key to help us shapes the entire project. The insights we gain inform not just the website's design, but also its user experience, content strategy, brand messaging, and virtually every aspect within the project's scope.
What do we learn from stakeholder interviews?
So, what do we learn from a stakeholder interview? "Five insights," says Mayra, "understanding the website's primary purpose, identifying the audience, assessing the competitive landscape, identifying audience discovery channels, and prioritizing relevant content." These crucial insights shape the project, providing a clear picture of the website's goals, its intended audience, its position amidst competitors, how clients find it, and what content resonates most.
Let's dive in to the five big insights that guide the entire project:
- Website's primary purpose: Interviews help us understand precisely what the website is meant to achieve and the actions we want visitors to take to support the broader business goals. Is it primarily designed to establish trust and credibility, boost sales, raise brand awareness, or serve as an informational resource? Do we want visitors to sign up for a newsletter or get in touch with sales? By defining these actions, we create a roadmap for user interactions on the website.
- Audience identification and goals: Through stakeholder interviews, we can gain invaluable insights into their target audiences. This includes understanding their demographics, interests, pain points, and motivations. Are they expecting visits from potential customers? Or perhaps prospective employees? Or both? Our website will be doing different things for them and this detailed knowledge helps us set website objectives that are finely tuned to address their distinct needs and expectations.
- Competitive landscape assessment: Through stakeholder interviews, we get a clear picture of the competitive scene in which a company operates. We get to know who their competitors are, the kind of language they commonly use, and the design practices and trends prevalent in that space. All of this can help craft a strategy that highlights our client’s unique strengths and sets it apart from others in the field. It's like figuring out the best way for our client to shine in a crowded room.
- Audience discovery channels: Stakeholder interviews can help us learn how people, specifically the target audience, come across the company. This insight can shape how we design the website to meet their expectations and needs. For instance, if a company's clients usually hear about them through personal connections, it's important to make it easy for visitors to find and connect with the people they've met in person. This builds trust and helps the website feel familiar and friendly, creating a positive impression right from the start.
- Content relevance: Stakeholder interviews can tell us a lot about the information the audience is seeking. We can uncover misconceptions or areas where their business might be misunderstood and identify the key information that potential customers need when first learning about them. These insights can help us ensure that the website addresses these needs, bridging any knowledge gaps and providing clear and easy to find information.
What makes a particularly successful stakeholder interview?
Interviews are successful when the stakeholders know where their company stands out in their industry's competitive landscape.
During a successful stakeholder interview, one key question that stood out was understanding where the client positioned themselves on the competitive landscape. Despite being a newer firm, it was crucial to showcase their expertise and experience on the website. By highlighting their team members with the most experience and focusing on qualitative aspects of their portfolio, we were able to convey their strong partnerships and unique advantages. It was important to bridge the gap with longer-standing industry competitors and emphasize their best features on the website.
In essence, stakeholder interviews are not an optional exercise. They are instrumental in forming the guiding principles for the entire project. "These interviews contribute significantly to the design, content, and strategy, resulting in a website rooted in business goals and audience needs," Mayra concludes. So, next time you're embarking on a web project, remember the value of stakeholder interviews. They may be just the tool you need to help guide the whole website design/re-design process.
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