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I am in the position where a client is asking for some visual materials to show to his boss in order to get the go-ahead to sponsor a new project.

This client has an existing site that we designed and built, but its purpose has changed. It has overgrown its intended use, and we are proposing a re-architecture of their site, possibly breaking it into multiple sites. We may potentially do some usability testing. But we first need to re-visit the client's goals and intended user groups.

At this stage, before we have settled on goals and requirements and before any of the real work has started, what can I provide to the client for him to sell it to his boss?

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Numbers. Bosses need numbers. –  DA01 Dec 7 '11 at 16:17
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When you say "visual materials" I'm going to assume you mean non-text documentation.

At this state of your project, you need to communicate 3 things to the stakeholders: establish the need, quantify the benefits of meeting that need, and scope the solution. It sounds like you may not be able to scope the solution sufficiently without funding research and/or testing, so you may need to break up your solution into a specific scope for research and a ballpark for the overall solution.

As for the visual part, I would focus on graphics that represent the problem's evidence metrics (if you have them) or heuristic evaluation of the existing system (if you don't have metrics), and the expected magnitude of the impact of solving the problem (e.g. a graph of potential sales lost). If you have realistic data about the potential gains, then incorporate a nice bar graph scaled so that the relative improvement looks impressive.

I would steer away from mockups of architectures or UI for the proposed solution, unless you are confident that you already know everything you need to properly solve the problem. These tend to lock in expectations and make later changes more difficult. They can also trivialize the effort required in the minds of the stakeholders -- Why am I paying you for research & design, just build what you showed me! --

This is a general starting point based on my own experience - best would be to get insight into the boss' mindset and tailor your pitch accordingly.

Good Luck!

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It depends a lot on the client (the boss). You are lucky to have an interface in the form of his representative/ executive who should provide or get you an idea of the organization's perspective/ other indicators.

Then try to think like the client. No two clients expect the same or similar things. No one deliverable impresses all prospective clients alike.

Specifically, the alternatives could be charts showing the improved benefits, static images showing a more impressive visual appeal/ better usability to draw more customers, so on.

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