A Product Designer’s checklist 😰 ✅

David Johnson ⓓⓙ
Zero To Design


If you’ve ever listened to any of the ZeroToDesign podcasts, you would have heard me drone on about the fact that there are so many different responsibilities for an end-to-end Product Designer (aka Jack of all trades), from Product Strategy and Problem Discovery, right through to Developer collaboration and product testing.

💡 Contributing to such a variety of tasks makes it easy to forget some of your design process along the way

This problem is only compounded when also pressured by short deadlines within a lean / agile environment, which rightly so is a very popular working style these days.

One time I told the squad Product Manager that the high speed of feature shipping meant the quality of design was slipping.

We grabbed a meeting room to whiteboard the various design activities (yes this was pre-COVID), and thus the Product Design checklist was born ✨. Since then almost every time a new project or feature needed to be designed, I’ve had a scan through the list:

After creating this list I thought: Am I now committing to deliver all of these for every new design ⁉️ 😱

In short, no. Sure it would be amazing if you could, but there’s a reason you weren’t doing them in the first place — you don’t have unlimited time!

What the checklist isn’t…

  • The checklist is not meant to be a mandatory set of actions that have to take place; rather it should be a reference for designers and a prompt to either undertake a task or rationalise why it can be skipped.

⚠️ You don’t need to check all of these for every project but you do need to have an explanation as to why it’s not needed.

  • It’s not an exhaustive list of all possible design activities, but rather a selection of ones that have helped in past experiences
  • Lastly it’s not a tailored list to a role, product or company. Depending on these it can change the items you wish to include. For example:
  1. If a large proportion of employees are also customers, the company could be well positioned to conduct a fair amount of internal (pseudo-customer) research.
  2. If the design team has a large, well spec’d out design system, it may be more efficient to produce high-fidelity mock-ups over wireframes.
  3. If the company has a small, lean engineering team, it could allow them to skip evaluative research, and instead jump to developer collaboration in order to get live feedback from customers using the real product — Release and learn instead of learn and release.

Are we solely responsible for these tasks?

It really depends on the Product Manager — Product Designer relationship. There is a significant overlap between the two roles and therefore knowing each other’s strengths and desires can help split these tasks appropriately.

Regardless, a Product Manager’s checklist would almost certainly look different to this, and so it’s down to you, the Product Designer, to ensure you fly the flag for a solid Product Design process 💪🏾

P.S. If you have any other checklist items to add, or modifications, drop the knowledge in the comments!

Thanks, DJ — Follow me and ZeroToDesign for more content 💡