The Project Ecosystem
Planning for Project Needs, Roles, and Culture
Are you about to start a brand new project?
What type of sites or applications are
Which roles and skills are needed?
Or are you in the middle of one?
Either way, take a moment to consider the
dynamics and context of the project the
issues that will affect you and the rest of the
What is the company culture?
Answering these questions will help you
deﬁne the project and ultimately determine
the tools and skills you need to bring to the
table to be successful.
Identify the Type of Site
Set design goals for yourself. These are the general
problems that need to be solved (such as “explain
the company’s business model”) or the attributes
that need to represented (such as “demonstrate the
company’s responsiveness to its customers”) within
the site’s visual design and interaction design.
solidify the primary objectives of the project
Understand which departments or business units
may (or should) be involved as you gather business
Identify the Type of Site
• Determine the best methods for
incorporating user research
• Ask questions about which systems and
technologies may be involved
Your site will probably associate
strongly with one of four types:
Brand presence—a constantly present online platform that facilitates
the relationship between the company and a general audience (anyone
interested in its products or services)
Marketing campaign—a targeted site or application meant to elicit a
speciﬁc and measurable response from a particular audience or from a
general audience over a limited period of time
Content source—a store of information, potentially composed of
several types of media (articles, documents, video, photos, tutorials) meant
to inform, engage, or entertain users
Task-based application—a tool or collection of tools meant to allow
users to accomplish a set of key tasks or workﬂows
dirk Knemeyer presents some excellent deﬁnitions
of brand in his article “Brand Experience and the
Brand represents the intellectual and emotional
associations that people make with a company,
product, or person. That is to say, brand is
something that actually lies inside each of us....
The science of branding is about designing for and
inﬂuencing the minds of people—in other words,
building the brand.
Brand Presence Sites
• A company’s main home site
• A site for a primary business unit of the
company (often a unique site for a
particular industry, region, or large suite of
• sites for prominent sub-brands within a
The design goals that are often of most importance in a brand
presence project are these:
Communicate the brand values and brand messages of the
company, either explicitly (perhaps a statement about the
importance placed on being responsive to customer needs)
or through the overall experience upon entering the site
(such as ensuring it performs well and prominently offers
features that encourage customers to communicate with the
Provide quick and easy access to company information. you
want to answer the questions “What does the company do?”
and “How do I con- tact someone for more information?”
marketing campaign sites are similar to brand presence sites,
as both are focused on engaging users with an experience
that inﬂuences their perception of the company’s brand.
Marketing campaign sites, however, tend to be evaluated on
their ability to achieve very speciﬁc actions within a set focus
(such as within a particular time frame or with a targeted
audience). Rather than serving as a funnel for channeling
interest, they are meant to be the engines that generate
interest. From an online standpoint this generally means they
are aligned with an overall marketing strategy and may be run
in conjunction with other marketing efforts using different
channels, such as TV or radio commercials, print ads, and
• A landing page that promotes a speciﬁc
offer. The page is reached via a banner ad
from another page.
• A small site (or microsite) promoting a
• A game or tool that has been created for
the purpose of generating buzz
• The primary purpose of a marketing
campaign site is to create a narrowly
focused campaign usually targeting a speciﬁc
set of metrics.
Time—for example, a campaign centered
around an event (such as a conference) or a
season (such as the Christmas shopping season)
User group—such as a campaign targeted to
teenagers or teachers
Product, product suite, and/or a speciﬁc use for
that product—for example, a site that highlights
kitchen appliances by showing virtual kitchens
with matching ovens, dishwashers, and stoves
Generate interest and excitement, often by presenting a
clear and immediate value proposition (the value that a product or
service brings to the user, such as the possibility of quick loan
qualiﬁcation) or some kind of incentive (a special offer, entry in a
contest, or entertainment such as an online game).
Engage a set of primary user groups in order to elicit
a particular action, such as clicking through to a speciﬁc
location on a brand presence site, signing up for a newsletter, or
applying for a loan. When this action is performed by a user, it’s
called a conversion.
Help the company attain goals being set against key
metrics, such as number of unique visitors. Often this is one part
of an overall marketing strategy.
Content source site
• potentially in several types of media
(articles, documents, video, photos,
• is meant to inform, engage, and/or
Content Source Sites
• A company’s intranet
• An online library or resource center for
members of an organization
• Sites or areas of sites that are focused on
providing news or frequently updated posts
(large commercial blogs may fall into this
• Customer support centers
The primary purpose of a content source
site is to increase user knowledge and selfsufﬁciency by providing relevant content (an
intranet, for example).
They often also encourage some kind of
action, such as sharing information or
purchasing a product after reviewing its
Present content that is the primary draw for ﬁrst and repeat visits to the
Demonstrate a company’s thought leadership capabilities, for example, by
providing access to ideas and perspectives held by the CEO or other
subject matter experts within the company.
Support critical decisions among the user base.
Support users who are seeking information in different ways.
For example, some don’t know what speciﬁc product they need yet (and
are more likely to browse), while others may know exactly what they’re
looking for (and are more likely to use a search ﬁeld).
Increase a company’s enterprise knowledge, by bringing out ideas that
may be buried within individual departments. This may be part of a larger
goal to identify more opportunities for innovation.
• Creating a categorization structure that ﬁts
the mental models of your users
• Determining how to incorporate a system
for organic growth of content
(for example, functions such as tagging and
• Designing an effective search tool
Common Task-Based Applications
A software application that supports the creation of a
particular type of item (such as a spreadsheet or print piece)
A web tool or application that supports a critical workﬂow
within a com- pany (such as a ticket-management application
for an IT support group or a customer tracking application
for a call center)
A website that allows for access to, and management of,
personal data (such as Flickr)
The primary objective of a task-based
application is to allow users to perform a set
of tasks that are aligned with their needs
and, ultimately, with the client’s business
Enable users to do something they couldn’t do elsewhere—or if they
can, to do it better (“better” can mean more efﬁciently, more effectively,
with a higher degree of satisfaction, or more conveniently)
Support novice users with easy-to-access instructions and visual
prioritization of key tasks
Support intermediate and advanced users with access to shortcut
features and deeper functionality
Reduce the load on the user and make the best use of system resources
(for example, reusing data versus requiring duplicate entries)
Be designed and deployed with attention to the degree of change
required of the application’s users—ideally, with a design that facilitates
learning and a communication plan that demonstrates the value to the
One of the biggest challenges of designing a
task-based application is to keep “feature
creep” under control.
User experience design is well suited to
guarding against feature creep because user
models such as personas can be used to
identify high-value features and to
keep focus throughout the project.
E-commerce sites can include
elements of all four project types, because a
site that is primarily intended for e-commerce
needs to have its own brand presence, provide
content (usually product specs or descriptions of
product usage), and facilitate tasks (searching,
comparing, writing reviews, checkout). marketing
campaigns are often closely tied into these sites
as well and may involve multiple marketing
groups within the organization.
Design goals for
Explain the model for the site, if it’s nonstandard. As online market places
are constantly being reconceived, this explanation will help set expectations
(for example, eBay, Amazon, and Craigslist have very different models).
Support decision making as the user moves from learning to consideration
to comparison to purchase, with helpful content and features.
Make use of points in the experience where cross-selling and upselling is
possible, and place those suggestions in a way that is eye-catching without
Create a communication ﬂow from the point of purchase through the point
of delivery. Communication needs to happen not just within the site but
also with other channels, such as integration with delivery tracking systems
and e-mailed communications about order status.
E-learning applications are crossovers between
a content source and
a task-based application
Content for lessons must be generated, which often
- the team add the roles of learning specialist
- subject matter expert (smE)
for the topic being covered.
The product is task-based
user follows a ﬂow through the lesson
common design goals
Set an understanding of the baseline knowledge
needed to start a course and who it is targeted to.
Provide content in manageable chunks that are
paced for comprehension.
Engage the learner in activities that simulate
Communicate performance and progress and, if
applicable, suggest next steps for continuing the
educational process, such as more advanced courses.
A social networking application is primarily a taskbased application, because users need to be able to
ﬁnd and add friends,
manage their proﬁle,
connect, post, and search.
They also contain challenges associated with
content sources, however, especially the need for an
organic framework that can handle a potentially
very large amount of user-generated content. If the
site is essentially given its own identity, it will also
have the characteristics of a brand presence site.
• Designing for the Social Web
by joshua Porter (new Riders, 2008).
Social networking applications
common design goals
Focus potential users on the purpose and the values of the
Facilitate meaningful user interactions that support, and are
supported by, the features presented (such as image
sharing, video sharing, and discussions).
Protect the integrity of the site by ensuring those within
the network understand how to control their information
and respond to inappropriate behavior.
Harness and display the power of the community to bring
forward features that are only possible with active
members, such as popular features and reviews.