Mastering the Design Process

Better Design Process

Paul Boag

Paul Boag

Mastering the Design Process

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The "Better Design Process" Lesson is part of the full, Mastering the Design Process course featured in this preview video. Here's what you'd learn in this lesson:

Paul provides an overview of a better design process by breaking the process up into four separate phases, discovery, prototyping, build, and live. Breaking a project into smaller phases reduces risk, provides more accurate cost estimates, and reduces the chances of failure.


Transcript from the "Better Design Process" Lesson

>> Let's talk about this better design process, my magic design process that I've been building up for the best part of 40 minutes, right? [LAUGH] Really ought to get to the point, Paul. First of all, I split my projects into multiple phases. Phase one is discovery, okay? We do a short discovery phase upfront to understand the project better before we jump in.

Phase two is prototyping, where we visualize the experience from beginning to end, okay? Phase three is the build, where the developers take the design and build it. And then and phase four is while the website is live. I will talk about these phases, okay, all the time, from the moment I start working with a client.

And there is huge benefit to working in these phases because not only does it ensure the design is appropriate, it will also deal with scope creep. It will also manage the iteration process. And if you're an external person, it will lead to long-term work during the live phase.

And if you're internal, it gets your stakeholders to think how they're gonna manage this digital service once it goes live. Now, the key component here is this. Each phase is a separate project that defines the next, right? We have a tendency of going in and thinking about these big projects as single monolithic projects, right?

We're gonna redesign the website from top to bottom. That is a ridiculously big project to plan, right? Even if you work with smaller clients and it's a relatively small project, for them proportionally, the investment is big, right? So it's all about the level of investment and the level of associated risk.

And let's be honest, if I said to you, okay, we've got a WordPress site that's got, I don't know, 20 templates and some basic functionality like contact us and a few other things. And ask you to provide me with a fixed price, you could do it, but it probably won't be that accurate in reality, right?

Because what'll happen is, well, actually, when we said we've got some basic functionality, that includes an events capability, I didn't know that. So there's a lot of amorphous stuff. It's very hard to accurately price any project, and the bigger the project gets, the harder it is. By splitting it into these phases and having each one as a separate engagement, a separate project, then in the discovery phase you can learn enough to define how long it will take you to prototype.

Not the whole rest of it, but just that next phase, the prototype phase. When you finish the prototype phase, you can hand the prototype to the developer and go, we wanna build that, how long will it take to do? And that is a hell of a lot easier to cost than some functional specification where it's easy to misunderstand and stuff like that.

So that will inform how long the build will take. Once you've done the build, you'll be in a good position to know what kind of optimization post-launch needs to be done. So don't go for these big projects, break them down into distinct sections. So let's very quickly look at the benefits of taking this kind of approach, for our stakeholders and our clients' initially.

First of all, it reduces the risk, right? The client, if you're working with somebody external, or you are external working for clients, then it's a great way for them to try out the working relationship with you, right? So let's say I was hiring you guys in the room here, right?

And each of you represented a different agency, and it was a redesign project. You come back with 50 grand for the project, you came back with 56 grand, you came back with 47 grand. And then the final person came back with five grand for a discovery phase, okay?

The level of risk of going with you other people is 50 grand, right? And if I work with you and I don't like you, right, or there's a problem in the working relationship, I'm committed to 50 grand or 47 or whatever it was, right? But if I go with the final person, that's only gonna charge me five grand for the first part of the project, then my risk is much lower.

If I don't like them, if they don't deliver, if they annoy me, right? I just get rid of them. So it's a really good way of reducing risk when it comes to talking about working with external agencies. But it's also good for just the overall risk of the project, right?

Because each phase validates the validity of the next, right? So the discovery phase basically goes, is it worth pursuing this or are we gonna launch it and it's gonna be crap, right? Or is the technology gonna be too difficult? Are there gonna be compliance barriers that can stop this project happening?

All of those wrinkles, right? And if it passes the discovery phase, if it turns out to be valid, it goes into the prototyping phase. And the prototyping phase will work out whether or not it's gonna be accepted by users through usability testing. And if it's not and needs to change, we can change it there in the prototype when it's cheap rather than once it's gone live, when it's expensive to do so.

So it manages risks there. So basically, by breaking it down, you can validate each stage without committing to one large and potentially flawed project. The second is it provides much more accurate costings. Because each phase is fully costed, they can be much more accurate, right? So you can be much more controlled because you're just costing the current stage rather than the whole thing.

And that means it's easier to allocate resources, it's less overspending, that kind of thing. And then finally it reduces failure, right? Because the project is broken into self-contained phases, if you like, then each one is gonna be well researched, well considered. And the chances of building something that doesn't generate return on investment will reduce significantly because you're validating as you go along.

So let's look at those different phases very quickly, what they are and how to run them.

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