My Design Process

Developing a process framework for designing solutions

Developing a process framework for designing solutions

My design process is similar to the basic design thinking approach. Empathy is a big part of the Define phase for me in that early on; I’m trying to use feedback and analytics in an effort to listen to users and better understand their needs. Reading through information available in Surveys, Support tickets and looking through the Product Roadmap can also help me to hear the voice of the user more clearly before beginning to define the problem.

Define

Soon after a project is formally kicked off, I look to work with key stakeholders to clearly define the purpose and scope of the project. The goal is to get everyone on the same page to make sure we’re solving the same problem. We’re also working to get validation that we’re solving the right problem.

Creating an overall project summary, along with a detailed problem statement help us to uncover constraints, as well as other considerations before starting to think of solutions. Working within the framework of an up to date Persona or Behavioral Archetype helps us to empathize with the users that we’re trying to solve problems for.

Finally, outlining a specific set of User and/or Business Objectives will help to ensure that the product design team and key business stakeholders have an opportunity to agree on the overall project objectives.

DELIVERABLES: Problem Statement, Creative Brief (short form), Personas, User stories

Research

When I have an opportunity to reimagine an existing solution, the research phase begins with documenting the existing solution. Flowcharts do a great job of providing a high level overview of the current solutions and can, in some cases; help the team to identify pain points that need to be solved for.

Competitive analysis is an opportunity to see how similar problems are being solved by other organizations. By this point, I’ve already noticed some common design patterns that exist across similar solutions. Recognizing these patterns allows me to extend my research outside of industry competitors and see how similar problems are being solved.

DELIVERABLES: Flowcharts, Storyboards, Journey Maps, User flows, Competitive Analysis

Design (& Iterate)

Updated User Flows and low fidelity wireframes help to visualize ideas for new solutions. This can include hand drawn sketches, flows and wireframes done in Sketch or Axure. In these early stages rapid idea generation and quick iterations on some of the stronger concepts.

As some of the best ideas start to come into to focus, I want to make sure these solutions are sound from an information architecture perspective. The density and hierarchy of information determine major parts of what will be the finalized user flow.

The visual design phase is where the wireframes are brought to life. Many of the User Interface design decisions are determined by the principles and components available within the design system. Thinking through edge cases and designing for empty states are part of the final decisions to be made before building the final prototype.

DELIVERABLES: Brainstorming, Sketches, Ideation, Low fidelity Wireframes, High fidelity Comps

Feedback

The entire design process is a collaborative effort. I’m looking for feedback from teammates and key stakeholders at both the Define and Research phase. Once the new concepts start to be represented visually, in the Design phase; I’m looking for feedback and validation of these design decisions. Getting a chance to see how users interact with the product is an educational process that leads informed decisions on further design iterations.

Build

Designer-developer handoff takes place when the design has been approved and finalized before getting ready to be built. In most cases, we’ve had development team members involved in the earlier phases of the design process. If designer-developer checkpoint discussions have been happening frequently and repeatedly throughout the process; the handoff of final assets will go much more smoothly. In this phase, we’re looking for design system consistency, platform specific guidelines and properly structured naming conventions for design assets.

DELIVERABLES: Interactive Prototypes, Style guide/pattern library

Analyze

Getting the solution into the real world and in front of users is the ultimate validation of the decisions that were made. Designing ways to receive in-app feedback is a great way to hear the voice of the user.

DELIVERABLES: Usability and Analytics reports, Areas for improvement identified

Conclusion

There isn’t a one size fits all process that can work for every project. External factors that can influence the process include: timeframe, team composition and budget. I’ve documented the steps and phases of my ideal design process knowing that there’s no set structure for how projects are started or completed. The design process is iterative and almost never linear. The review of feedback and analysis often leads us to revisiting an earlier phase of the process. However, the concepts and focuses of each phase can be used to help build long lasting projects for the world to enjoy.