UX design is often like walking a tightrope between various (and often conflicting) company goals.
Trying to deliver value to your users while also keeping costs down and sticking to a strict time scale at the same time can be an exhausting process when all you have is a mounting to-do list of projects.
Luckily, prioritization models are designed exactly for these scenarios, helping you to keep track of all the balls your juggling without straying from the core goals of the business.
Here I will describe one prioritization matrix in particular that I’ve found to be the best way to manage complex projects across large teams, and has consistently delivered for UX designers in a variety of industries.
The benefits of the prioritization model
There are two kinds of productivity initiatives: ones designed to make the inventor feel better about themselves, and ones that actually improve your team’s work.
With the vast number of jargon-filled business initiatives sprouting up everywhere, I understand if you are a little suspicious as to the value of this technique.
If done right, a new prioritization model might drastically change the way you and your teamwork, so it is important to be sure you are happy with the change.
Thankfully, there are a great number of tangible, noticeable benefits reported by teams that have tried out this model.
It facilitates discussion and collaboration
By focussing on collaborative group discussion, this model involves team members that might otherwise feel neglected or afraid to speak up.
Also, by structuring this discussion around the goals of the business, it makes sure conversations stay on track and lead to positive development.
This model further unifies teams by creating a common visual framework that all of the team can understand.
In the end, you have a visual representation of your thought process that the whole team has contributed to, promoting feelings of ownership and responsibility that you just can’t get with regular minuted meetings.
Logic over emotion
Another benefit of this model is how it avoids prioritizing based on emotional ties or personal bias.
By keeping submissions anonymous and team-generated, prioritization matrices have the best chance to avoid the emotional sides of decision-making, leading to cleaner logical processes based on objective criteria.
Enter the matrix
This prioritization matrix is based on the concept of the impact or effort matrix often used in UX or by game designers. While it may seem complicated, it progresses logically over a few easy to follow points.
1. Establish your terms
Be clear with all the elements of your projects and separate them out. This includes current projects and the work that goes into them along with ideas for upcoming projects.
Write out your research actions (present and future) and the users and clients they correspond to. Think of every unique element of your project and write them out in front of you.
2. Establish the criteria
Once you know what you are working with, figure out by what criteria you will prioritize them. This will vary on the element you are dealing with.
With ideas, for example, you might order them by how feasible they are, or how much time or money it would take to implement them.
These scales should always focus on the goals of the project and stay in line with what your business can (and would like to) achieve.
As to how you actually order these, it is up to you. A simple high-to-low scale often works, though depending on how you work a color-coded or number-based system could be preferable.
3. Put it to a vote
Use your team’s expertise to collectively vote on what elements to focus on first.
Give each team member a set of votes — half of the total number of elements being prioritized — and ask them to focus on elements that full under their particular expertise.
When it comes to voting, make it silent and anonymous where possible to encourage team members to vote on what really matters to them.
They can vote for more than one element, but encourage them to back up their decisions with research and genuine opinions.
4. Plot the results
With the votes in you should already have an idea of what elements the team wants to focus on, but before deciding to try to plot the results on a more detailed chart.
Try a two-axis chart, perhaps plotting the value of the elements against the effort to implement them.
This stage necessarily involves a fair bit of discussion: figuring out why certain elements got more votes than others; whether you collectively agree with the highest and lowest values; whether anything received no votes and, if so, why?
Feel free to move the elements around at this stage.
5. Divide and conquer
Once your team is happy with the final ranking of elements you will have a core priority matrix, and you can divide up the highest-ranking tasks amongst your team. By the end, you will have a clear action plan and timeline for completion.
Adapting the Chart
Just because you all decided on this scale of prioritization, doesn’t mean this is the final ranking.
The benefit of this technique is that, as your team learns more about the elements through working on them, you can affect their ranking in the matrix.
1. New criteria
You might discover new criteria that you hadn’t previously considered but which has become an important consideration.
Bear in mind that this technique works best with 2 criteria and becomes increasingly difficult with 4 or more criteria, so you might have to consider dropping one to replace with another.
2. New plotting
Depending on your changing criteria, each element can be ranked differently against one or more matrices.
By physically plotting these points you can see how they relate to each other across different criteria. You then have to decide which criteria are more important to follow.
Something might be very feasible and give great user value but it ranks low on the affordability scale.
3. Specify the scale
When criteria start to conflict, you may need to examine the markers on your scale in more detail.
When it comes to cost, split up rankings by dollar value rather than a vague high to low, or split feasibility into the time it would take to implement the element.
4. Specify the voting
If you want to further distinguish elements you can affect the weighting of each of your team’s votes.
This doesn’t mean giving one team member more power than others but rather ordering each member’s votes by order of importance.
Following a preferential voting system, you will then find out what elements are got the most Number 1 votes, or if the most popular element is actually everyone’s fifth choice.
Every product is a result of thousands of decisions, so how we make those decisions is really important.
With this prioritization model, decisions are made with clarity and accountability, with the support of the whole team and without emotional bias.
I believe charts like these provide UX designers with the best chance of making meaningful progress on their projects.
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Beatrix Potter is a journalist with MBA Essay Help and Do My Paper, a marketing strategist, and an entrepreneur. She enjoys reading, writing, and following business trends, and thrives on helping anyone and everyone make their business and career dreams come true! Also, Beatrix is an educator at Adelaide Writing Service.