This is my personal design process on approaching design projects.
What is your design process? Has to be the most asked question in the design space. From recruiters to stakeholders, people want to know how we designers approach solving problems for either physical or digital products. Design process to me is like a mathematical formula used to solve a math problem but in design it isn’t linear.
In this article I’ll be taking you through my design process and how I approach design related problems. Note, I’ve tweaked this process to fit my needs — it’s a personal simplification, not a one-size-fits-all recommendation or industry standard.
Strategy call is like a first date. The aim is to get to know more about your client, their company or project, what drives them and what their problem is. You also get to know if you are compactable with each other and what value you can give to them.
Before hoping on a strategy call, I do some research on the client, glance through their website or app to get a sense of what the client might need and the value I can provide. Like a first date, this stage isn’t about why I’m the best designer for the client but to get a sense of the client’s needs in relation to their business and recommend possible solutions for them.
- Quick research of the client’s business
- Understand the client’s needs/problem
- Asking a lot of why
- Taking notes of things client says
- Recommend possible solutions or advice
Playing detective (Research and ideation)
By now, I have a sense of the business needs and possible solutions, To ensure I’m solving the right problem, I carry out research — user research, competitive analysis etc. to validate my ideas. No better way to approach a design problem than putting users at the center of the problem. By end of this process, I would have gotten clear direction of the problem and possible solutions.
- User research
- User interview
- Competitive analysis
- User persona
- User story
- Rough sketches
- Sync with team members and client
I believe functional products should also be beautiful and I’m a strong advocate for minimalism. Before I push any pixel, I spend time determining the visual direction of my client’s website or app.
This process is usually done with the client, I get them to show websites they like, explain what they would like their website to have or look like. I also present a couple of websites or apps in the industry to show them what their competitors are doing or industry trends that we could borrow that bring value to users.
- Gather mood board (Design style, animation, layout)
- Figure out what the client likes and the direction they are looking at
- Present industry trends
At this stage, majority of the work is done, I take a day or two to rest and let all the information I’ve gathered to sink in.
I usually spend these off days sleeping, doing non-design related things like browsing through awwwards, listening to ISWIS but as at the time of writing this article, I just watched the last episode of Jujutsu kaisen season 1 and about to watch Fallen Angels recommended by my friend Ebiowei.
After a well rested couple of days, It’s time to create magic in Figma. I usually start off defining my colors, type scale, grid system etc.
This process is hardly linear, a lot of iterations goes on before I’m satisfied with a direction and run with it all through the design.
In most cases, I start with low fidelity design and present to the client to get their feed back and input, go back to iterate and get buy-in before moving to High Fidelity.
Handoff and collaboration
At this stage designs are done, client is happy, I’m happy but the work isn’t done just yet. In some cases I don’t get to work with the developers, I just drop notes on the design, do prototypes and organize necessary assets to make their jobs easier. In cases where I get to work with the dev team, I do all the above and also schedule timely feedback to ensure their implementation is pixel perfect.
I have recently started creating something called the bug tracker on notion. This is basically a notion board with all the design bugs, their recommended design solutions, references (mostly for animations) and status. This helps the team stay on top of the bugs and help keep track of what has been fixed and what’s left.
Testing and Iteration
Design and implementation is done but before we put it in the user faces, I always love to test with the internal team and stakeholders to get their feedback, make possible iteration and test again with team and then users.
I gather new findings and test again, at this point you guessed right it's a cycle and technically has no end.
The time has come to finally launch the website or app to the public. At this stage I feel like a proud father watching my design help users positively and also the business.
After launch, a couple updates and iterations might be needed. I sometimes reach out to the client after 3 months to check in on how the website or app is doing and what problem they are facing design wise. This could lead to a possible contract renewal.
At the end of the day, I personally think the design process doesn’t have to be or sound too technical. This is how I have carved my process and it has worked for me so far.
Also I don’t follow all the steps in my process. For instance for some projects I can’t play detective because there isn't budget for research, for some projects I go straight to high fidelity. At the end of the day the project, budget and even timeline determines the process. Thanks for reading!