How following the design process and investing in research can save you money and create a better product
As we become more and more used to instant gratification, we’ve become disconnected from seeing all the hard work it takes to reach the desired outcome.
This is because most of this hard work was done in the past and we are building on great work done before us. Thus, we have no connection to the process. This applies to our relationship with food, relationships, careers and of course, technology.
Advancements in technology have changed what we can do and how fast we can do it. Everything is at our fingertips, and as a society we are impatient. No-one is more impatient than a start-up founder looking to release their product because time is always an important factor. They are often also too close to the project and believe that they have the ‘golden idea’ and that the quality of the idea outweighs the need for an extensive process.
Unfortunately, good design is very much a process…which takes time and therefore money.
"If you think good design is expensive, you should look at the cost of bad design" - Ralf Speth
My job as a product designer, is to help create the best product possible, for both the business and the user by avoiding all assumptions. This frequently entails informing non-designers about the importance of the design process and trying to encourage start-ups to let me do user research.
Usually, but not always, businesses will have conducted extensive research before feeling the need to reach out to us and begin the process of building their product. However, we often find that this research lies in the market side of the venture. My job is to refocus attention on the user and the problem which the business is setting out to solve.
The design process starts with empathising with the user. An understanding of the user and their problem lays the foundation for the successful exploration of all solutions and for the validation of any decisions which are made along the way.
This is done by conducting research to understand the user and their problem and by putting ourselves in their shoes. This puts us in a better position to understand them and solve their problem and shape the product accordingly, based on insight gained from data, rather than the subjectivity of heavily invested parties.
During the Empathise stage, we observe and document details that relate to our users. Synthesis, on the other hand, involves creatively piecing the puzzle together to form whole ideas. We then organise, interpret, and make sense of the data we have gathered to define the problem." - Interactive Design Foundation
This is a crucial stage when developing the product. It ensures we use the information and insights we have gathered during research to come up with a focus to guide the problem-solving process and creating a design vision.
We do this by synthesising the research with various documents such as a customer journey map, empathy map or whatever is required, and by creating a problem statement. All of these lay the foundation for the idea generation which starts during the design phase.
Working in the space between user needs, business goals and technological feasibility, we start to generate ideas and explore solutions.
Every project needs its own approach to generating ideas, and if you skip or rush this stage, you reduce the ability to innovate and explore all different solutions. We need to innovate to come up with the best solution for the particular problem we are trying to solve. This doesn’t mean avoiding all commonly found design patterns and conventions, but it involves trying to avoid jumping to solution-focused thinking like “Make it like Uber for X and Facebook for Y” or “I know what features it needs” “I know how I want it to work”. I hear variations of these statements on a daily basis.
You may be lucky and the approach Uber took may be perfect for your business, user and their problem, but it’s unlikely.
As we start to generate more concrete ideas, we translate our sketches to the digital world, before creating prototypes, testing them, and then adding the visual design.
I personally believe that testing both at low fidelity and later on, hi-fidelity is essential. Low-fi testing enables us to hone in on the functionality of the design, rather than the user getting distracted by the images and colour, which is really a shortcut into “I don’t like that colour” type of comments.
Testing enables us to test our decisions with real end-users and improve the product. The more rounds of testing carried out, the more we can validate our decisions, and ultimately, the better the product will become at solving the problem.
Good design is never truly finished, it’s a continual process of research, testing and iteration. Good companies and good products always look to improve their product; the competitive nature market compels them to. Users are more knowledgeable than ever and they expect excellence.
Additionally, the environment is always changing, as do our user’s tastes, wants and needs and it’s important to stay on top of the problem space.
However, in practical terms, the delivery stage is where we consider the design phase to end at Red C. This is where we will hand over all the deliverables we have created throughout the process and you will have a working prototype, which can be used for any purpose you may have, such as showing potential investors. This can also be used as a bridge to development and providing our developers with the information and assets to begin the build.
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