Deliverables that help reach a consensus

When a project kicks off, it’s crucial for the team to reach a consensus.

Projects stall, or fail to start, when everyone isn’t on the same page and it’s good to know what page everyone is on. You can have differing opinions. You, the designer, can be wrong. But it’s important to know when that’s the case. Making the right deliverables early on will help your team hit the ground running.

I’ve found a couple of basic deliverables that can really cut through the initial confusion. They’re easy to create, iterate, and destroy. It’s important to remember designers don’t just make final products. Good designers plan, and planning involves communicating and sorting through ideas. These three deliverables will help you do that quickly.

Lists, Wireframes, and Prototypes

Lists are a simple and obvious choice. Lists do a few things really well, they can define order, create a hierarchy, or point out commonalities.

Lists can organize content in a website, prioritize user goals, or document the intended order of actions when a user experiences a product. Lists can even help build taxonomies, that your team can agree upon to make sure everyone sees the world, and the problem, in the same light. The biggest benefit of a list is that they can easily translate into other artifacts and diagrams in a designer’s arsenal, such as flow charts or wireframes.

A wireframe for marketing collateral made in Axure

Wireframes are not just limited to on-screen interfaces, they can be used for any type of canvas, for floor plans, or even be three dimensional. They’re just boxes and lines, but can be created by anyone.

Low-fidelity prototypes can also be used outside of digital design. When working on an instructional booklet for a hardware device, I labeled sticky notes with topics (from the list that the stakeholders agreed upon) and stuck them to sheets of paper taped together to see how the booklet unfolded, and how the content was laid out. Changes were as simple as moving the post-it notes around.

Takeaways

You get what you give. Figure out what you need to know and design just that. Should your wireframe have text styles and color if you just need feedback on the layout of content? No.

Throw out something to see what sticks. When you’re friends who don’t know where to eat, offer up Mcdonald’s. With Mcdonald’s as the idea to beat, they’ll either suggest something better or settle. You’re teammates need something they don’t like in order to figure out what they do like.

Don’t fall in love with your deliverables. They are just artifacts you create, iterate, and destroy along your design process.

Design is built around feedback. When a deliverable doesn’t reach consensus, ask why? Was something not being communicated properly? Were expectations not met? Were they too high? Ask questions!

Regardless of your medium, design involves communication. Lists, wireframes, and prototypes are tools that any designer can utilize to achieve a consensus amongst a team.