The Whos, Whats, Whens, Wheres, Whys. All questions about the brand's identity should be noted and considered at the very beginning. Who is the ideal user? What problem are you solving? When is the product used? Where is the product placed? Why are users behaving this way? ...
Understand exactly what the problems are.
The Hows. Zero in to what the main problem is and phrase it in a broad question to help facilitate ideas and discussion.
How can I get users to sign up? How can I prevent abandonment?
How can I get users to contact me? ...
What is the goal?
Though it may seem obvious at times and often unnecessary, the results may and often do surprise you. The competitor analysis, surveys, user personas, etc., comes into play here.
This crucial step will save you a lot of time (and money).
Know who you are designing for.
I never design a building before I've seen the site and met the people who will be using it.
A theory is posed on how to fix this horrid problem.
The identity of a brand is born - Style, Tone, Colours, Language, Imagery, Interactions, etc.
All while keeping the main goal in mind.
The user stories and sitemap dictates the design, rather than the other way round. It keeps the products user focused and promotes the cooperation between my client and I.
Prevents feature creeps and design dead-ends.
This is where the magic happens. Ensuring consistency across devices, a fully clickable high-fidelity wireframe is drafted, followed by the user interface designs. With a clear communication of vision and ideas, this in turn leads to higher productivity and efficiency, a.k.a less iterations.
Clear communication of vision = higher productivity & efficiency