Not a single design process

We spend years and years exploring, trying and following guidelines about what’s right and wrong to do when “doing UX”. We look for the perfect process, the one that tells you: yes, you’re following a user-centred design methodology that will ensure the best user experience possible.

But let’s face it: there’s no one single process that helps you to solve any and every single problem, and not all designers can and must follow the same creativity path to build good solutions.

So what shall we do then? My suggestion, follow principles, not processes and get alignment, not agreement.

Always learning about users

In my experience, I’ve seen different designers working in a very different way, those who need to start playing around with high-fi prototypes to start questioning the problem, and those who need to start asking people around before moving a single pixel.

Research comes in different ways, and that’s good as long as we wonder who are our users, how do they behave, and what do they expect. We can look for the answers while speaking with them or while building a prototype. We can learn about them while testing a wireframe and while picking the ideal colour palette if you really consider their needs.

The key thing is to be open to make design decisions based on this information at any stage of the process. It shouldn’t be too late to use a piece of knowledge for the good of the product.

Use the tribe

Agile methodologies might be the golden egg or the most toxic ‘member’ of your team. Only very senior designers really know how to adapt the methodology to their own process and way-thinking, and how to be flexible enough to move forward at the development pace. However, the process doesn’t depend only on me as a designer, but me as part of a tribe.

We should use the tribe more to provide and receive feedback, to delegate and transform ideas, and to lead the design thinking process. We’re not always the best executing a design, but we can seed other’s people minds to generate better solutions.

Using the tribe is more than sitting on a room to agree on what to do and how to do it, but to facilitate the conversation around design to find an alignment of objectives. Designers, like other stakeholders, have their own principles and priorities and they should be respected, not simply transformed, that’s when alignment makes sense.

Diverge and Converge

Always learning about users and using the tribe are just two examples of how design processes can be deconstructed into principles. Whether you are redesigning a product or starting from scratch you know that there are some activities that are needed:

  1. Understanding users and their context of use.
  2. Modelling user requirements into something actionable.
  3. Creating usable and convenient solutions.
  4. Getting cool things done and evaluated against requirements.

It’s not about their sequence, but their value. When I design a product, I like to think that at any point in time we can apply any of those principles and get benefit from them, that any time is the right one to speak to a developer or to a user and get clarity about the solution or the problem.

So if you’re trying to define your perfect design process I’d suggest you wondering about how you believe it should be done and write down those principles first.