In this section, I want to talk about how I approach design
Design and design-related professionS to me ARE a lot about practice, where you, as a creator, need to produce something pleasurable and useful for users, feasible from technological as well as viable from a business perspective. Balancing between these requirements is the art of design.
From my experience, the design of digital products is an iterative process where communication plays one of the most important roles at all stages and enables you as a designer to align the team. Whenever you and your team are doing research, ideation or testing it is crucial to ensure that ideas are communicated clearly.
Practice makes us better for sure, however, what I believe makes a good designer into a great designer is his/her ability to empathize and understand users' thoughts and feelings and their behavioral patterns which brings us to cognitive science. Theories of cognitive science are concerned with mental models. These models, the way we perceive the world around us, influence the way we use and expect to use products.
In my approach, I try to be aware of mental models that target audience have and create products that fit with these models, or if the interaction is innovative but better than the existing solution, I provide users with visual cues and information to help them learn new ways of using products.
To make the most useful products efficiently I follow the Donald Norman’s 5 stages of design: Empacise, Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test
This stage is called emphasise simply because it is about empathy, which is crucial in understanding users’ needs, motivations and frustration. Before starting designing and putting your ideas on paper, it is vital to do the research about whom you are designing for.
Planning your research is the first step: I try to be clear of what I want to get from research as well as what methods I want to use in this particular case, what data I want to collect. It is important to devote enough time for research, otherwise the team might end up creating the product which is not in demand.
The choice of methods depends on the case, however I normally, if I have a chance to start with observations.
- Insights from users' behaviors
- Reveal unexpected behaviors and actions.
For example, for one of my projects concerned with enhancing museum experience, some participants reading the notes on the board carefully without writing anything
- Very powerful in revealing users mental models.
For example, for one of my projects concerned with enhancing museum experience, quite a lot of participants said that they would not leave a written message on the wall since they think it is childish.
- Great tool to examine whether the problem actually exists
- Provides a much bigger sample and statistically more valid results.
The goal of this stage is to identify the main target groups of people as well the problem that you as a team are trying to solve. After doing enough research it is the time to analyse and synthesize the data with an intention to spot pattern in user behavior.
My typical deliverables from this stage are:
- User Journey
I believe that it might appropriate sometimes to co-create personas with actual users or internally with the team. I have noticed that contribution from each member whenever he/she is a developer or marketer, not only allows us to spread a common understanding of archetypical users among the team but create a better recognition of these personas over design process.
As soon as personas and journeys are created then it is the time to come up with design statement and product requirements.
Ideation is a fun part, they say. It is actually, however as a designer, I need to be careful of how to ensure that ideation is effient and productive. Because of the relatively unstructured nature of ideation it is important to prepare for it and bring some structure to make the most of ideation time. I normally try ideating with the members of my team (2-4 people). Before the day of ideation, I plan an ideation session and send some activities to participants in advance in order to save time and get their heads around the topic. In oder to provide structure to ideation I create some activities.
To facilitate creativity and ideas I prepare visual props and some other materials such as sticky notes, pens and paper , etc. Whenever possible I try break ideation sessions down to 2 or 3: I have noticed that people get tired easily and run out of ideas after a couple of hours.
At this stage we try to come up with different design alterves using pen and paper to illustrate out ideas and then discussing who they fit our personas needs. Creating multiple alternatives is crucial at the beginning of the ideation stage since it allows to expand on the topic without spending much of the budget. It will be much more expensive to do it later in the design process.
After creating a couple of alternatives, it is the time to pick the best one and proceed with high-fidelity designs and prototype. I normally start with wireframing, which is less expensive and relatively easy to do: black and white, only layout is considered. Wireframes as a deliverable help me to understand whether information architecture is right and things are on the right place. Thus, I typically do a walkthrough with some team members who kindly give me some feedback.
1. High-fidelity Design
After a round of iterations, when wireframes are ready, I start filling out the pages with colour and style - my favourite bit. Then the next step would be to create a prototype. My favourite software that uses for both designing and prototyping is Figma: it creates natural interactions and transitions of UI elements which make a prototype very close to a real product.
Evaluation should be happening throughout the design process and with every ir=teration comes evaluation. This helps me to imporve dedesign and usability gradually, so by the time when the product is sort of in production and useability testing is needed, the number and severity of issues is minimised. It might be also valuable to do heuristic review of the application in order to spot general usability issues.
Before doing testing with actual users, I run a pilot tests to ensure that prototype works fine and also to estimate how much it would take to do summative (usability metrics) or formative (usability issues) testing. Planning the testing and recruitment of participants might take time, especially if you target user group is niche.
For example, for my previous we designed a product for people with IBD and recruitment took about 3 to 4 months, which is not bad. We tried not to interfere with their announcements and events such as World IBD days, etc. During the testing session itself I typically ask users to think aloud and record their screen.
Found issues and then categorised and prioritised for redesign/redevelopment.