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Apr 13, 2007: Background research checklist

I just got off the phone with a prospective consulting client. They asked me if I could send them a checklist of background research documentation that'd help me get up and running quickly. I realized that, although I've compiled and sent such a list a zillion times, I stupidly keep recreating it.

So I'm posting it here, which is better than stuck in Entourage. (Google Desktop, I thought you'd help me here?) Anyway, maybe it'll help you, and better yet, maybe you'll add to the list (I'll be glad to update it as you make suggestions):

User research

  • usability test results
  • field study reports
  • web analytics reports
  • search analytics reports

Content research

  • content inventories
  • content analyses
  • content models
  • existing IA schematics (e.g., wireframes, blueprints)
  • controlled vocabularies, thesauri, and other sets of metadata
  • content authoring guidelines and policies

Business context research

  • strategy, vision, and mission documents for the entire company
  • strategy, vision, and mission documents for the project
  • project plans
  • org charts and reporting lines
  • role descriptions for team members

If in doubt, ask for summaries...

Notice that my categories match those good old three circles.

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Comment: Chris Farnum (Apr 15, 2007)

Great list, Lou - thanks for putting it together. In some cases, you can add "marketing plan" or "identity guidelines" to business context. These aren't just for designers. You can often get a good sense of organizational goals and how the organization perceives its target audiences from this documentation. Another thing to remember is that business context artifacts come in many formats and flavors - doc files, presentations, memos, printed brochures...

Comment: Deb Seys (Apr 16, 2007)

Hi Lou,
I'm involved in a discovery phase right now and what has become important is a 'Tools Inventory' - that is, the information, content and knowledge managment tools, systems, portals, platforms, etc. that are already in place - cause there's no virgin territory anymore...

Comment: Lou (Apr 17, 2007)

Great suggestions; keep'em coming...

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