Over the past four years, working in startup teams and dealing with cross-functional needs, I came up with a process that allows me to efficiently lead design projects, whether I have many designers working with me or if it's a single-designer show.
1- Define and Empathize
Research & Strategy
Every design project starts with some initial research, so we can get our thoughts ready for potential problems to solve and explore examples that can help us to become a more successful company. We go through our previous researchers, or if required we know how to plan successful design researches. The thing to consider is to make it lean and effective. I love doing user interviews, contextual inquiries and of course I always track the user behavior metrics to make sure I'm observing everything, so that I have the presence in users' interactions.
Outcomes: Initial design strategy document and UX goals, a list of required resources
As soon as the roles are assigned, we’re good to start doing more research and thinking about the solution for a design project. To share those thoughts with the team, we will run a brainstorm or what we call “Design Studio” to help everyone be more and more effective in the process to come up with ideas and solutions. This meeting can be the same as the one running in squads, but we call it out here, in case there is a project that is not part of our squads, we should still make sure a design studio session is being held.
Outcomes: written or drawn ideas and flows, a question to answer in the design, questions to be answered in the user testing process
2- Design and Conceptualize
Once the design studio is done, the Product Designer is responsible for taking the ideas into a clean wireframe so that we can continue the discussion from there.
Outcomes: Wireframe with initial annotation and flow.
Every design project needs to reviewed for the copywriting and messaging, I believe messaging is a strong part of the design. The reason is copywriting plays a vital role in the user experience, especially when we talk about the mobile first approach. Also, we want always to make sure we’re capturing the creative thoughts earlier in the process, so we can get help on selecting appropriate assets.
At this stage we might need to test some messaging options. Well, it's not a complicated work to finalize them and put them in front of our users. In order to do that I mostly use online tools such as Usabilityhub or UserTesting to make sure the messaging is clear.
Outcomes: The required copy for the project, test results.
First Round of Design
The text provided in the previous step along with the original thoughts would be great food for thought for the Product designer and potentially interactive designers in future, to run their ideas and design a first version of the design. The goal is to be lean and mean and get something to start thinking deeper.
Based on the project we may need to run user testing or any user interviews. It will allow us to get answers to some of the questions that we got during our design process, so we can have more confidence as we’re thinking about a final design.
Outcomes: Test results, list of must haves and nice to have for the final design
Once we got our rough design and potentially some user feedback, it’s a great time to go back to our entire team related to a project and get critiqued on the first round of design. This will allow the designers to get honest feedback and have some understanding of what to focus on the final design. It’s also a great time for engineers and marketers to challenge the proposed solution from their perspective.
After this, we should be able to accurately estimate when is the delivery time for the final design.
Outcomes: Design critique summary and notes.
4- Produce & Evaluate
Once we’re done collecting feedback, it’s time for the PD to clean up the design and finalize everything to get to a perfect design outcome.
Outcomes: Final Sketch file
Once the final design is ready, the design team and creative team member along with other stakeholder would have a final review. This review can be done very quickly, we’re hoping that most of the feedback has already been discussed in the design critique and this last review is to make sure the high priority issues have been resolved.
Outcomes: A good to go green light!
A design cannot be handed off to for the development unless there is some description about the details in the experience. It’s impossible if we think a delivered design has nothing to be discussed. There are required interactions, hover details, animations or mobile restrictions.
Outcomes: Written annotation and documents, completed prototype
When we hand off a design, we should make sure that all the assets are sliced correctly and prepped for the development. Assets should be optimized for the web, and mobile experience, so large file sizes are not accepted. Once we’re done with this, we should make sure a shareable link is available for engineers to access the folder that includes all the assets and documents related to a project. If there are multiple variants of an asset, we need to clarify the reasons behind it in the design document, so developers are aware of the story.
Outcomes: Final assets and shareable folders
We cannot hand off a project without briefing our engineers. Spending a few minutes at the beginning of a handoff will save so much time down the road. The goal of this part of the process is to make sure nothing is missed, and PD and the engineers working on a project have the entire story shared.
Outcomes: Good luck!
At this stage, we’re monitoring how the solution performs and if we have to define problem statements to loop back and solve them in the same cycle.
Outcomes: New set of problem statements
In 2016 I had an interview with CoronaGeek and I talked a little bit about my process and communication with development teams. Added the video here for reference.