The design of digital experiences has significantly changed for the better since the arrival of methodologies such as Ideo’s “Design Thinking”, Google Ventures’ “Design Sprint”, and Jeff Gothelf’s “Lean UX”.
The missing user.
Prior to this shift in design approach, it would be unusual for the end-user to be involved in the design of a digital product or service.
Instead, the client would typically engage an agency to develop their idea for an agreed cost. After a lengthy specification document is approved, the agency would disappear for the remainder of the allotted time, and resurface when ready to launch the beautiful looking website or app.
Invariably, the client would discover that just because you build it, doesn’t necessarily mean that they will come. Ideas might sound like winners in the boardroom, and look amazing when presented by the creative team, but still fail in the marketplace because they weren’t validated with their target audience during the design process.
That was then, and this is now, and everything has changed. Or has it?
A better way.
The new methodologies have in common an emphasis on deploying iterative cycles of thinking, making and checking to arrive at successful solutions. By creating products significantly more likely to meet with approval from their intended audience, a lot of time and money is saved through avoiding expensive mistakes.
The process may vary in detail from project to project, but it should resemble something like this:
- Define the business problem.
- Explore opportunities and solutions.
- Validate most effective solutions with users.
- Develop prototypes of increasing fidelity.
- Validate prototypes with users at each step.
- Complete visual design and build front-end and back-end components.
- Analyse performance and user behaviour.
- Optimise based on observations.
Doing is better.
Just talking about it isn’t enough though. Using the correct buzzwords won’t save projects from failing.
There are no shortcuts: getting the results requires stakeholder workshops to be held, prototypes to be built, and users to be tested. It’s a collaborative process: the designers will engage with the users, as well as the client, to co-design relevant solutions that meet both the user’s needs and the business objectives.
While your digital agency may talk a lot about User Centred Design or profess to apply Design Thinking methodologies, check that your project process looks like the list above, or you’re possibly not getting what you think you’re getting.
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