Why your design process is failing you

Four bad habits that keep you from moving forward

The design process is not complex. In fact, the most difficult thing about it is committing to it. When designers work in a fast-paced environment, it can be tempting to ditch the process altogether to appease clients, co-workers, executives, etc.

The challenge with moving full steam ahead on a project is that there isn’t much of an opportunity to check in with teammates or yourself about how the design is evolving. You’re moving so quickly that it becomes difficult to control. Feedback gets convoluted. Iterations grow to be more frustrating. And in some cases, you’re forced to clear the drawing board and start over.

In an ideal world, we would have more time. But in today’s sprint-style work environment, designers are still expected to create quality work, quickly. If you are still struggling to implement a process in a fast-paced environment, here are five things you may be guilty of:

You’re doing too much with no goal.

It all starts with a single goal that everyone agrees on. Designing without an end goal in mind can leave you chasing after ideas that lead you nowhere. If you have too much on your plate, or you’re getting contradictory feedback, speak up. Find a way to prioritize your tasks and focus on a central goal. If your team isn’t clear on what the most important action is or what they want a user to do, don’t be afraid to gather them together and work it out. The only way you’ll find clarity and feel good about your design process is if you and everyone involved has a single goal in mind.

You get attached to your first idea.

Your work is very personal, which is why it’s tough to let things go. But by gripping to your first idea, you risk creating something that may not work as opposed to exploring other opportunities. If you find yourself spiraling down a rabbit hole, find people on your team who can help dig you out of it. Everyone, not just designers, gets married to ideas and have a tough time releasing them. Remember this and don’t be afraid to admit it so your team can help you break out of the attachment.

The user isn’t represented in your designs.

Yikes. You forgot about your user! It happens a lot, so let’s retrace why this happens. When you’re getting constant, uncontrolled feedback from coworkers, bosses, and a handful of other non-designers (aka your significant other), it is nearly impossible to shut it out. You trust these people; you respect their insight. But the truth is — you own this process, and this is your work. It’s necessary to get feedback, but it’s also important for you to keep your head above it all and make sure you have a clear vision of how this experience benefits the end user.

You bring collaborators in too late.

While opening yourself to too many opinions can cause chaos, the other danger is bringing in people too late. Although not everyone can give constructive feedback, you need to focus on bringing people in earlier. This allows you to communicate your process and control the conversation.

Often, designers want to wait to get feedback for fear of premature criticism. Find a way to create a controlled environment where you can get feedback earlier in the process. VP of Design at Radius and Wake user, Jordan Gadapee, has perfectly coined the phrase “controlled transparency.” Find a space where your team has set clear expectations on what is feedback and what is simply out-of-context criticism. Coach people and direct them on how to provide helpful thoughts.

Need a space to do this? Check out Wake’s newest feature — Spaces. We’ve built in that “controlled transparency” that provides your team with specific areas that you can let only certain members access. It helps contextualize your work and avoid misdirected feedback.

Learn more about Wake and how we help design teams work closer together and share their in-progress work.

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