Learn, discover, and understand
Great designs start with a thorough understanding of what problems we are trying to solve, who we are solving them for, and most importantly, why.
The 5 why's
One of the most effective user interview methods I teach and practice is the “five whys.” This interviewing method is used to extract a deeper understanding of our users’ needs and goals. This crucial technique helps us get past the superficial feature ask.
We start many projects with an interactive design thinking practice called “needs gathering.” A short and straightforward collaborative exercise where all participants contribute to identifying the users’ needs. Next, we do a card sorting exercise where we then organize and label similar topics into categories. Lastly, we dot vote to rank the needs based on the level of importance.
Creating personas is a vital part of understanding who our users, customers, and other players are. Personas are extremely helpful in humanizing our approach and constantly remind us who we are designing for. They also make a great equalizing tool to assist healthy debates from being influenced too heavily by personal opinions.
Mapping the journey with empathy
By combining two popular design thinking practices, we can create a map diagram that demonstrates what the day in the life of our users looks like. We can also identify specific points where they struggle the most and how this must make them feel.
Some of the most amazing designs were based on decisions that were made as a result of applying empathy.
Align on a single
point of view
One of the more difficult but important steps in making sure people are aligned on the same vision is to write a strong point of view statement; Sometimes referred to as a problem statement. This is a powerful statement that reminds everyone what we are creating, who it is for, why it is important, and how we will measure success.
Design, build, support, and reflect
The most inclusive step of the ideation phase. I ask all the teams to come up with possible solutions. At the start, solutions should not be bound by any constraints, rather they should be rooted in creating forward-thinking creative ideas that are meant to delight the user regardless of what it would take to build them.
When elaborating on different ideas, individuals need to have some time to work out ideas in their heads. Then it becomes equally important to share those ideas, get feedback and evolve the idea.
Iterate, iterate, iterate
It is very common that the closer the design gets to the final interactions, the more unpredictable nuances will surface. When a designer spends time iterating, they can work out most of these issues.
Design for the bookends
Designs should strive towards making things simple and intuitive enough for the novice to jump in and be successful; all the while, also be flexible and sophisticated enough that it offers the seasoned pro the ability to complete more complex tasks.
So many companies find out too late that what they built is not interesting or simply the wrong solution. Validation will happen one way or the other, and for this reason it makes the most sense to validate early and often. Early feedback and testing can give additional direction and clarity while it is early enough to make changes.
Present and use storytelling to communicate. While I believe it is healthy to allow transparency in our work, there will be a point when the designer or team of designers will synthesize all the work and present it in a digestible story. This comes in many flavors of static designs, prototypes and various other media.
It is time to deliver everything from the full interactions of the prototype to the micro interactions of the individual components. And while the designs are being developed it is important that we give QA the tools they need to keep everyone honest. The goal should be a polished, clean, approachable and helpful handoff.
In my opinion, one of the most valuable ways to improve is to continually analyze what you are doing well, what you are not and where and how will you make improvements. The retrospect meeting gives us the opportunity to identify where we can improve and a plan to accomplish our new goals.
Start with the "Every experience matters" attitude.
Don't just design what is given to you; understand why it will make a difference. Practice the five whys.
Design for the book-ends. If you design for the novice and you design for the power users, chances are you will satisfy most users in between.
Rather than critique, practice honest, safe, and productive feedback reviews.
Optimize your systems, tools, approach, communication, and delivery.
My design process diagram