This week, Eliga Services’ Product Designer, Charlie Crook discusses our agile approach to design, outlining different methodologies and why users should always be at the forefront of any experience.
Design methodologies are a great asset to have when trying to create user-centric products. However, it is important to note that there are many variables that UX teams must consider in and around the design process. Here at Eliga, we wanted to share what an end-to-end process looks like for us, highlighting our collaborative approach with clients and delivery teams. Nonetheless, when discussing a design approach, business operations and ways of working must also be considered.
For client-based work, our design team does not work in silos. We work hand-in-hand with Business Analysts, Developers and Project Managers from the start all the way to delivering a market-worthy product.
In this article, I will cover how we formed our own approach by figuring out what works for us, using current best practices and merging our own philosophy into it.
Why do you need a design methodology?
Having a selected methodology helps you keep your missteps and design reiterations to a minimum. This is paramount in ensuring time isn’t wasted and client relationships are maintained. UX design can be daunting. Having an outline of previous successful methods is a great starting point. From my past experiences, not one size fits all. Nonetheless, there are common correlations in product development.
UX design points to keep in mind
No matter which methodology you choose here are some important points to consider:
- The user should be your number one priority in all steps of the design process.
- To choose the right research method for your project, you first need to understand the problem you’re trying to solve.
- Nextly, identify what data you need to collect to solve the problem.
- Validating ideation against your users before beginning development/building is vital for a successful product and mitigating further expenses.
- Finally, other notable factors are the project, budget, time, and available resources.
How do I start to build my design approach?
I know what you are thinking, ‘Where on earth do I start?’ There is never a one-stop shop for your company or product as every project is different. Explaining how we started at Eliga might lay the foundation for finding your own. Before I share our UX approach at Eliga Services, I thought it would be useful to give an overview of our journey and introduce how we converged our style of design methodology whilst fundamentally keeping an agile approach to it.
Initially, we adopted the double diamond approach (see Figure 1.1). This approach defines its stages as Discover, Define, Develop and Deliver.
The Discovery and Define stages are paramount to creating a new product.
Even if a product team is improving on an existing experience, empathising with a potential or current user is always at the forefront of a UX designer’s agenda. Development then follows, which can mean several things but can get easily get confused with just the building and delivery of a product. However, Eliga Services realised another step could be vital in-between Define and Development, this is something we address with our unique approach.
The 5D Approach
The 5D Approach introduces a fifth design stage within Design Thinking.
This approach seemed the perfect fit for our way of working at Eliga. Validation against ideation is a powerful tool. It ensures you are building a potentially successful product. This is especially relevant for companies under budget and time constraints that don’t want to waste resources building a product to then find out it’s not quite what the user had in mind.
The 5D Approach (see Figure 1.2 above) is the closest thing visually to our approach at Eliga.
Once we have defined our users’ pain points, we then aim to test with low and high-fidelity prototypes by conducting usability studies. This ensures we are confident that this is what the user wants, before beginning agile sprints with Devs to create the product. As you see, this is represented by the ‘Design’ stage that is placed between Define and Develop. With Eliga’s name literally being ‘Agile’ spelt backwards, how could we not weave agile methodologies into this design process? Subsequently, this brings me to Agile UX, another important element of our design methodology.
Whilst the 5D Approach alone isn’t enough to visualise how we structure our design process, it’s a good start. This process reflects our way of thinking when we consider best practices for UX and the structure of moving through a project. Combining the 5D Approach with Agile UX is where we hit the sweet spot.
- Agile UX embraces the key principles of agile software development, reframed in the context of design activities.
- Designers work in continuous collaboration with team members, integrating customer feedback and change with each iteration of the project.
- Incorporating Agile UX and following the 5D Approach is what we consider the optimal way of tackling a product.
Being agile is a critical aspect of Eliga’s approach.
As a result, we incorporate the process of design sprints from the start. In the event we have a project that is under a time constraint, the Discover, Define, Design and Develop stages happen concurrently. This ensures time isn’t lost once we validate certain aspects of a project.
For example, we would want to sign off the user research, prototyping testing, development, and deployment for a dashboard of a new app within a limited number of sprints, before moving onto the next aspect of the client’s site. However, as I said earlier, no two projects are the same.
In an ideal world, we would follow this approach. However, like any project, we must manage expectations, resources, timing, and budget.
Not one size fits all
Every project is different, and every company has different philosophies. There is no right or wrong approach when figuring out what process to use. Whilst there are many established design methodologies available to guide your decision-making, the user should always be your most important reference point. Projects with time constraints can cause research steps to be skipped and insight to be lost. This often results in a non-user centric product, causing companies to spend more resources trying to fix these issues.
Whether you are an agile business like Eliga or a waterfall structured business, using carefully selected user research will mitigate any problems you have down the line. Your business will know from data and insight that you are building something that your users want. Just remember to manage the decision-makers in your business, educate stakeholders on the value of UX design and stick to a process that works for you by keeping the user in the forefront of your mind.
They will thank you for it in the end.
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