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Navigating Success: The Importance of Onboarding 

03-13-24 Leah Henderson

Onboarding is a crucial step in ensuring that Sparkbox fully understands the problems that clients are facing. Once Onboarding is complete, our team can offer more precise estimates, navigate project phases seamlessly, and work together effectively to achieve the desired results.

One of the great (and challenging) things about working in the digital world is that technology constantly changes, and every project is different. With so many variables in play, it can be almost impossible to create an accurate project plan, let alone estimate in the first days of an engagement. With Onboarding, we can begin with a known quantity and set a smaller, fixed budget for a planning phase that sets the stage for what lies ahead. The Onboarding phase combats the quickest failure point on any project: solving the wrong problem. This process allows for conversations and space for clear alignment around the project’s goals and future growth for both our own team and our clients. This provides the foundation for more educated and predictable future iteration phases.  

The Onboarding phase combats the quickest failure point on any project: solving the wrong problem.

Although the detailed tasks to decipher each Onboarding can be unique, four central steps or themes run throughout each, from a simple website to a multi-faceted application or even a design system.  

Step 1: Understand the business goals. 

The first objective of the Onboarding process is to ensure that we understand the client’s business goals. This initial phase involves delving into the project’s purpose: identifying its goals, addressing the challenges it aims to resolve, and considering potential technology solutions. Through a series of discussions with key stakeholders, we delve into their concerns, perspectives, and prospects for growth. Our clients possess valuable insights into their industry, and by understanding their current projects and internal dynamics, we can swiftly align ourselves as genuine partners for the upcoming collaboration.

Step 2: Take advantage of what has been done.

It’s always important to leverage existing work and research when available. We aim not to reinvent the wheel but to understand what already exists to inform our future questions and assumptions. Streamlining the onboarding process involves examining previous research by internal teams or vendors. This may include personas, consumer experience data, analytics, marketing insights, or past usability testing results. Each piece of information sheds light on the product’s history and often provides valuable context and data to support insights gleaned from interviews. While not all findings may directly relate to the current project, they enable our team to gain a deeper understanding of the company’s trajectory.

Step 3: Confirm you are solving the right problem. 

Effective problem-solving involves examining solutions from various perspectives. By this point in the Onboarding phase, we have a comprehensive understanding of the business aspects of the project: its history, future aspirations, goals, and anticipated outcomes. However, this is just one part of the narrative. We must now investigate users—those currently utilizing the solution or intending to do so in the future.

User interviews are a cornerstone of effective Onboarding, enabling us to deeply comprehend users’ needs, preferences, and pain points while confirming alignment or identifying inconsistencies. By comparing organizational expectations with user experiences, we uncover focal points for further exploration through additional client discussions and research.

Thorough interviews aid in crafting solutions centered around user needs, ensuring that the final product aligns with both the target audience’s expectations and the organization’s requirements. This realignment often prompts a reassessment of project goals with input from business leadership and stakeholders. These goal-setting sessions typically involve interactive group activities, allowing all members to shape the direction of our future collaborative efforts.

Step 4: Review and analyze. 

Audits are then used to help understand the current products or systems, or if there is no product yet, they help clarify the market in which this product will reside. Though each audit has a distinct focus, they share the goal of analyzing products against best practices. Common examples include:

Heuristic Audit

A UX heuristic audit evaluates a digital product or website’s user experience based on a set of established principles known as heuristics, which provides guidelines to assess the usability, accessibility, and user satisfaction of a digital interface.

Technology Audit

A technology audit assesses a digital product’s technological components and infrastructure, evaluating the technology’s efficiency, reliability, security, and overall health. It involves reviewing all technical elements to ensure they align with the product’s goals, meet industry standards, and are capable of supporting current and future requirements.

Content Audit

A content audit aims to understand existing content’s quality, relevance, and performance. It guides decisions on content management and optimization, often overlapping with heuristic evaluations to assess site taxonomy, page flow, and user comprehension.

Design System Audit

A design system audit evaluates processes and pain points, reviewing components, patterns, and guidelines for consistent digital product creation. It assesses the current system or library’s effectiveness, feasibility, and organization.

Competitive Audit

A competitive audit involves analyzing competitors’ digital offerings to identify strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities in user experience, visual impact, messaging, and more. It helps inform the strategic direction and enhancement of the client’s digital products or services.

Analytic Assessment

An analytic assessment involves analyzing data, commonly Google Analytics, to gain insights and assess performance or effectiveness on a page or common user flows. This includes additional data insights around demographics and common entry points to a product.

Accessibility Audit

An accessibility audit assesses digital content, products, or environments for accessibility to people with disabilities. It examines design, content, and functionality to ensure compliance with standards like WCAG, aiming to identify and remove barriers to accessibility.

Take the guesswork out of future phases.

The tasks required to complete an Onboarding process may vary depending on the complexity of the problem we aim to solve, but the ultimate goal remains consistent. Sparkbox team members and client teams better understand the problems and establish priorities for user experience and business objectives.

Our analysis yields detailed findings and offers future recommendations, yet the Onboarding process extends beyond this. Direct collaboration with a new client also provides valuable insights into what to anticipate from our partnership and how we can progress efficiently.

This firsthand experience enables us to provide accurate time estimates and project costs, as we thoroughly understand expectations and project requirements. It ensures all stakeholders are aligned, facilitating smoother project execution and achieving desired outcomes.

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A portrait of Vice President of Business Development, Katie Jennings.

Katie Jennings

Vice President of Business Development