Do you want to build a snowman? A view into UX collaborative working

At Maxwell Forest we use a collaborative design process. We take elements of Agile and Lean design philosophy and tailor it to fit our own workflow, creating an open design culture in which we can form a greater number of diverse ideas to implement, combine or build off.

BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD

Recently we began working on the new version of the Identity feature for Safedome. The original version was working but didn’t ‘feel’ right; aesthetically it would fail when too many email addresses were added. It wasn’t a great implementation or solution, and we knew we could create better, so we decided to clear the canvas and start again.

We gathered two UX designers, two engineers, two developers, our BA, the product manager and a QA tester. We identified the original problem and brainstormed some new ideas. Shared input was critical for fostering ownership in this part of the process. We then busted out my favorite (and essential) UX tools — pens and paper — and got our hands dirty.

BRAINSTORMING & SKETCHING

We rapidly filtered through many concepts, discarding the weaker ones to allow the cream to float to the top. We drew interfaces while we literally prodded and poked the drawings and cut-outs, gesturing with them how we would on a real device. This process instantly highlights what can work, what feels intuitive, and what feels easy to use before having to push pixels or program code.

Once we got to a point at which we all felt we’d hit upon a great interface, the developers went off and produced basic but functional versions of the screens we had drawn. To do this they utilized some of the premade components from the living style guide we’d put in place, which allows them to work without needing to wait for design approval.

FUNCTION & FORM (COME TOGETHER)

It wasn’t long before we were able to quickly test the new interface. We could click through the flow and make sure it was as clear and intuitive as we felt it was during the sketching phase. Meanwhile the designers translated the sketches into high fidelity designs, taking the essence of the drawings, adding detail and working them into an interface using the Safedome design patterns. Our BA opened the project’s Confluence and began to document the decisions we made about the application behaviour, while QA started writing tests for the new section of the app.

We repeated this process a number of times, each time bringing back a more refined version of the feature. Any problems we encountered emerged early in the process and were solved almost instantly.

STRONG PROCESS = BETTER RESULT

The strength of our approach lies in that everyone brings their own constraints and perspectives to the table. When sketching and discussing ideas, developers start from edge cases while designers start with a concept, a vision, and an overall more holistic view. In our experience, recognising and understanding edge cases within a broader context enables us to design a better experience for the end user.

Having an open design process also means we spend less time trying to convince and persuade; everyone is involved and aware of decisions from the beginning.

When everyone knows the problem and agrees on the solution, development and approval happen so much quicker. The result? A much better workflow and a better product.


Originally published on the Maxwell Forest Draw & Code blog December 23, 2015.

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