I came across a great post, “The Redesign of the Design Process” by Jared Spool, that shows the best product or game designs comes from teams of people with a strong market focus. It no longer comes down to having a visionary designer, if that was ever the case.
Spool point out that the process that a team uses to create great designs does not happen by chance. It needs to be intentionally built. The process itself needs to be designed.
What does the user research say?
Although many designers and teams conduct user research, the most successful teams “design” how that research fits into its process. Rather than do superficial, and sometimes counter-productive, research, the most successful design teams are determined about the process of fitting what they have learned into their existing knowledge.
Spool points out, “The user researcher’s role has changed. It used to be about running studies. Now it’s about growing the team’s understanding of their users. In this new role, the user researcher still needs to run a high-quality study. However, the real emphasis is to truly understand what the team thinks about their users. Then, using their well-adapted toolbox of user research techniques, they identify where that thinking is faulty. In time, a great UX researcher guides the team to a more accurate understanding of the user, which means design innovations are more likely to emerge.”
Designing the design meeting
Design meetings can be optimized to allow teams to apply their design skills. First, determine what experience you want out of the meeting. Then design the meeting to reach this goal.
”Designing useful meetings has huge implications for the team,” as Spool writes. They now design for their own experiences. “They need to collect successful “patterns” of meeting activities, just like they’d collect up interaction patterns for their designs, so they have a full toolbox of ways to make the meetings über-productive. Meeting facilitation is now a core skill for successful designers,” according to Spool.
Team Experimentation, the Lean UX Way
Many design projects start by listing requirements, this process is flawed, however, because the requirements are often assumptions that have not been tested. By considering the assumptions as requirements, they not only are not challenged but other assumptions build on them. This creates an unstable base that often causes the collapse of projects
Spool instead suggests using Lean UX to redesign the assumption process. Using experimentation, we test the assumptions and requirements to discover their validity, when it’s cheapest to do so. The best teams approach Lean UX incrementally, testing their own hypothesis on how a design process should best suit their needs. They measure and adapt their process over time, with the goal of making it better in each iteration.”
Expanding the Design Vocabulary Through Critique
A good team creates a design vocabulary through constant critiques. Designers on great teams critique current design approaches, future possibilities, competitor’s designs, and even ideas they find tethered to nothing.
The team discusses what makes great design with each critique while also looking at what is undesirable. This continuing conversation strengthens a great design team’s vocabulary. Fuzzy concepts become clearer while good design principles become stronger.
- Great designs are created by teams with strong processes, not a single visionary
- User research is critical in building the team’s understanding of their users.
- The best teams approach Lean UX incrementally, testing their own hypothesis on how a design process should best suit their needs. They measure and adapt their process over time, with the goal of making it better in each iteration.