As a customer-facing designer, I help clients make better business decisions using the Design Thinking process. I prefer designing user-friendly products and flows over pretty layouts. Although most of my projects are paper-to-digital transformation, my design process still varies according to the different project constraints (time, resources, technology, skills).
Plan project strategy
Every project starts with a kickoff meeting with the clients. My goal is to understand the project vision, my client’s business and their industry. With better understanding, I can produce design deliverables closer to their expectations.
Usually, I work with the project team to create a project plan with milestones, timeline and deliverables. For projects that require coding, I will make sure that some design activities start at least 1 sprint ahead of the development sprint. This way, we can test our design before implementation.
Research for insights
Research is crucial to getting the fundamental right. We want to figure out the real problem: what are we solving, and why? Yet, in reality, I am usually given limited hours or days to speak to the actual users. Thus, I have learned to conduct preliminary research with our internal subject-matter experts before meeting any users.
Apart from field research, I also facilitate informal knowledge transfer (KT) sessions to gather user requirements and clarify project assumptions. This is also the time to identify discrepancies with the written project requirements and what is happening on the ground.
At the end of the session, the team will receive an updated customer journey map (for sequential flows) and flow diagrams (for complex decision-making flows).
Ideate concept sketches
Next, comes the Ideation phase where a wow-factor might appear! This is the time when everyone brainstorm ideas— be it features, functionalities, workflows or content. To a certain extend, I see this phase as a form of research.
From experience, I discover that users tend to overlook complex rules and regulations that might affect the design concept at a later stage. By visualising new ideas, the users get an opportunity to discuss complex business flows among themselves. At the end of the ideation workshop, I have a better sense of the users’ thought process, along with a top-voted concept to kickstart storyboarding.
During the storyboarding session, I have a habit of incorporating users’ top-voted ideas to further streamline the flow. Sometimes, I also run Card Sorting exercises when the team faces a challenge in organising content.
Prototype design solution
Concept development (low-fidelity)
I always start my design with wireframing. This is my favourite design activity because I enjoy problem-solving for the shortest, most effective, yet scalable flow for users to accomplish their task. While sketching, I focus on three things: content, interactions and design scalability.
- Content: decide content by interpreting the correlation between user groups, data and user requirements
- Interactions: determine the behaviour of UI components and screen flows by mimicking existing user behaviours
- Page layout: decide based on the type of content and the purpose of the screens
Then, it is time to gather feedback. I try to target a diverse group of people— the users, clients, product team, other designers and the developers— to get a different point of views. This is also the time to verify with the developers if the design is technically feasible.
Once the concept is more or less validated, I will move on to digitising the screens using prototyping tools such as Adobe XD and Axure RP. While prototyping, I incorporate all the visual design best practices such as colour, spacings, typography and accessibility into the design.
For projects that involved multiple designers, we try to keep the look and feel consistent by designing a rough UI kit based on our client’s brand identity.
Test for usability
Before creating an interactive prototype, I always schedule a wireframe review to validate our concept. This session gives clients and users a taste of the potential flows and features in the final product. Sometimes, I might create a few key screens to showcase the look-and-feel.
Honestly, there are no linear steps to produce a single polished prototype. I bounce back and forth between prototyping and testing stages to iterate my design solution. I prefer delivering my prototype incrementally by sprints, so that I can have additional design review sessions with the clients.
Usability testing (UT)
To gather unbiased feedback, I usually conduct two rounds of usability test (UT) with users who are unexposed to our design process. Depending on whether a UX researcher is present, I might act as a moderator or a note-taker. My role is to observe users’ body languages and listen to their feedback while facilitating the discussion. We tend to capture more concept or workflow related feedback on our first UT, and more usability feedback on our second UT.
Develop functional product
My project engagement usually ends after I handoff all the required design artefacts to the product team. Sometimes, I might be embedded in a product delivery team as the sole designer to work in an agile environment.
When that happens, I will be collaborating with the following roles:
- Product Owner (PO): to build product backlog and prioritise product backlog items (PBI) for each sprint
- Business Analyst (BA): to create user stories and use-cases in Jira, help to prepare user guides and UAT test scripts
- Application Architect: to validate the information architecture, data flows and technical feasibility of the design
- Developers: to debug HTML/CSS issues when requested, answer to any design queries and help with device responsiveness and compatibility tests
In terms of work-time proportion, I need to divide my time to focus on the current sprint, the upcoming sprint and the future releases.
- 30%: to plan product roadmap and prioritise product features or user stories with the Product Owner
- 25%: to facilitate design workshops to gather user needs and business requirements. Including analysing data
- 25%: to create wireframes, mockups and prototypes for user testings and internal stakeholders presentations
- 10%: to support technical/engineering team on design-related issues such as documenting design specifications and debugging HTML/CSS
I believe that it is every designer’s goal to create a seamless and intuitive user experience for his/her users. Therefore, having a design process with plenty of user engagement or data analysis allows us to understand our users and suggest improvements. Let us solve problems together!