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Backcasting

Backcasting is the opposite of “forecasting.” When forecasting, we use information available today in order to make educated guesses about what will happen in the future. When backcasting, we start by imagining an ideal future state and work backwards, identifying what would be necessary to reach that future state. Like completing a maze backward, backcasting allows you to find the most straightforward paths while taking into account obstacles your users may face along the way.

Backcasting is sometimes referred to as “reverse engineering.”

Category:
Description

Schedule Time & Gather Materials

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Schedule Time:

  • Time Needed: 1-2 Days
Gather Materials

Gather Materials:

  • Several stacks of sticky notes
  • Pens or markers

Carry Out This Method

Woman writing on white board
  1. Designate a room with a long, spacious wall where you can map multiple successful futures, including actions and obstacles.
  2. Gather a group of stakeholders and members of your UX team for this discussion. This will be a collaborative workshop exercise.
  3. Discuss the team’s definition of “success.” This may be a user being happy with the completion of one task, or it may be increased income for the client over 5 years. Deciding this is vital for defining the top priority and eliminating the misunderstandings that delay resolutions.
  4. Discuss the current state of the product relative to that successful future.
  5. Have participants write on sticky notes, using one color for obstacles, another for user actions, another for assumptions, etc.
  6. Map the path necessary to reach the goal. Work backwards towards the present, addressing each obstacle along the way.
  7. Discuss the results with the group, change note placement or color, and remove or add sticky notes as necessary.
  8. Take photos of the final version of the map. Copy the information onto a spreadsheet, user journey map, or other document for later reference.

Try These Tips

  • Make paths visually clearer by using pins to run lengths of string across the map.
  • The most important part of this workshop is the agreed-upon definition of success for this product. Remind the team of this goal periodically to keep the project on track and avoid churn and scope creep.
  • The question you are trying to answer is, “For this future state to exist, what functionality and capabilities will we need?”

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