I don’t know if it ever happened to you, but for me, it’s very common to take some things for granted. And I’m not talking about the importance of being grateful. I’m talking about a syndrome I like to call the “obviousness paradox”. This syndrome consists in being so caught up in our own life/ environment/ work that we start to think that what we do, or think, is obvious for everyone else, so… there’s no need to explain! Right? Well, not really. It turns out that every person, or team, has their own particular flavor to add even to the most cookie-cutter like processes. So, by thinking something is obvious and therefore not explaining it to “outsiders” you are actually creating a knowledge gap.
Recently, I became aware that I suffered this syndrome. By talking to past clients/partners in crime, other designers and colleagues I noticed that I was taking for granted my design process. That is why I decided to write a post about it. It’s important to stress that I’m not saying you should adopt this process, nor that it is the best process in the world. I only want to share my two cents, in case someone finds it useful.
If I had to summarize my process in a single phrase I think it would be “I care about the user”. That might sound like a big cliché coming from a UX/UI Designer, but I mean it. That is what drives my process, because my personal opinion, my client’s opinion or even my boss’ opinion don’t mean much if it goes against a validated user need. We’ll get back to the “validation” thing in a moment. For now, I just want to say that this is the glue that holds the process (and my sanity) together.
What my process includes
Let’s begin! ?
I consider this to be one of the most important phases in the process because during this brief (ish) period of time you go from not knowing anything about your client, his business or his audience (to be referred to from now on as your users) to being well-versed in all of the above. And I don’t mean “having some idea”, I mean that you need to get to understand most of it, if not all of it. Otherwise, it will be very difficult for you to achieve quality results.
In this, and in all the following phases of the process I will list and describe the activities that I personally like to do during that phase. The activities, in practice, will vary depending on the project’s needs.
For this particular phase I like to conduct some (or all) of the following:
In that very dull period of time when the managers are prepping all the legal paperwork, I like to ask my client for data and get very much drunk on it. The data you might need (or be able to get) will depend on a number of factors, and it can include (but of course it’s not limited to):
- Analytics and other quantitative metrics
- Audience reports
- Documentation about the platform you are about to redesign
- Sales reports
- Market data
- User stories
- Feedback gathered from a number of sources
- Notes about the possible problem
- Access to an intranet or otherwise private (or in-progress) environment
What you do with the information you receive will be key for the development of the project. If you don’t get acquainted with the requirements, limitations and other data, you won’t get a complete picture to work on and to ask questions around.
What I like to do at this moment
Get one person on the client’s side that can be your main point of contact and ask a ton of questions. That person might refer you to others (or to written documents), but use that main point of contact to get a high-res depiction of the project’s environment and status.
My advice: don’t be shy. Again, you might think something is obvious, but chances are it’s not, so ask away. Only remember to use your criteria, I mean it’s probably not wise to ask “so, what do you guys do again?”. Inform yourself and then ask strategic questions.