How we approach new design + development initiatives

We’ve done a lot of projects at Bilberrry and we’ve learned a lot — especially from our mistakes. One of those early mistakes was being so solutions oriented that we hopped right into doing without asking why we were doing it. It’s easy to join the momentum of a client request, but that also means you can get pretty far down the road before realizing you’re headed the wrong direction. 

Here’s how we avoid that.

Use a consultative approach

We consider our clients our partners — we think of it like uniting two teams. Their goals become our goals. Their success, our success. That means it’s part of our job to ensure we’re all running toward the right solution.

We set the stage for this in those first meetings between the folks initiating a design and development project (our client) and the people who’ll execute it (that’s us). We use that time and space to reveal how far into the game we’re joining. Some clients are ready for the buzzer to sound even though we’ve just arrived. We totally get it — it feels like you’ve already been playing the game for a long time — but we’re going to take a step back together. You’ve got to start with some discovery.

Drill down to client objectives

Most of our clients reach out to us with a pretty fleshed-out concept in mind. This makes sense — what else would the RFP say? Just, “Help?” 

Instead of taking this what as a complete answer, we drill down beneath it by asking why. 

The complex design and development initiatives we work on usually have a lot of whys. Maybe a client wants to redesign their site to support user accounts, reviews, and comments. Maybe a different client wants to develop a new tool that auto-imports existing databases into one unified account. 

We can say: Yes! Okay! And start the work. Or we can find out that the website redesign wants to increase organic traffic, and the new tool client has a goal to convert new users. As your consultant teammates, we can’t skip this step. Without it, we won’t have a solid foundation for what is the right thing to build, and how we’re going to go about building it. We might totally agree with what our clients are asking for, or we might challenge those ideas with more efficient, more cost effective, quicker-to-launch ones. 

Set measurable, actionable goals

We use those why’s to help our clients develop specific, measurable goals. If a goal sounds like, “We’ll know it when we see it,” we’ll probably never see it. A project is much more likely to succeed when it’s anchored by goals that are less, Get more business, and more, 2X our organic traffic and hit 20,000 monthly users by the end of the year. 

Notice that the new goal is 100% why, and 0% what or how. That’s important because it focuses on what’s actually important. The best project goals aren’t set by what’s possible, but by why we’re all here in the first place. 

Map those goals to a plan

Now we’re ready to create a plan. Finally, right? At this point there are four things we to decide:

  1. Strategy — What and how will you build? 
  2. Resources — What team do you have and what are their skills? What can you accomplish with the team you have? Can you add more resources? 
  3. Budget — How much money does the client want to spend? How much can they spend? How is this budget allocated? What is the ongoing budget for maintenance? 
  4. Timeline — How urgently does it need to be done? This lever is deeply, deeply connected to resources and budget.

Our POV: Ask why, not what 

We’ve learned that the most important stage in a project’s success is the beginning. When we partner with our clients and ask the right questions, we can set the right goals. For more on how we run projects at Bilberrry, download our process whitepaper. It’s a deeper dive on how we get from project request to project plan and execution, including how we prioritize, impact map, and drive decisions smartly.