This is a blog post I wrote for oe:gen (where I’m Head of Design) about the design process at the company.
Lets start by defining what design means to us here at at oe:gen.
For us, design is the process of planning and conceptualising interactive systems like Salesforce Communities, where we put people at the centre of every decision we make.
Start with user needs. Service design starts with identifying user needs. If you don’t know what the user needs are, you won’t build the right thing…
Government design principles – https://www.gov.uk/guidance/government-design-principles
A user’s experience of our products is the key objective in any of the Salesforce Communities projects we undertake, and one of our fundamental design principles.
Good design makes a product useful. A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy certain criteria, not only functional, but also psychological and aesthetic. Good design emphasises the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could possibly detract from it.
Dieter Rams: 10 Principles for Good Design – https://readymag.com/shuffle/dieter-rams/
Everyone within our Product team has a hand within the Design Process.
This Product team consists of User Experience Designers, Business Analysts, Copywriters, Frontend/Backend Developers, Project Managers, Analytics Specialists and Testers.
Working together on design in this way gives us lots of benefits, including:
- Motivation – we’re working towards the same goal(s)
- Communication – we all know what those goal(s) are and how are we going to achieve them together
- Diversity – the project benefits from a wide range of skills and expertise
- Sharing – ideas and concepts are shared which means there are no surprises at any stage throughout the project
- Support – team spirit and trust helps us overcome any difficulty or avoid them in the first place
- Problem solving – making sure we’re solving the ‘right’ problem from the start and we’re aware of any changes in direction or if something doesn’t go as planned.
What the problem is, why it exists and how to solve it
Working closely with the client through a series of meetings and workshops, the whole team will gather critical information about the main goals of the user and their system as a whole.
During these sessions we’ll thoroughly investigate what the ‘problem’ is that needs to be solved.
Asking the right questions
Taking the data we’ve gathered during the discovery and research phase, our aim is to turn our findings into more meaningful information, and start to think about how we can present that back to the end user in the form of information architecture and content development.
Through journey mapping, identifying pain points, user stories and sitemaps, we begin to determine what questions we should be asking ourselves. Then we can consequently ask each other; “How might we get around or solve this problem?”.
This is the beginning of the ideation phase of the project.
Using quick sketches (pen and paper) to gather as many ideas as possible, we begin to produce wireframes (Lucidchart) then higher fidelity prototypes (InVision).
More often than not, there will be a number of ideas we’d like to test to find solutions to the initial questions and problems we find in the research phase.
The wireframes and prototypes make sure that any design concepts we have at this stage work as expected. Here, we’re concerned about the user’s goals and the interactions necessary to achieve those goals. Basically, it’s all about coming up with the best ways to move the user through the proposed system.
When we’ve ‘completed’ this phase of the project, we’ll have pulled everything together to create a coherent journey and message (through branding), that solves our client’s needs and wishes.
So what do we build?
When asking ourselves the important question, ‘What do we build?’, we shouldn’t overlook the wider team:
- Management needs to understand the constraints of the company in terms of financials and workforce
- Sales needs to be talking to the prospective customers, so we know what they want
- Support should be listening to the voices of existing customers — what are their concerns and what are we doing well?
- Marketing needs to consider if it’s a good fit for us.
Deliver solutions that work
A Designer’s job is to help the Developers build great solutions that solve problems. Before a final handover to the Development team, a style guide will be produced for brand consistency and a single source of truth for us all to work from.
At oe:gen, we believe it’s super important for Designers to stay involved in the development process; not only to make sure the final outcome is of the highest quality, but to help when new challenges and constraints emerge throughout the project.
Although aesthetics alone isn’t enough, we craft great looking and easy to understand interfaces, which we believe creates a positive emotional response from the user of the interactive systems we build.
Great care is also taken on how the product feels and behaves on different platforms and devices, as standard design practice.
So, what does an oe:gen designer do?
- Interaction design – We work out how to move a person through a Salesforce Community — concerning ourselves with what the goal(s) of the user are, and in turn what interactions are necessary to achieve them
- Design research – We understand the users’ characteristics, aims and behaviours, but also the system as a whole
- Information architecture – We know how best to arrange information to create usable content structures out of complex sets of information
- User experience strategy – This is where we pull all our research and ideas together in a meaningful way that solves the client’s needs.
Everybody talks to everybody
Our collaborative way of working throughout each project helps us test our ideas in order to create the best product possible. Design is an on going process where we learn from feedback and strive to continually improve the products we create.
A mutual journey of discovery, where both designer and client work together to advance the project through a series of iterations, not to some pre-imagined goal, but as an attempt to constantly stress-test the idea in order to make it better.
Together with this way of working and our agile methodology, oe:gen work together with our clients so we are constantly testing the solution to make it the best it can be.