DNA Model: What it is, How does it look like, Why it’s important and When to adapt it

DNA (Design Native Approach) Model @ Little Brahma Design studio

Why adhering to a design system is important?

Adhering to a design system, facilitates our designers, developers and other stakeholders an ability to understand/visualize the entire product/service better and communicate designs more clearly before taking any risks — technical, financial or otherwise — of actual construction.

At Little Brahma, we believe adhering to a design system is crucial to empathize with the people you are designing a service or product for.

The design system, helps us to manage the complexity, understand the design and their associated risks. With the help of a design system, our designers and stakeholders can:

  • Create, communicate and validate designs before committing to additional resources
  • Trace the design back to the requirements, helping to ensure that we are on the right track
  • Practice iterative design, to understand and develop complex requirements and to facilitate quick and frequent feedbacks

What is DNA and why we adapted to this model?

DNA focuses on the complete UX workflow and helps our team understand the user needs, business goals and usage of design tools involved at each stage (represented by different color) and their conclusive output.

Our DNA structured system, represents the team being interconnected and work in tandem, in a continuous cycle and parallelly, showcasing the people & tools .

It is an agile-based and accelerated approach. We iterate and aim to quickly resolve the most complex problems and get the products/services out faster to the market.

User experience being a protagonist in this approach, drives the development of a product or software application by reducing ambiguity, development time and by providing precise requirements.

Please go through our DNA practice, it is well presented in our Little Brahma website.

Similarities between the actual DNA and our DNA model:

DNA in its structure is based on certain core aspects (cytosine [C], guanine [G], adenine [A] or thymine [T]). The structure also has a profound influence on the way it holds the infomation and how it is propogated.

Similarly in our model, people [Pe], process [Pr], methodology [Me] and tools [To] become the core aspect which constitute the model. The way these aspects are stuctured and connected (collaboration) drives the effectiveness of the model itself. As the DNA is designed to Learn, Adapt and Evolve with generations, our model is designed to Learn, Adapt and Evolve with new customers, projects and use cases.

Challenges we faced before adapting to DNA:

Analysis paralysis is the realtime issue that every designer encounters.

As a designer, you would have to empathize with a lot of people, internally as well as externally.

Apart from getting to understand the requirements and reasoning/persuading the people behind the problems, there were two major challenges that we encountered:

  1. Firstly, we really had to go through a grueling process of gradual refinement to make a successful design.

For example: Our Enterprise dashboards are data heavy and we had to create an infinite number of details/metrics to make a successful design. We had to often revisit these details through multiple cycles of feedback /re-design. Usage of the appropriate tools were also very crucial in order to channelize the review sessions and collect feedback.

2. Secondly, we had challenges in handling the project scope, planning the iterations, and definining the priorities.

As the proverb goes, six blind monks individually interpret their version of an elephant quite differently, we wanted all the communications to the stakeholders (users, PM’s, designers …) be transparent and accessible at all times to decrease assumptions and gain their trust.

But, all attempts were in vain, because neither used proper reviews nor the feedback channel. It was all through emails and everyone had to dig repeatedly into the email chains for any particulars. The users, requirements, design, code were not in one place.

With so many stakeholders, requirements, design outputs and other related deliverables, you run into several roadblocks and ambiguity.

Solution:

We planned to build trust incrementally. We wanted to prove our proficiency by defining a set of process/protocols.

We wanted to setup a reflexive model, that allows the organisation to adapt over time for feedback loops, that monitor customer/stakeholder metrics.

So, after immense brainstorming and engaging in qualitative and quantitaive research to discover the pain points, review data to see what features and areas are most tricky and tend to bypass, we then started to develop a design model to tackle the most of the issues that any design studio would encounter.

It was then, DNA was born 👏

Why adapt to the DNA design system?

The DNA design system helps our design species to: adapt, evolve, listen and empathize with customers to learn what they do, fit into their shoes, and recommend the course corrections.

The DNA model helps us accelerate:

a. Prioritization

b. Visualization

c. Iteration

d. Quick feedbacks

DNA helps us understand the users better and reduces ambiguity. The clients understand their priotities and that helps us have clarity on the product/service to do project scoping without much hassle.

This approach is well received and appreciated by clients, because the clients are able to validate/visualise/test the product prototype before commiting to development. At Little Brahma, our pitching mantra is: WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get).

Our DNA approach, is broadly classified into three phases: Perceive, Adapt and Evolve. All phases are interconnected and work in tandem with each other. We adhere to this approach for every product/service that we design and it has worked wonders 👍

We have broadly classified our process into three phases:

  1. Perceive: Think and Define
Think and Define Phase — credit (Human-centered Design by museumsandtheweb)

In this phase, the Perceive process depends totally on the project. Different projects require different approaches: the approach to a e-commerce website varies totally from the way we design a bus booking app. But, there are a few practices designers should follow for each project, following is the key principle and its set protocols that are essential to kick-start any project/service:

Think and Define : At Little Brahma, we consider this as the most important stage, because it helps us in understanding the context for existence and sets the stage for the success of a product/service.

We conduct following protocols in this stage:

a. User/Stakeholders interviews

b. Create value proposition

c. Stakeholder in-depth interviews

d. Competitive research & Analysis

e.Prepare workflow definitions

d. Create use cases and story boarding

Perceive phase — credits Little Brahma design Studio

2. Adapt: Collaborate & Build

Collaborate & Build Phase — credit (itunes)

The aim of the Adapt phase is to draw insights from data collected during the Perceive: Think and Define phase. Capturing, organizing and making inferences from “what” users want/think/need that can help UX designers understand “why” and “when” they want/think/need that. During this phase, designers amplify usability, establish process & data correlation and nail down the service maps and lookups.

In this phase, designers try to make sense of all the possibilities identified in the Perceive phase like:

  • Create hypothetical personas
  • Draw product roadmap, plan releases and build to scale
  • Overlay dependencies
  • Create experience maps
  • Validate prototypes
Adapt phase — credits Little Brahma design Studio

3. Evolve: Test & Learn

A/B Testing - credit (fast company)
Heat map — credit (fast company)

Usually, the Test & Learn phase starts when the high-fidelity design is out. A product is validated with a diverse group of stakeholders and end-users through the series of A/B testing and heatmap sessions.

The continuous monitoring of user-generated data/metrics, feedback inclusive of internal testing, leads to actionable data-driven measures ensuring the sustenance of the product. This information is intrinsic to the continued evolvement and refinement of the product through iterations.

In this phase, we try to continuously monitor user-generated data and gain feedback. The internal testing lead to actionable, data-driven measures to ensure the sustenance of the product. Following information is intrinsic to the continuously evolve and refine the product through iterations:

  • Quantitative or qualitative user testing
  • Listen to the end-user through data to scale faster
  • Conduct user acceptance test
  • Build design models
  • Heuristic evaluation
  • Publish & iterate
Evolve phase — credits Little Brahma design Studio

Conclusion

In short, from origin to launch, the deliverables produced in each phase of a product/service design is related and works a loop that form the building blocks for the next set of activities that follow.

Our DNA model is a linear process. The phases in this model often have considerable overlap and dependancies leading to a lot of back-and-forth. Adhering to our model helps our designers learn about problem solving, understanding the users and the details about the project, its necessary sometimes to revisit the research done or try out new design ideas.

Please visit our Work page, to view our casestudies.

We are also continuously trying to improve our process as per the latest industry trends. Kindly feel free to share any ideas/comments on this, please feel free to use the comments section.

Like what you read? Give Shilpa Gopikrishna a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.