Who are we designing for? The quality and standards teams (Part 3 of 3)

Wait a second, you aren’t done yet. Who makes sure this will actually work like it’s supposed to?

This is part three of three articles detailing the internal groups we have to design for in order to get great products built and sold. Part three focuses on the groups that ensure your designs are usable, extensible, and functional.

Don’t miss out on part 1 and part 2:

At this point, you probably think your designs are ready to see the light of day. But even in this agile, continual release world, you still need checks and balances to make sure the work is high quality.

  • Documentation
  • Internationalization and Localization
  • Quality Assurance

Some of you may be solo as a designer or may not have product managers, but someone will be playing these roles whether it’s you, your startup’s CEO, or your cat. And we know how judgmental cats can be.

1. Documentation

You know that User Manual you get with your shiny new 8K TV? The one you either a) Throw away immediately or b) Use to kill a spider on the wall?

Well guess what? That complicated new app you just designed has a user manual, too!

Individuals responsible for owning product documentation do everything from writing and answering FAQs, to producing how-to videos. Your grimy designer fingerprints will be everywhere in these documentation materials, so be consistent and be thorough.

While it’s not a huge deal if things like website marketing images aren’t perfect, documentation has a higher bar. It’s literally how your users learn your product. You wouldn’t want your math professor using a book that’s mostly correct, right? Neither would your users.

A product experience extends far beyond the product itself, so put the same effort into perfecting screenshots for documentation as you do animating that menu button. If users can’t figure out how to use the button in the first place, it doesn’t really matter what that animation looks like anyway 🙃

The Slack Help Center is brimming with helpful screenshots.
And it looks just like the product! Way to go, Slack!

2. Internationalization and Localization

If you’re not working at a huge, global software company, you probably won’t really have to worry about this. But it’s worth understanding so you can at least be empathetic toward their worries and needs.

As a designer, you’re responsible for crafting a product that will shine on any continent. Here are some things to consider:

  • Language: How will those inline titles look with long German words? Did you pick a typeface that supports Polish ogoneks (dziękuję!)? Does your typeface support multiple currency symbols ($/¥/₱/£/€)?
What I can only assume is a login page in Russian, by Anna Bakurova
  • Page Load: This falls more into the hands of the devs who are optimizing the product, but it’s still a form of internationalizing a product. How will your product load over a 3G connection? How about slower than that? India and China are massive user bases and have dreadfully slow connection speeds. Keep that in mind.
The scale shows average Mbps. Red = really slow.
  • Screen Size: How’s that full-width UI look on a 1024x768 monitor? “But no one uses those anymore!” Unfortunately, MacBooks haven’t quite hit global mainstream affordability yet.
My absolute favorite responsive GIF, by Gal Shir.

3. Quality Assurance

Here is how a typical conversation goes once my design hits testing:

“Uh, hey Jon, I was testing your age dropdown and it got crashed when it got to 1,020”
“Um, well it’s an age dropdown so you probably just need to test into the 90's”
“So like, 99?”
“Sure, Greg. 99”


“Hey Jon, you didn’t specify the RGB value of this link color”
“Yeah that’s because it’s just the same link color we have set in the main.css”
“But what is the actual RGB value? I need to verify that it’s correct.”
“I’m looking at it on your screen right now and I can tell you it’s right.”
“But I’d like to know what the right RGB is so I can close this defect.”
“Well, you don’t need to worry about it. It’s a global style and it won’t ever be off.”
[blank stare]

Admittedly, QA was the biggest shock for me when I started my design career. I really struggled with conversations like these — often, my ignorance to the role came off as arrogance.

But QA does exactly what it’s acronym symbolizes and if you have any chance at your design reaching your high standards as a designer, QA is the group that will make it happen.

Most of what QA needs is covered in the previous two groups. What’s more important is to help get your testers aware of your design intent earlier on so you get better defects and solutions.

A tactic I’ve used is something I’ll call Audit Defense™. This is where you review your designs in-person with QA closer to the concept phase and well before implementation to reduce the amount of time spent later on communicating and logging defects:

  • Explain what your intent is behind different elements so that when they test the final product, they can look for deeper issues.
  • Ask for their input on where they expect issues to arise. This gives you a better idea where to spend your time documenting.
  • Find compromises early on. If colors are dictated in a central stylesheet, then make sure they are aware. Maybe they will ignore this completely and let you own it. At the very least they know that if something isn’t right, they can take the issue to dev and not you 🙃
  • Learn from QA’s extensive product knowledge and adjust your design accordingly. Maybe they’ve tested that auto-fill search box before and know how it’s going to fail. Now you have time to adjust your design accordingly.
Your role as a designer is not to keep defects to a minimum, but to help QA log better defects.

When I’m not trying to get my design implemented accurately, I’m working on Sketch design tools at UX Power Tools to make you a better, more efficient designer. You can learn more here:

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