In early meetings, it's always easy to jump the gun and dive right into juicy discussions about possible information architectures. Sometimes you will need to ask everyone to step back and spend some time exploring bigger picture issues like mission and vision first.
It's good to begin by brainstorming on mission and vision. To get these sessions going, you might ask some of the following questions:
• What is the mission of the organization?
• How does the web site support that organizational mission?
• Does the new medium of the Web force you to reconsider the organization's mission?
• What are the short-term goals with respect to the web site?
• What are the long-term goals?
• How do you envision the web site one to two years from now?
Once you've had a good opportunity to brainstorm, you can lead your colleagues through the exercise of writing a web site mission statement, which might look something like this:
The mission of our web site is to create new customer relationships and strengthen existing customer loyalty. We see our web site not only as a promotional tool, but as a customer service tool.
Of course, it's easy to make fun of these touchy-feely mission statements, and they may soon be forgotten. However, the exercise of writing a mission statement can help a group to focus on the goals behind the site.
Towards that end, it's often useful to probe for goals not currently included in the mission statement. If the mission statement emphasizes sales and marketing, ask about customer support or the provision of new, innovative services. Use this exercise to explore the full range of possibilities before moving on to more practical matters.
1. Measuring Success
While it's definitely a good idea to address ideas like mission and vision directly, it can also be useful to take a more subtle tack by exploring opportunities for measuring the success of the web site. In these early meetings, an interesting and informative exercise involves challenging everyone to think into the future, about how you're going to evaluate whether the web site is a success or failure. The following worksheet presents possible goals and measurement opportunities.
You can ask people to rank these goals and measurement opportunities in several ways. For example, you might ask how important each factor will be in obtaining additional funding from senior management after the site's launch. You might also ask how difficult each measurement opportunity will be to implement.
You can pass out this type of document and then encourage the group to brainstorm about these and other ways they might measure the site's success. How important are hard measurements that show return on investment compared to soft measurements that demonstrate customer satisfaction and public perception? In performing this exercise, it's important to realize that many of these ideas for measurement might not be practical and that decisions regarding measurement don't need to be made at this time. It's really just an exercise to get people thinking about these issues early in the process.