Redesigning the Design Process: How to Work More Efficiently
In today’s fast-paced and highly competitive world, companies are continually searching for new ways to work more efficiently. Often, what determines how efficient a product team is, is the process that they follow when creating products. Since it’s impossible to work efficiently if you follow an inefficient process, this has a significant impact on the final results of a project.
1. No more lone designer work
Many product teams still believe in the power of the talented solo designers—designers who can solve the most complicated tasks working completely alone.
Of course in real life, product design doesn’t work in this way. The best designs rarely come from a single mastermind designer; instead, they come from teams that work together as a unit.
In order to work as a unit, the team needs to:
Build a shared vision
Shared understanding is what creates a foundation for great design. And this understanding is created when everyone on a team has a shared goal, and know how they plan to achieve it (in other words, when they have a clear product strategy). Every team player should understand the role they play in this strategy. When this understanding is reached, everyone knows the value they bring to the organization, and this can motivate them to work harder.
Create an environment that supports collaborative work
It’s not uncommon for products to be created by multiple teams with numerous disconnects between them. The most common example is when design and development teams communicate with each other only during design handoff, instead of throughout the whole design process.
However, without any doubt, good collaboration and communication between all people involved in the design process (developers, designers, researchers, product managers, etc.) is an essential requirement for product success. Collaborative work in a cross-functional team not only brings in different perspectives, but also initiates parallel processing of the tasks. When people work closely together, they start to understand the needs of each other better. And this understanding helps the team move faster.
2. Break barriers to innovation
In the past couple years, the word ‘innovation’ has become almost a buzzword in the design community. Every team wants to create innovative, breakthrough products. But innovative designs don’t happen because a team suddenly decides to create only innovative products—instead, they are born of environments that actively support innovation. There are two essential aspects of these kinds of environments.
“Every team wants to create innovative, breakthrough products. But innovative designs don’t happen because a team suddenly decides to create only innovative products.”
Every voice is being heard
There are dozens of examples of times when an idea that seemed ridiculous at first resulted in a commercially successful product. This is why it’s essential for a product team to be open-minded. Each team member should be able to share their thoughts on how to solve the problem. Team members should get together to discuss all ideas, and the best ideas should be further worked upon.
There is freedom of action
Creative freedom is an essential ingredient of innovation. People are far more motivated to build solutions they came up with rather than to build a solution that someone handed to them. It’s vital not to force people to follow a specific path—instead, let them come to their own way of solving the problem.
3. Follow the Lean UX way when creating products
The Agile process is the backbone of the design process for many companies. It allows product teams to work fast. But even with powerful Agile methodologies, it still possible to spend a lot of time creating a product that will need a refinement (or even a complete rework) after its release. To understand why this happens, we need to take a step back and discuss the common pitfall that many product teams fall into when creating products.
Every product design starts with an assumption—the product team believes that they framed the user problem correctly, and all they need to do is to create an actual solution. Quite often, product teams skip the validation phase for this assumption—instead, they simply create product requirements.
What happens next is that the team works hard to create a tangible solution that it plans to test with users. All too often, the first results of user testing shows that the solution doesn’t work for real users. If you’ve ever been in such a situation, you know how hard it is to see that your solution has collapsed.
Product teams should stop assuming that they know exactly what they’re building. Instead, they should frame everything as a hypothesis. By its nature, a hypothesis is a guess, and each guess should be validated before a product team commits to building something. And after a product team forms a hypothesis, it needs to find the fastest way to validate that hypothesis.
“Product teams should stop assuming that they know exactly what they’re building. Instead, they should frame everything as a hypothesis.”
Take a different approach to design deliverables
UX design for digital products has traditionally been a deliverables-based practice. The value that the team brings to an organization was determined by whether the team was able to create something tangible (such as a prototype).
But if a product team wants to practice Lean UX, it should change this way of thinking—switch from ‘we shipped the feature’ to ‘we created something that positively impacts user behavior.’ Lean UX teach us that we shouldn’t design something just because we can—instead, product teams need to put less emphasis on deliverables and more on the experience being designed. A product team shouldn’t commit to building something before the team knows exactly how this change will be beneficial for their users.
4. Make user research a natural part of the design process
Most product teams are familiar with user research and the benefits that it brings to the product design process. Properly conducted user research can tell you a lot about a product’s users—who they are, what they want to accomplish, and how exactly they want to do it.
Despite the fact that many product teams are familiar with user research techniques, it’s still not that easy to integrate user research naturally in design process. In fact, it’s one of the most challenging tasks for product design teams.
5. Redesign product team meetings
The moments when all team members get together to discuss different ideas and share their perspectives are crucial for project design. Unfortunately, way too many meetings fall flat—they deliver much less value than expected. It’s time to change that. Product teams shouldn’t complain about bad meetings; instead, they should redesign them