A Product Designer’s checklist 😰 ✅

David Johnson ⓓⓙ
Zero To Design

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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 💡

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