A process to fill the gap between the two
Product design is one of the most interesting fields in the industry. When I started product design for a highly reputed organization who was dealing with aviation applications the industry was still growing and most of the applications that were developed that time had so many issues when coming to the user experience. Most of the organizations were giving solutions for the problems that their customers had but customers have more issues when come to use the products since the tasks become complex to understand and so much of back and forth work has to be done to get a task completed. Most of the time the user get confused weather the tasks are completed or not.
Well, we all have been there but we still don’t think how our clients or our user thinks. We think what they want and we create designs and ask them what they think at the end. Most of the time the users being mesmerized by cool designs forget everything and think this is all that they want until they use them for real.
Yes at the time I thought after a talk or two I got what they want and I understood every problem he/she had in the interviews I made with them. But the point is when talking to a client or product owners they tend to talk about part of the problem, not the whole thing. After seeing a design and talking about the customer journey, then only I understood that there is more to the requirement all the time. But by then the visual designs are done and I have to add a couple of new designs to the applications and would take loads of time to complete and there can be changes then and there that has to be done to the application.
A process to mitigate the issues
When creating a process it is quite difficult to come with a clean process that would help me to mitigate most of the design issues and reduce the gap between what actually the users need from us and what we think what user needs from us. I have followed the design process by the book but when coming to real world problems I took some parts of the process and improvise for my advantage.
Customer/ Stakeholder Interviews
In this phase, I talk to the client and get the basic idea of what he/she needs and what are the problems that they encounter in the current system or the process that they go though to complete a task. Sometimes your clients will clearly communicate what he/she needs from you and tell exactly what they want. Some even go to the level of drawing a simple sketch to communicate a better idea to you. Sometimes your client might not have a proper idea and might not know what they want. So in those cases, we have to ask loads of questions. The question “why?” always helps to find out more information from your client.
Find who your users are and how they would use the system to complete a task.
You can create several personas’s depending on the user’s groups that you are focusing on. In my case, I have selected two different type of users who will be using different parts of the application to achieve the same goal. This will help you to find which user groups we are focusing on and find out who we are designing for. Most of the time we might not meet them face to face but we might be able to talk to them and ask questions. After looking into the shared attributes we will be able to understand our user groups as I have found in the diagram here.
After finding out who are we designing for I came up with a simple flow of the function by brainstorming and creating a hypothesis of how the flow of the function going to be. The starting point and the end point of the function will be different to each other but the function can be interconnected to each other. You can create a different type of flows separately.
Communicate back with your users to validate your process
When you have a basic idea about the process before going to wireframes you can communicate back to your client and have a discussion regarding the process you have made.
The back and forth discussions with your client would help you to understand and define what are the key points in the user flow and what parts of the process we need to put more effort on. The client will be able to get a clear idea about the functionality and will be able to give more feedback than before to you making your idea effective and efficient before going into wireframes.
After communicating several times we will be able to finalize a process that both the designer and the client both agree on and willing to move forward. This will also help the users to find out the key features of the application and how and where should they be applied in.
Put your ideas in to pencil and paper
I am more a brain to pencil person so I believe in flowing all my ideas on a piece of paper than in an electronic screen. I draw the whole detail process on papers and put all the screens on the board so everyone in my office can see. By doing that I aspect my team members to collaborate on the designs I have made.
You might wonder if “my team is stationed in a different place, my client is outside the country”, then what should I do? For that problem, I use a very effective prototyping, collaboration & workflow platform called InVision to add all the designs made on paper by scanning and digitalizing the paper sketches. I have made. Then we talk to application users and clients and give them the opportunity to have a go at the application. In this way, there is less distraction towards the elements of the application such as colors, fonts, and background. The sole focus will be on the application design and the placement and function of the each element that has been used.
Then the users will be able to give more effective feedback towards the design allowing me to understand what are the areas I need to improve and I should create more screens to make A/B testing on.
Do the visual designs
When your wireframes are refined and all the requirements are clear you can start doing the visual designs for the process that you are giving a solution to the exciting problem.
After the designs are made for the application flow you are trying to solve the problem you can present it to the team as well as your client.
In this process, I encounter really less change in the visual designs and had overall a really good feedback from the client as well as the users of the application. I was able to save time on changing the visual designs heavily (that’s always a pain in the ass) and be more productive in giving out solutions for the problems I encounter.
This is a process I handled to minimize the re-work on designs when designing products at 99x Technology as a product designer. I hope most of you are using different techniques and finding out different methods to do your work effectively. I would like to know your thoughts on this process and it will help me to improve my self. :D