It’s tempting to jump right in on a new project and begin in the design phase. After all, we’re designers who love to sketch, draw and push pixels! If we did that, however, we would be missing some key phases that must come first:
First, we must Understand
Without a solid foundation of understanding, our design might be hollow or worse, useless. That’s why we utilize user experience research techniques at the beginning of our design process to learn about the users along with their tasks, goals and pain points. Even if your budget doesn’t allow for formal user research, there are techniques that can be performed in this phase. Presentations and reports with findings and recommendations are typically delivered at the end of this phase.
Then, visualize the big picture and Innovate
Once we have a relationship with the user and his or her tasks, it’s time to innovate and visualize what the product will be. Team members and customers can and should be a part of this process. From innovation and understanding, a fresh, clear product vision will emerge. From here, user scenarios, workflows, and product requirements can be written.
Now, we can Design
Now we can get out our pencils, wireframing & design software and dig in! Flow diagrams of information architecture, wireframes with development notes, style guides, templates, and sliced images are common deliverables from this phase.
And don’t forget to Evaluate
Design evaluation by users and team members is critical to ensure the product vision has been captured intuitively and to confirm the product itself is meeting user needs and goals. Informal evaluations should be done early and often on design prototypes. Formal evaluations will be important as prototypes grow into functional products especially when the products pose safety concerns or need to be compliant with government or industry standards.
Evaluation techniques yield insight and increased understanding which brings us right back to the beginning again. The subsequent times through the process will get faster and faster as the design takes shape and is implemented.