Why should you do reality checks in your design process?
Lesson I learned on design research, feedback, ideas validation and importance of user testing in order to stay on track.
In my previous article, I promised sharing 5 lessons I learned as UX designer during the past 4 years. Here goes the first one — focusing on a feedback and validation in order to stay on track towards goals in your design process.
Designing based on the unknown is like walking over a thin layer of ice — both bring the same uncomfortable feeling of unsureness and you can’t really build on them before you make sure the foundation is pretty solid.
1. Clarifying Assumptions
We all make assumptions. However, they need to be challenged and clarified; the earlier and more often, the better.
Why? It is all about reducing risks. You need to clearly see the difference between what is true, and what you assume.
Go and ask questions! Conduct research, interview users, ask stakeholders, talk to devs, ask your peers — do whatever you need to make sure you to get rid of any little feeling of unsureness.
Don’t keep it for yourself — do everything necessary so people stay on the same page.
And for those occasions you will need to live with the assumptions for a certain time, make sure to build an action plan on how to validate them on the go.
2. Having Feedback as a Habit
Asking for feedback frequently should become a strong habit of every designer. It will become very beneficial to you, no matter if you just decide to test your designs or even learning about your presentation skills.
I learned to seek feedback in every part of the design process, and I still do learn. Getting an early iterative feedback is powerful to improve your designs, whether it is provided by users or your team.
The following 3 types of feedback are those I seek the most:
Always ask your peers for a feedback. Constructive feedback from your team uncovers what you can no longer see. It gives you other perspectives to see the problem, and you get an expert point of view, which will help to eliminate basic mistakes. On top of that, it will help you to stay synced to be UX/UI consistent, in case your team works on multiple products. Peer feedback will also prepare your work before testing with users or presenting to management, etc.
Be hungry for feedback as well from product people, marketing, etc. All stakeholders involved will like to share their perspectives to the problem. Allow others to come up with their ideas. Collaborate together to distil the best solutions aligned with user needs and business. Sometimes you will need to make trade-offs. However, try to keep it in good balance — e.g. both users and business are important to keep the business running.
User feedback will provide you with huge support when advocating the design — because a UX designer working without users is like having no weapon. By validating your designs you will make your steps safe and it will give you extra confidence that things are just right! At the end of the day users are those ones that will be using it, right?
3. Testing your Designs
Your designs are just a hypothesis — before you prove they are understood by users; before you make sure they work as intended.
Do formative tests. Test your prototypes always with the right users, so the feedback is relevant.
Observe, learn and collect feedback on how users interact and understand the design (concept, UI interactions, terminology).
Iterate — make improvements, test again on prototypes and later on a real product.
I’ve found it very handy to do a pilot test before the actual test. It can even be a simple walkthrough with your peers. This will also help you to check the task scripts for the test, making sure they are clear enough to understand the task, while not being instructive nor guiding. Sometimes I catch someone in the kitchen or hallway just to get another perspective — it works great and it takes very little time!
…and what if there is no time for testing before the sprint begins?
As nothing is always ideal, sometimes you may not have much time for a good research or testing of prototypes before the handoff. I recommend that you do at least an expert review — asking your peers for checks. You may also do a classic heuristic evaluation (ideally performed by 3–4 designers to get more precise results).
Say NO if necessary!
If you feel the lack of time may endanger the product (or even company), you always have the right to say NO! It is absolutely correct to communicate the risk from your professional point of view if you have valid arguments. You are paid to share your expertise.
I remember moments that we fought for more time to finish the prototype, iterate and test it properly. Finally, we got more time and it turned out great!
I hope this lesson learned can be inspiring for you as well! Tell me what you think in the comment section below! I’d love to get a conversation started around this subject.
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