I fall back on 5 groups of questions when I start any web design new project. This make up the bulk of the initial conversation with a client and help me shape my brief. This strategic ground work helps me establish a clear understanding of the purpose of the project, my intended audience and how best to reach out ot them.
In each category some questions will work better than others for a given context but they are all the same basic question.
Why? What problem needs solving? Is the problem many problems? What is it we want the audience to understand and why? How will the project be evaluated? How will its success measured? What is the first, key, singular reaction we want our audience to have? What are the desired secondary reactions?
Who? Who is your audience? Who are you trying to reach? Why are they your audience and why are you trying to reach them? Why do they care? Why should they care?
What? What is your target audience’s current level of understanding of the issue? Will they have a predictable point of view or bias to the information presented? Are there clear limitations to possible solutions? Does the data need to be simplified, contextualised or completed by pairing it with other data? What is their communication environment? What influences them? Who do they listen to? If the audience is impenetrable then consider using key actors to advocate for you.
How? Have people tried to meet this need before? What approach did they take? What worked? What didn’t? How can we change the context of the problem or attract new audience? How can our visual open up debate, controversy or curiosity rather than reinforce a singular answer or perspective? What are the reasons people are not talking about or acting on the issue? What contexts, symbols, or situations can be used to represent the issue visually? Where will the visual be presented- a physical space or a virtual space?
Help? Who stands to benefit and why? What other experts/professional could we approach for help/advice? Can and should we approach them for help? How can you make sure your audience can trust you and the information you present to them?
Like I said, this strategic ground work helps establish a clear understanding of the purpose of the project, my intended audience and how best to reach out ot them. A Problem Well Defined is a Problem Half Solved.