Mastering the Design Process

Design Principles

Paul Boag

Paul Boag

Mastering the Design Process

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The "Design Principles" 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 walks through the process of how to deliver solutions to the design pitfalls. Agreeing on design principles, the reasoning behind them, and workshopping design principles will help solidify and give direction to a project's design process.


Transcript from the "Design Principles" Lesson

>> So that's what we gonna do. How do we do all of that stuff? Right, so let's actually get into the process that enables us to deliver on those solutions to the pitfalls. And actually it starts even before you begin sketching an idea or thinking about design. From the very very outset when you first talk to your stakeholders, I would encourage you to agree on a set of design principles, okay?

Now this is gonna work slightly differently depending on whether you work in house or whether you work externally, right? So are you a freelancer or an agency or if you work in house. So first of all let's explain what design principles are. What design principles are a set of short statements, right?

That define how you're gonna go about making decisions regarding design during the process. So for example, a design statement might be something like, we make decisions with data not opinion, right? That's a great statement that we can refer back to and go. Well hang on a minute we're getting into opinion based territory here, we said we make decisions with design.

Another might be, we make it accessible for all, right? Well, that's a great idea you've just had Mr. Stakeholder but actually it's gonna make the design accessible and we did agree upfront, we were gonna make it accessible for all, right? We do testing, right? It might be another one.

Well, well the project's really busy, we're running out of time, we need to push on with this. Well hang on, we agreed upfront that testing was important to us. Do you get the idea of why you might do this? That design principles help move the decision process away from people's personal opinions in the moment and more towards a framework for making educated decisions as you go.

So they're really really valuable to have. And if you wanna learn more about design principles, there'll be a link in the slide deck that enables you to get through to a great site that's got hundreds and hundreds of examples of these kinds of things. So this is just one example.

This is an example that was produced by the UK government. They've got a set of ten design principles that dictate how they go about doing design. So for example, some of them are about designing with data, right? So they let data drive decision making not hunches or guesswork.

They've got things like start with user needs. That you start by identifying the user needs and if you don't know what those user needs are you're not gonna build the right thing so you need to find out that, you need to do your research, you need to talk to users, etc.

So whatever your set of design principles are, I think they provide you with a decision making framework that you can refer back to in the heat of the moment when you get into design. So how do you decide on your design principles? Well, there's a couple of approaches that you can take depending on whether you work in house or you work at an agency or a freelancer.

If you work in house and really I think you need to decide this organizationally wide, right? And that obviously the bigger the organization, the more complicated that becomes but essentially what you're looking at doing is some kind of workshop, all right? It doesn't need to take very long and you get effectively stakeholders from across the organization so typical stakeholders are involved in design projects and effectively, you run a very simple exercise.

So what I normally do when I do this in-house for organizations is I go to that website I mentioned a minute ago called design principles. And they've got design principles from hundreds of companies, right? If your company has got design principles, they'll be listed on this website. So I go through and I select say 20 or 30 different design principles from different companies that I feel like might be relevant to this particular organization.

And then I put one design principle on a card so you end up with a stack of 30 to 50 cards with design principles on and basically we just do some voting, right? We take the cards and people I give them say five points to spend or to mark each card that they think is good or good design principle.

And they can either spend all their five points on one card that they think is really, really important or they could spread their points around a little bit, whatever they wanna do. And we use that to then pick the top six or so design principles, have a bit of a discussion around it, job done, right?

So it doesn't need to be big or complicated. If you're a freelancer or if you run an agency or work at an agency, then really I would suggest actually a selling point, a differentiator for you as a freelancer or an agency is to have your own set of design principles, right?

Because it's very hard to differentiate yourself as a freelancer or agencies, I design websites, well, so do X million other people. But you can distinguish yourself from the way you do it, all right? And your attitudes towards it and your design principles become representative of that. And so if you're in that kind of situation which of course I am as a freelance consultant, I will go into a company and say, look, these are my design principles, these are how I operate.

Are these in line with your thinking? And if they wanna tweak and change them a little bit for their particular organization, that's fine. But as long as it doesn't then completely conflict with how I see the world and if it does completely conflict with how I see the world, then that's a big warning sign for me that maybe this isn't a client I wanna work with.

So spending a bit of time agreeing a set of design principles. So just to reiterate, design principles are not the process of how you build a website but it's about how you make decisions in the moment. Those little microdecisions, whether you go with blue or red, right? Well, one might be more accessible than the other or if there's no real difference between them, let's test them.

So that's how your design principles can make a difference within a project. But what about the kind of process for running the project as a whole.

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