Asking the difficult questions

For must of us product designers our process and thinking evolve as we mature in our roles. It’s an evolution that’s fun to look back at but also important to recognise.

1. Read requirements

Let’s jump into our time machine and set it to right at the start of our career. We’re ready to start doing things! Pretty much as soon as we get started however, we’re faced with the realisation that we can’t simply do anything we want. Clients and managers want to know what we’re doing and what they can expect so we need to be aware of requirements. Ok cool, we’ll read the requirements.

2. Avoid misunderstandings

It’s likely that we sooner or later will be faced with the horror of delivering something that didn’t meet our managers expectations. Maybe we didn’t understand the requirements fully? Maybe we thought we understood them? Never the less, we wasted peoples time. That’s cool though, we learnt our lesson and will ask more questions before and during the process to make sure we’re all aligned!

3. Feel confident

Ok here we get some breathing room. We understand how to ask the right questions, set expectations and deliver what our managers want. Life’s sweet.

4. Question features

This is where it gets interesting. We’ve not encountered any problems in a while, we’ve gotten a bit more confident and knowledgable. Time to stir things up. With out new won experience we start to question how our requirements are written. We start to notice where we can make a few suggestions. By this time it would be great if we also picked up some people skills so we don’t start pissing people off.

5. Question processes

We might go a bit further and start to question the process. We’ve noticed how previous mistakes could’ve been prevented if we’d know earlier what we know now. These are tricky times cause by now we’re starting to venture into resourcing and planning. There are bound to be some conflicting priorities here. Proceed with caution. How did we get to this point? We just wanted to design things!

6. Question product execution

Around the same time we start seeing the product we’re working on as a whole and understand how what we’re currently working on fits in (or if it doesn’t). By this time we start questioning whether certain features should even be built. These are seriously difficult conversations to have sometimes.

7. Question vision and mission

Now we’re getting close to being fired. We start to question the entire premise of what we’re building. By now we’ve also grown a little bit older. We become acutely aware that time is limited and that whatever we spend our time on building needs to be meaningful.

8. Question everything

Maybe this is just me?

As our product thinking matures it’s important to not forget that we’re in this industry to solve real problems for real people. And solving problems is never easy. We need to be present, motivated and not afraid to ask questions. Good luck out there fellow designers!