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Anyone working in a creative or development position cringes and dies a little when a client says “I want something different.” It truly is a challenge to create something that will meet an objective when you get directions like “make it kind of abstract – like you’re looking at art” or “it needs to be something other than this, but I don’t know what.” Without concrete details or examples, it’s more often than not a recipe for failure.DilbertRequirements

Vague direction means you’re going to be in it for a long haul with a lot of revisions and the accompanying frustration and headaches.  You’re not quite sure if/when you’re hitting the mark because the mark is fuzzy and out-of-focus.

Recently I was told to add more FLAIR to content copy without being given insight to what the client thinks is FLAIR. My first thought went to the movie flairOffice Space. However, I was certain the client was not looking for small buttons to add to his suspenders, so I went back and tried to pinpoint that definition. It took some coaxing but I was able to come away with more definitive word choices so I could recraft the content more to his expectation.

It’s important to give clear and concise direction, and an effective way to get the best work within budgets and timelines. Think of it as a “how-to” approach.

  1. Outline the objective
  2. Provide as much detail and directive as possible
  3. Avoid vague terminology open to interpretation (semantics: it may mean something different to someone else)

A great piece of advice is: If the actual outcome differs from the desired outcome, your instructions have failed.

What’s the vaguest direction you’ve received in a project lately? And what was your process for trying to get to the true meaning without overspending, over revising and dying a little inside.