Have you ever heard of a “Work Breakdown Structure”? Me neither. I was recently reading an article and the subject came up. So, like any curious UX Designer, my curiosity was naturally piqued by a new topic.
A Work Breakdown Structure does not have to have a fancy visual format. It can also be structured in a simple Excel spreadsheet.
So what is a Work Breakdown Structure anyways? According to Wikipedia, a Work Breakdown Structure is often used in project management and systems engineering. It is a deliverable-oriented breakdown of a project into smaller components.
OK that makes sense. So how could this technique be used in UX? I can see it being used in a variety of ways.
First, how about in information architecture?
A Work Breakdown Structure, or I’ll abbreviate it as WBS for short, could be used when documenting the different pages and subpages of a website. This could be an tidy way of showing page hierarchy as well as all of the different components that reside on every page.
A WBS could also be used to demonstrate the different pieces of an application, fromA Work Breakdown Structure. This could surface duplicate places where information resides. This could be especially important to discover if you are dealing with a very complicated application, that just seems to bloat to no end.
Don’t take assumptions at face value.
A WBS could also be used to break down the scope of a project. You could lay out the different portions of a site or app, and include dates the aspect would be worked on and the team players involved.
Not just scope, but a WBS can help a team work through a budget for a project. Use this process to lay out the different pieces of a project and estimate how much each of those pieces will cost to design, build and test.
From a technical side, a WBS could be used to illustrate where different versions or portions of your files reside on different servers. It could be a helpful way to surface where files are being saved and to see if there is any unnecessary duplication or old files that could be purged.
Overall, I find that a Work Breakdown Structure is simply a helpful way to surface information to share with others. Sometimes we assume just how things are structured. By working through this inventory, and truly mapping out in an (ugly) Excel document, we might just discover things we did not really know. As with any project involving UX, don’t take assumptions at face value. Sometimes working through exercises like creating a WBS document might prove very helpful indeed. Not only to show where things exist right now, but also how things can be improved in the future.