Behind the scenes working in a software agency as a designer
Challenges & Things to do
Working in a software agency could be a good chance for designers to accelerate their skills and experience because we have time and space to do different types of projects.
But, it also comes with various challenges that possibly make you scream out and give you bad dreams.
In this writing, I will share with you about those things. The things that I’ve observed while working in a software agency especially at Itsavirus, the challenges and things to do to handle it.
Without having said. Prepare your comfortable position, plug in your music, and continue reading this.
Let’s get started.
Working as a designer in a Software Agency
Nowadays, we as designers have at least 3 options to apply our abilities in the real industries.
- Working in a product-based company that focuses on building a product internally. For example, designers who work for Airbnb will focus on designing Airbnb products.
- Working in an agency. For example, now I’ve been working on a Software Agency called Itsavirus. Software company usually tends to a company who do a project-based business which means they help other companies to execute their project, especially in the development phase.
- Working as an individual contributor/freelance.
Every choice has its own challenges. But, I will focus on number 2 since the title of this writing talks about a designer working in a software agency.
As a designer who contributes to a software agency, we are responsible for designing our client's product either websites, mobile apps, and other related design stuff.
Working in a software agency itself comes with different challenges. It could be from ourselves, the team, the client, and the design process around that.
For example, the different projects will have different clients which are different types of people. It leads to a different approach to how we worked with them. Sometimes what worked in one client doesn’t work in the other.
Another example challenge is from the internal design team, where we need to find tools that support our needs. For instance, how we collaborate between designer, developer, and project manager, and the client.
Without proper tools, it could make our work less efficient and effective. Back and forth and waste a lot of time.
Below, I will share another example.
Many projects require us to understand the industry in order to design it right
When we were doing Swheels Project a few months ago. I remember that I need to read a black and white document contains only words around 10 pages without an image.
Swheels is a startup that wants to launch the first regulated e-scooter in the Netherlands. Itsavirus got asked to design their mobile app and scooter screen design.
It was when we wanted to design the scooter screen. They send us the document that contains some regulations and general guidelines on how to design a transportation screen according to the rules.
In order to make the right design. We need to read the document, to understand it. After all of that, in the end, we can turn the understanding into the design.
Without a proper understanding of the industries. We will get confused on how to design it, then probably we design it wrong.
This is only one example.
The Key Takeaways 👉 Willing to study our client industry in order to know the problem and user flow
This one may be a little bit tricky if you think designers here only do design. You open Figma or Sketch, then designing the pixel perfect for the web and mobile app.
Willing to do research and understand the problem, situation, and industries is part of the modern designer job nowadays.
Multiple stakeholders with their own interest
There is a possibility when we work on a project with multiple stakeholders in a software company. Then, happened different stakeholders have their own goals, perspectives, and considerations regarding the design.
Then, we as a designer don’t have an idea which voice should we follow.
In this case communication is the key.
But, it is not as simple as the words above.
When we were designing Juicychain Project by The New Fork. There are multiples stakeholders there. Itsavirus (The company where I work)as a partner development and design partner from The New Fork (Itsavirus Client). Then The New Fork itself also has a client called Refresco.
So, it was like we have a client. Then, our client also has a client.
Many times, when I have a chance to join their meeting. I found a different person has their own interest. In a theory, that kind of thing is good for how the team can work together to unite every idea to make the design.
But, without clear communication, it leads to frustration for us.
Involved stakeholder since the beginning design process
Whether we work with clients, marketers, developers. We need to involve them in our design process. It will lead to multiple benefits for us.
Design Process? We need to adapt based on the situation
If you have been learning UI UX Design in the past few years. You must know some of the famous design methodologies out there such as Human-Centred Design, Design Thinking, Double Diamond, Design Sprint.
Design Process stands to help us designing high-quality design with sequences approaches.
👓 Research & Understanding
⛳ Define (Structure, Function, User Stories, and Scope)
🏹 Ideate (Wireframe Concept)
🦄 Prototype (Hi-Fi Design)
🛹 Test to get feedback
That’s a common process we usually meet in the perfect UX Case Study.
But, In a Software Agency, we found a different situation.
Usually, the client comes to us with a pre-craft problem and solution in their mind. We only design based on what the client wants. So we were not fully participating to give input to build the product.
But, at the same time those problems itself still vague. The solution is not solid.
This kind of situation we often faced while working to design client projects.
We don’t have luxuries in the form of time to do a proper design process.
The Key Takeaways 👉 Understand the principles and how design process works. Adapt it based on the situation.
If this is the situation so, how do I approach this?
I try to learn and understand the principles of each design methodologies, but when it comes to applying in work. I need to find the right time & way to do it. That’s the art here.
Unclear problem statement and goal
This challenge is related to the previous point. When the client comes with an unclear problem and goal within the app.
Where we were redesigning Bookatrekking. In the beginning, we don’t have an idea what’s the problems with the current platform, and what the goals they want to achieve in the design.
Because of that, we were working for one month without anything good in the result. We only made a few versions of the homepage. But, our leader in the office is not fully satisfied with that design.
I think that’s normal. The redesign work is not only making the platform prettier. There are considerations behind every component there.
We asked the client various questions regarding the current and goals in the future.
I can share the typical questions that we ask the client to kick-off the project in order to get solid information, especially in redesign work. Perhaps in the other article
Share the pros and cons so the stakeholders and client can consider wisely
In the middle of the process, we can suggest a new layout or features. But, when the client doubts about that, we can give them the pros and cons so they get our intention.
This also works when we question a client decision.
“Hi Rob, I don’t understand at this part, could you elaborate on me”
We ask for clarification so we can help the client design a better solution. That’s why we don’t have to be shy to ask that much.
Designers are usually heavy to open their design app and start designing even with half or less clear information.
It causes inefficient and a waste of time when we design it wrong. Something that we can do in a better way.
Choose tools that work well for entire team collaboration
Tools are part of our daily work because we do everything using tools. When it comes to a tool we always seek the right tools that allow us to work in a better way.
In the Itsavirus Design itself, previously we use Sketch as the main design tool.
I used Sketch to design the Scrumboardy. My first project in Itsavirus.
However, there is a need where we want to try to collaborate amongst designers in a new project. We try Figma after that. After giving a try using Figma and works well. We decided to use it for the next new projects.
Tools are always evolving. As a designer here we are seeking the right tool that can empower our works within the company.
Open and try new tool if it can help our work easier, working seamless collaboration with stakeholder, then use it.
Below is the list of tools that we use every day with the function.
- Sketch & Zeplin
Perfect match design tool and hand-off process. Both designer and developer here already familiar with this tool.
A Sketch alternative to help designers working together in one file. So far it works very well. We design some project fully use Figma. Even the client could see our design and give feedback directly on Figma.
- Dropbox Paper
We use dropbox paper for Designers Retropesctive where we can write and collaborate in docs seamlessly. We also use dropbox to put some notes regarding designers guidelines and documentations.
Miro is great to brainstorm and workshop session. We also use Miro for our last Retrospective where we were doing team canvas workshop.
- Google Shared Drive
We use Google Drive for the shared folder with our client. Everything that needs to be shared will be there.
- Email, Slack, and Discord
Communication is part of the key working as a designer with our stakeholder and client. We use various tools for communication such as Gmail, Slack, and Discord.
Present our design to stakeholders and clients
Presentation is also part of designer responsibility. In the end, we are done with the design. Then, there is a time we need to present the design.
This can be a bit hard especially when we don’t have that much experience in presenting design.
I felt this situation when I needed to present the new Bookatrekking platform in front of the client. My hearts beat faster, worry if the presentation goes bad.
Learning how to present design well is a very helpful skill for a designer.
In the end. After the presentation. Sure it was bad. My leader gives me many corrections to my English. I’m thankful for this.
He assured me that the client understands my speech and focuses on the design and message. He encourages me to keep learning English.
If you’re not a native English speaker like me, it’s good to train every day so our English skill will improve
Finally, this writing comes to an end. Anything you want to share regarding the points above? Let’s share it through the comments section.
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