Everyone has their own way of diving into a new project. Some sketch ideas, others like to talk to the people involved to get a better feel of what has to be done; and there might be some people who jump right into Photoshop and start designing right off the bat.
So what’s the benefit of following the principles of something like Design Thinking or Google Design Sprint, if what I really want is to start working right away and don’t waste my or my client’s time?
Those are packaged methodologies, a lot like a recipe, to give you a guideline on how to design your products/websites/apps/experiences with these core concepts in mind:
- Empathy for the end user
- Freedom to think and ideate several solutions
- Early prototyping and testing of assumptions
- Iterative processes
Empathy for the end user
That’s what UX is all about, right? right? Are you thinking about your end user when you are designing that cool looking app prototype on Adobe XD? Have you talked to any users? Or are you basing your design on your assumptions of what they need, what they like and what problems you think they have?
The starting point for all of these methodologies is understanding the problem, talking to the stakeholders to get a 360 view of the situation and then understanding the end user with different research tools, be it an interview, observation, survey or user testing. The important part is to understand them, to ultimately empathise with their pains and desires, surfacing insights from their behavior.
Then, we can share our results and insights with the rest of the team, with empathy maps, users personas or customer journey maps. I think the format is not that important as gaining the benefit of the understanding from the process.
As the name suggest, the people who actually use our products are the core of our processes.
Freedom to think and ideate several solutions
We spend so much time working on designs and in some cases, development of these applications, that we fall in love with what we have created, and eagerly defend our work instead of hearing what the client or user has to say.
Design Thinking or Sprint Design both suggest that you take a step back, and before you invest several hours in one polished solution, you think about and generate several ideas in a lower fidelity, to allow yourself to creatively reach a solution that can be better and more interesting than your first obvious one.
In a collaborative environment, this process is accelerated, with the exchange of ideas between partners in a rapid pace ideation exercise. Sketching, storyboarding, mapping and wireframing are some tools that can help you quickly explore a divergence of ideas before diving into a chosen path. Remember: lots of ideas first, then start exploring a couple that make sense.
Early prototyping and testing assumptions
In the classic project management methodology, we invest a lot of time planning and then building our project, to finally launch it at the end of a long process. When it’s finally live, then we start measuring and discovering situations, bugs or things that simply doesn’t make sense to our users.
On the contrary, when we were in kindergarten, we started playing right away with the toys, materials and friends we had at hand. Early prototyping is going back to that time, freeing our mind to start playing and testing our designs with other people to learn more about how it can help them and in what cases it needs to be perfected or enhanced. Prototyping allow us to “fail early”, without investing hundreds of hours into the development of a product and then hundreds more perfecting it. It doesn’t have to be digital, it can be a paper prototype or storyboard to show and test with your users, the goal here is testing your assumptions.
We discover and learn with each step of the process, so we will be revisiting our previous phases to adjust them with our new findings. At the end of the process, we might even go back and start again to focus on a new part of the product. Our designs will not be static solutions, they will evolve with time and with each iteration of our research and ideation process.
In the words of McCartney and Lenon: “When I get to the bottom, I go back to the top of the slide”… after all the rounds of ideation and testing, go back and test again.
By the book?
So where do we start? Should you do a full week design sprint on your next website redesign project? It depends!
The important thing is that we have the recipe… how much or how little we use of each ingredient will depend on our very particular circumstances.
You might start small, asking your client to schedule meetings with their users so you have the opportunity to interview and understand them before starting the design process or by sketching different solutions based on their pain points and then testing them by presenting hand drawn sketches to users.
The important thing is to start testing the waters with some of the tools these methodologies bring to the table, and then transforming your own personal way of working into one that has the end user in your sights but tailored to your style.