Web Specification Development
Introduction: Before you embark on an ambitious web design (or re-design) project, it's vital to know what is achievable. This will involve making sacrifices, whether it is in terms of features, content production or even loading times. Give your community members the power to resolve these trade-offs by discussing which features are most important to them.
Method: Start by creating a forum topic that is build around the theme of feature availability. Introduce the topic, highlighting to participants that not all the features discussed within threads will make it into the final build. Explain that their feedback will be used to guide which features/ design elements will be prioritised, influencing the end product.
Probe Community Members on Specific Feature Requests
Next, create threads around individual ideas that are currently being considered. There are two main ways of introducing features. The first is a simple yes or no question - this can be helpful in deciding whether to persue a feature further. The second matches two features against each other and asks community members to explain, if only one could be built, which they would choose.
Carefully monitor responses and probe for information where possible. This is not a quantitative exercise, so you are not looking to tally the amount of votes either way in any given thread. Instead, you'll want to mine the rich qualitative feedback for the motivations & values that drive participants to feel a certain way.
Benefit: Opening up the often secretive website development process to a community forum ensures that your final experience is relevant to users, cutting waste and streamlining the online experience. Understanding the relative importance of features also gives your team the chance to prioritise, ensuring the development process is both realistic & achievable.
Explore and test user experiences once your website is live to learn which elements need to be improved to increase engagement.