6 Critical Points in the Design Process. Part 1.

The first rule of the design process is don’t tell anyone about the design process. Just follow it.

Otherwise, you may occasionally give your team or customer an idea that the design process is just a scheme, an established procedure for performing specific actions. So, don’t be surprised to hear something like “oh, so let’s throw out all unnecessary things”. Well, in this case, the chances of burying a potentially successful project increase.

Instead, it is better to let the team think that this is an indestructible monolithic process that “was here before us. We follow it. And if we don’t follow, the Universe will collapse.”

Just kidding. The Universe will not collapse. Nevertheless, your creative team should be on the same page with each other and with the customer. Sit everyone next to each other and encourage them to share their ideas at each step. Also, welcome the customer to participate and do a piece of an independent job. For example, the customer is almost the only person who can help your team with the end-user research.

And if the team wants to skip one or two stages, check if this stage is among the 6 critical ones. And if so, it may promise the collapse of the Universe within one specific project.

In my next posts, I would like to talk not about all but only about the critical stages of the design process. So, here is the list:

Vision

This tricky thing is also called a briefing. Going down to the most elementary level, this is the initial vision of the product presented by the customer on one sheet of paper.

These are 9–12 simple questions — hardly more. For example:

We, at GDE, have our approach to vision analysis. If you are interested — download the document or book a call. If not, Business Model Canvas or Lean Canvas were invented long before us.

How is the briefing useful for you and us?

In short, there is nothing more useful at this stage of development. It helps you see the goal and soberly assess whether you should fool your head with it. Your client also organizes global goals and resources, evaluates the scale of the venture, and analyzes the risks. In the language of business, they are starting to save money now.

Conditionally, it costs $ 30 to fill out this document — about half an hour of your teamwork. Returning the investment, a well-documented vision can save about $30,000 in all subsequent stages. This is the minimum cost of a misplaced goal. Thousandfold profit.

But what happens if you don’t have a briefing?

As for the money, everything is already clear. There is a risk of squandering the entire or almost the entire budget. As for time, you will lose it forever. That expensive time that could be spent on development will be mercilessly spent on a new strategy and redrawing 70% of the screens.

Oh, and your reputation. A dumb designer who doesn’t understand an idea will always be to blame for poor work. So, be smarter and ask all the questions in advance. And in the next post, we look at the second critical document of the design process.

Development Plan

The Development Plan is a complete written list of the future product’s features with their term and priority, approved by you, the client, and the development team (if any). There are a thousand miles between the Vision and Development Plan stages, the first diamond of the Norman double diamond model, and the answer to the question “Are we actually creating what we invented?”

The way you get along this path depends on the situation. Maybe an hour after the brief, they will send you this plan for approval, and you will only correct the dates in the deadlines. Perhaps you will walk in all circles of research hell, studying competitors, target audience, conducting brainstorming sessions, and analyzing every little thing. One thing is essential: before starting any global design work, this document must be ready. That’s all.

How is it useful?

You know exactly what, in what sequence and when should be done. Or not done. If your plans change or new features appear during further work on the project, they will be reflected in the development plan and shift all deadlines.

Is it good or bad? Bad for Waterfall, good for Agile. But in any of the options, a clear picture of events remains in front of you.

What happens if you ignore the dev plan?

Well, first of all… Monetary losses, which are quite commensurate with losses from the non-creation of Vision since it is not clear what exactly we decided to do. In addition, there is a risk of incorrectly assessing the project, having a too optimistic, or, conversely, too pessimistic forecast for its development. Overly creative personalities can suddenly get carried away with creating new features at the prototype stage and deviate from the plan described only in their mind.

In addition, the plan that you see may be radically different from the plan that the client sees. The price of your misunderstanding is the reputation of a not very smart designer and the protracted deadlines, as well as continuous stress in the process. I bet you might have heard the following questions from the customer:

According to the dev plan, you know exactly when and why this or that function is being done and what day it will be done. And most importantly, your customer knows it too.

User Flow

There are several ways to describe all possible application scenarios — from user stories and block diagrams to a highly detailed prototype. The most effective is a modernized user flow diagram both in terms of speed of creation and clarity. Unlike classic user flow, this is a hybrid of three documents at once: block diagrams, l-f prototype, and Data Model diagram fragments. Instead of text boxes, I create low-fidelity screens and add descriptions of data and functions to them, making them faster to read and easier to understand.

How is it useful?

User Flow is a squeeze-out of all your product architecture and user-friendly UX ideas, the first cut-off in UX design. It can be done in 1–2 weeks (about $ 200- $ 1200, depending on your rate). And it can be read and edited all at once. Right now, and not later, when a bunch of micro-solutions has already been drawn and implemented.

Yes, the customer will spend some time studying this document. But it is better for them to spend one day now than to pay for your edits for a month. Business understands the language of money well. Master it and appeal to potential losses.

What happens if you don’t do User Flow?

In the User flow phase, you create a global UX. There is no global UX — there is no skeleton on which you will then string micro features. Without a user flow, a designer spends threefold much time working out both local and global logic in a highly detailed prototype.

Want to make it a little cheaper? Then take a paper, a pen, and count. One week to create User Flow versus two months of the design of the wall is a weighty reason, both in hours and money.

Plus, don’t rule out the possibility of mistakes and interesting ideas developed in vain because they suddenly didn’t stick together at a later stage. And again, your reputation is at stake, an increased likelihood of burnout due to bad decisions, damaged relationships with customers, extended deadlines — do you need it?

Stay tuned. In the next post, we will look at the next critical documents.