“Concept designs” in a lean environment
Lean product environment
At Docplanner we work in a lean product environment. This environment lets us test our ideas and deliver user and business value very fast. Read more about how we test these business questions.
By adopting the mindset of our users (their needs, business goals and technology limitations), we constantly improve our product.
The Creativity trap
The thing with working in a lean environment is that you can easily fall into what I used to call a ‘creativity trap’. I bet that most designers have been there once or twice.
Very specific tasks can limit you to the simplest solution without having in mind the bigger picture of the user journey. You can see only one piece of a much bigger picture.
When you work mostly on small iterations and not bigger projects, it’s easy to fall into this trap.
You can’t grasp the big picture and generate innovative solutions. Moreover, very often after working this way, you end up with the Frankenstein interface. We learned this the hard way.
You won’t even notice when you end up with something like this:
Concept design: fast solution for design direction and opening the creativity box
At Docplanner, from time to time we do what I like to call ‘concept design’. Concept design is a design solution for a high-level goal. Here’s an example.
Concept design is simply a method that helps you think outside-of-the-box and think big when you’re stuck.
Setting a high-level goal lets you think outside-the-box. Now, you don’t have just a few puzzles to set, you have a box of puzzles to create a completely new experience.
And you know what?
You have to be creative and you have to think abstractly. Believe me or not, you will generate a lot of great ideas that will fill the idea box in your team.
When you think big it’s a much bigger chance to be innovative. The best example is the Apollo moon landing mission.
To get the value of the ‘concept design’, you need to understand a few things:
- It’s just a concept. We focus on people’s needs that use your product. We create the best possible solution for them. Technical and design system boundaries have second priority. Concept design isn’t something that has to be developed right away.
- It shows you the direction but it doesn’t mean that you will end up with the exact solution. Your next step is to sit together with your product team and decide what part of the ‘concept design’ can be developed while keeping the lean-approach in mind.
How we do ‘concept design’ at Docplanner
Sprints. We follow the design sprint method to organize each sprint. I’m not going to describe how it works here, please see this video.
As for the concept design, here are some good practices that have worked for us:
- The research and scope parts are done before the sprint. It’s crucial to understand the problem that we’re solving. We pay a lot of attention to this step.
- We open a Slack channel, invite people that are interested (very often management follow the topic).
- We spend 3 days fully focused on the sprint. We notify everyone about every major update or new version via Slack. We play ping pong: First solution> feedback > next solution/iteration > feedback > and so on.
- We note every idea that comes up during the sprint or feedback session.
- We spend 3 days working this flow and no more. Otherwise, you will end up redesigning your whole product:)
- In the next few days, we do grooming to define what can be done in the first iteration.
Here are other examples of our concept design work:
That’s it. Concept design is simply a method that helps you think outside-of-the-box and think big when you’re stuck on small things. Apart from the value that the concept design method brings to the product, it’s just a great, refreshing way of working for designers and the whole product team.
Btw. Please have in mind that this is something that works at Docplanner, a company with a flat structure and more than 100 people working on the product.