It’s a Feature

The Unintended Consequences of Design

Stephen Bau
Jan 22, 2018 · 6 min read

When I was working within an agile development team as lead designer, I quickly realized that design was not leading the process.

We were working on a Ruby on Rails application where the development team and the agile process was the primary driver in the decision-making process.

We use systems, methodologies and processes to help us to deliver what the business, the customer, and the user needs. Often, however, these approaches obscure the real purpose of the work, just because the means overwhelm the ends. There were times when we had the feeling that the approach that we were using was alienating the people who had hired us to deliver results, but we were merely going through the motions of creating artifacts that did not deliver what people really needed.

It’s Not a Bug

During the development process, as we put an application through some tests, we might run up against some unexpected behaviours. Users might complain, but (usually privately) the developers would quip, “It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.

How UX Design Works

Testing is a necessary part of the process of user experience (UX) design. Before you can get to the testing phase, you need to first figure out what it is that you’re building.

Human-Centered Design

At a high level, we want to use human-centered design principles to guide the process: inspiration, ideation, and implementation.

Design Thinking and Business Success

The process of design thinking is oriented around the success of the business or organization that it serves, which in turn can only be successful if it fulfills the basic criteria of being desirable, feasible and viable.

Desirable: The idea must appeal to real human beings and fulfill their desires and needs.

Feasible: The idea must be achievable within the constraints of the current technological capabilities and facilities to create the product.

Viable: The idea must take into account the time, energy, and resources available while proving the financial sustainability of the effort through a workable business model.

The Scientific Method and the Creative Process

As data informs more of our decisions in the design process, we understand how the scientific method informs the creative process.

  1. Propose a user story
  2. Talk to users
  3. Prototype the new change
  4. Conduct a user test
  5. Decide whether to implement
  6. Build and implement

Product Development Process

  1. analysis, customer persona and customer journey map
  2. sketching/wireframing
  3. user interface design
  4. planning
  5. clickable prototype
  6. development
  7. quality assurance
  8. launch and maintenance

Design as Strategy

  1. Goal identification
  2. Scope definition
  3. Sitemap and wireframe creation
  4. Content creation
  5. Visual elements
  6. Testing
  7. Launch

Business Objectives

The process starts by defining business objectives that are paired with success criteria. If an idea fails these criteria, discard the idea and try something else.

  1. Figure out your goals.
  2. Choose a price range.
  3. Let your agency transform your objectives.
  4. Trust your agency to help derive an end figure.

Ideation

Brainwriting is a way of generating a large number of ideas quickly. The process is different from the more common method of brainstorming, which might favour those who are extroverts and are used to make themselves heard within a group setting. Brainwriting levels the field for introverts and extroverts by giving equal weight to everyone’s input as everyone has an opportunity to participate through a process of writing ideas and being inspired by the ideas of others.

The Feature List

Development teams have moved away from the waterfall methodology of old industrial production chains and have adopted a methodology that is better suited to a product that can be continually improved over time. Agile and lean methodologies recognize the need to disrupt old models and create new ways of doing things. Sometimes this means entirely new approaches to old problems. Other times this means the ability to quickly incrementally modify and test changes to an existing system.

Introduction

  • Summary or Pitch

Vision

  • Product Vision
  • Design Vision
  • Business Vision

Product

  • Information Architecture
  • Technical Architecture
  • Features
  • Product Roadmap

Information Architecture

People who need to travel to finding their way around an airport need visual cues that will help them to easily understand where they are and where they need to go to get to their destination. Maps and signs help people orient themselves and learn how to navigate physical spaces. When creating websites and apps, we use similar concepts to help people understand where they are, what they can do, and where they need to go to accomplish their goals. Information architecture is a process of visual wayfinding, and digital placemaking.

Visual Design

Humans are pattern-recognition machines.

Gestalt principles help us provide a framework for creating layouts and designs that help people understand how information is organized.

  • Proximity
  • Common Fate
  • Continuity
  • Similarity
  • Closure
  • Common Region
  • Symmetry

Iteration

By generating many ideas quickly and testing those ideas against specific design criteria, they can be evaluated according to whether they achieve human, technical, and business objectives. This is where the iteration process becomes very important.

  1. Hypothesis
  2. Experiment
  3. Results

The faster you can rule out the ideas that won’t work, the sooner you will be able to discover those ideas that will meet the criteria. This is the Thomas Edison effect.

Design Tools

Adobe is striving to hold onto its dominant position in the creative industry by replacing an outdated suite of tools designed for print production with a tool that can compete against new products such as Sketch, Invision, and Webflow. Adobe XD is being built as the industry standard for Experience Design.

To learn more about how to use Adobe XD, Lynda.com offers some excellent video resources to guide you through the process of integrating this new tool into the design process.

Testing

Leading with Design

One’s position in an organization does not necessarily determine your opportunities to lead. We each have a part in designing the world around us.

Stephen Bau

Written by

Designer, writer, educator, social architect, founder, Builders Collective, Leading with Design. https://stephenbau.com

Leading with Design

One’s position in an organization does not necessarily determine your opportunities to lead. We each have a part in designing the world around us.

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