How To Create Clear Project Goals

by George Elkhabbaz, November 21, 2011

A lot of projects fail not because the original product vision was flawed, but because the execution plan lacks clarity, or does not set forth goals at the right level of analysis. The key to any successful project is having clear objectives and an clearer approach. Here I'll discuss a few basic approaches that will ensure that the project stays on track.

Whether you are leading a project or it already has a manager, before you kick off you must have answers to the following questions:

  • How will the project be deemed successful?
  • What are the business goals of the project?
  • What methodology will be used in the project (Agile/Waterfall...)?
  • What are the milestones of the projects (cut-off dates, approvals, reviews...)?

Having the answer to these questions you will have a clear picture about the project's approach, so you can create clear objectives.

Clear project objectives will help you:

  • Ask the right questions to gather information from business owners/stakeholders
  • Prioritize project requirements based on importance to the business and project
  • Leave a buffer to change in the design once the development starts
  • Have a clear set of KPIs with which to measure success

How does one identify good project objectives?

If you can understand the objectives without the use of jargon, and if they are measurable than you are on the right track. Plain and simple.

Some examples of poorly-formulated project goals:

  • "I want to be number one in the Middle East.” This statement is too broad. A project can help the company achieve that, but a project alone cannot achieve that goal. 
  • "I want our users to be talking about the project." This statement is a bit better than the previous one but still too vague and broad.
  • "I want to generate more sign-ups/opt-ins on our website." This one has a clear objective that is measurable, but only focuses on one step, so it’s a bit confined.

Ideal project goals would be in the following form:

  • Generating 25% more sign ups.
  • Increasing sales by 12%.
  • Increasing traffic to 10,000 unique visitors per day.

Where can you help as a User Experience Designer?

If you’re a good UX designer, you have good interviewing skills, good analytical skills, and know how to perform research... you have made yourself the Jack of all trades, but the master of one. You will have to put all of these to work if the project objectives are not clear.

You role will be to help the team understand the objectives and handling the SWOT analysis (Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats).

Going through an entire SWOT analysis will ultimately help you to get clear objectives that fit the company's strategy. You can define them and prioritize them accordingly and most importantly you will understand what the project is meant to accomplish. Setting up tasks and milestones should be a breeze now, and hopefully you will be able to handle any hiccups that show up. Good luck!


Ever since George first worked for an online directory back in 1998, he caught the digital bug and has since been immersed in 1 and 0s. He is an interactive manager for an international mobile brand (no free ads here) and a user experience consultant. He holds a degree in advertising and marketing and focuses on usability and user experience design. In his spare time he writes on his own blog (featured in a regional magazine) and contributes to a local tech blog, likes to share his opinion, and prefers not to write about himself in the third person. :) You can find him on twitter at @UxSoup.

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