Opinion

Part 2 – Definition | The 5Ds: LEAP’s specification and project planning best practice series

By Taylor Setterfield

Thank you for joining us again, for the second instalment of our blog series. If you’ve snuck in without seeing the first instalment (Discovery), take a moment to read it so you’re up-to-speed on the initial stage of this five-step process.

So what happens next, you may be wondering. Well, during the Discovery phase we did the research. We gathered the data and collected lots of intel to help shape this next stage: ‘Definition’.

At LEAP, we invest heavily in this area as we believe time spent now pays dividends as the project progresses. It is in-depth, but for the purpose of this blog post, we’ll keep it light and split it into two phases:

Phase one

  • Set goals and objectives with a project brief
  • Get ideas buzzing with creative workshops
  • Separate the wheat from the chaff with concept creation and testing

Phase two

  • Organise your content with a sitemap and information architecture
  • Outline what’s needed with a content framework
  • Create a layout and structure with wireframes
  • Check it works! Test third-party integration
  • Connect the dots with a clear statement of work
  • Keep everything running smoothly with project planning and project management

Phew! We did say it was in-depth! But, the result is a clearly-defined project brief, which outlines the scope of the work. A bundle of verified creative ideas that will effectively communicate key messages to your audience and a visual framework that provides an overview as to how those messages will be delivered to your audiences.

The visual framework is layered: starting with a sitemap, building out with a content framework, and then wireframes, while testing to ensure any third-party vendors can be integrated effectively. What you end up with is a detailed statement of work, alongside easy-to-digest visuals, so all stakeholders can confidently embark on a clearly-defined, well-planned project. Lovely.

Phase one

The Creative Brief

All aboard?

Arguably the most crucial part of the Definition process. The creative brief is the cornerstone of the project, as it defines your goals, objectives and the scope of the work. With this in place, your stakeholders are aligned with these important elements in writing, for all parties to read, understand and digest from the get-go.

“We take the findings from the Discovery stage and marry this up with our client’s key requirements, to create a precise and succinct brief, which helps keep the project on track.” Kelly Newton, Digital Project Manager, LEAP

Remember, your goal (what you are setting out to achieve) should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Agreed upon, Realistic and Time-Bound). Your objectives (the strategies you will implement in order to achieve that goal) should be specific, measurable and have a set completion date.

Creative Workshops

Let’s get together

Here’s the fun part of the Definition process. We get all the project stakeholders together and host an energetic idea generation session to brainstorm ideas prior to the messaging and design phases.

The outcome is to have a number of different creative routes for the project; content suggestions that would appeal to your target audience.

“Although this feels like a fun session, it is still well-planned; taking participants on a creative journey that employs different brainstorming techniques to generate lots of ideas. We often get the golden nuggets of information from our clients during these sessions, tapping into their knowledge of the company and its audience.” – Sara MacGregor, Creative Services Director, LEAP

Ideas

Idea Concepts & Concept Testing

Using all the good stuff from the creative workshops, we then boil these down to generate a range of ideas that will succeed in delivering the key messages or communication and support the goal(s) and objectives in the creative brief.

What this looks like is a number of creative and messaging routes to be reviewed before the content development and design phase.

“Always take it back to the brief. The ideas you come up with must support the goal(s) and objectives in the brief.” – Julian Dye, Digital Designer, LEAP

If needed, take this one step further and set-up concept testing with the audience, either as a focus group or an online survey. This is often useful if you are unsure what route you want to take; testing the concepts before moving forward helps to validate the design and messaging choices you make.

If you want to know if the design and messaging resonates with your audience, ask them!

Phase two

Sitemap & Information Architecture

By this stage, you’ll have hopefully locked down the creative ideas that will successfully deliver your key messages, but how do you ensure your audiences receive those messages in the most effective way? This is where the sitemap and information architecture comes in.

In the Discovery phase, we spoke about seeing things from ‘the other side of the fence’ and ‘giving people what they want, not what you think they want’? It’s helpful to get into that same mindset here.

The sitemap organises the content into a structured and intuitive format for the target audiences.

Information Architecture

We start by working out the audiences’ content needs and group them into a logical hierarchy. We consider how users are segmented into appropriate channels, which helps to define the number of unique page templates required. In turn, this defines the scope of the project, maps the user journey and reveals top level landing pages and further page requirements. We love it when a plan comes together. So satisfying.

Content framework

The content framework sets out what content is actually required on the site in order to meet the needs of the target audience.

Content Framework

In order to outline the content hierarchy, the type of content needed and the key messages required for different audience types, you will need:

  • Your sitemap
  • Your SEO audit (from the Discovery stage)
  • Your personas document (also from the Discovery stage)

From here, we can start the first stage of actually creating the content – putting a detailed content brief together for every part of the site to identify what content is to be collated or produced.

High Level Wireframes

A wireframe allows you to see the basic layout and structure a website will take.

If you’re not familiar with the term wireframe, it’s essentially a visual representation of a sitemap and its key pages. It shows the content framework and information architecture and is often much easier to digest – in a visual format – than as a document.

Wireframes

Third-Party Integration R&D

Will it work?

If your site or digital project requires integration with other vendors, it’s essential to undertake this R&D phase to ensure that integration can be done and to minimise the risk of unforeseen issues. This normally involves discussion with the vendors and exploratory work to establish viability and cost.

It’s much better to uncover any potential issues with integration at this stage of the project in order to mitigate against unexpected costs.

Statement of Work

Detailed Project Specification

At this point, we bring all elements of the Definition stage together so that all parties have a clear picture of the proposed project. It helps everyone to understand the scope of the work and to connect the dots with everything we’ve mentioned in ‘phase two’ of this post. That is, how the sitemap, site structure, content framework and wireframes will all come together.

“In our experience, removing any areas of ambiguity at this stage means the project is more likely to run on time and to budget and less likely to run into difficulty.” – Nick Morley, Digital Consultant, LEAP

Project Planning & Project Management

Project Management

Whether you enlist an agency to undertake your digital project, or you do it in-house, we strongly advise you appoint a dedicated project manager as the main point of contact from kick-off to delivery.

With so many stakeholders involved, a project manager is critical to ensure each person understands their responsibilities towards the project, the timeline for deliverables and that ultimately, the project is delivered on time and to budget.

“We use a range of different project management software tools at LEAP, as well as gantt charts and good old face-to-face meetings to make sure every project stays on track. Find what works for you and your team, and ensure your method of communication is effective.” – Kelly Newton, Digital Project Manager, LEAP

Ok, we’re all done. That’s the Definition stage over! We’ve worked through the creative process, we’ve ‘dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s’ and we have a great visual representation of the project. Now we can start creating as we embark on the next stage: Design! We look forward to having you back with us for that one soon!

As always, if you have any questions about any part of the process, please get in touch. Leave us a comment, or drop us a line: hello@leapchichester.com.

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