In my time at university, the part of any given brief I enjoyed the most was the end design. I loved letting my creativity run wild and see my ideas come to life. I’d put my heart and soul into a design and would then feel totally disheartened when given any critical feedback on it.
I was unaware my design work lacked any process, which directly caused and factored into the criticism I received. I now recognise the crucial role a structured design process plays creating any design solution.
The misunderstood process
The process I was told to follow at university was the double diamond framework. I must confess; I overlooked stages of this process simply because it seemed elusive to me. I hadn’t had any experience before when it came to a design process, and it wasn’t overly clear how to implement the framework into my work.
The stages of the framework that I thought I understood, consisted of me doing some loose ‘research’ that often-sidestepped the human centred considerations it was meant to uncover. I was then left conceptualising ideas without any depth of understanding, I just headed straight into designing.
I was too focused on how the outcome would end up looking like, that I missed opportunities for creating a user- centric outcome. In hindsight, I was setting myself up for working twice as hard.
I came to learn that having process between the project brief and creative output is vital for establishing a user-centred structure and flow of any potential design solution. Missing any stage can be fatal for your users and your time. Conducting usability testing, user journey mapping, tree testing and other methodologies help to unlock thoughtful designs that meet the project objectives and user needs. This is beneficial for any designer because it prevents you from building a product that doesn’t support your users’ and organisational needs, providing clarity and confidence in your design solution and saving you time, resource, and money. From this process, wireframes can be born. Guided by research findings, they can communicate a best practice content hierarchy, layout, and functionality.
Learning through experience
My perspective of the design journey developed when I worked on a project at Experience UX that required me to follow a user centred design process. I experienced the level of detail usability testing uncovered to inform the brief by highlighting users pain points and providing best practice recommendations. User journey mapping crafted a roadmap for users, ensuring a seamless journey from point A to task completion. This then informed the wireframes: what best practices to include to resolve pain points, what the new user journeys would be to make it seamless, and what content would be needed for each page and in what order. From here, my design considerations could come into play.
Following a process wasn’t just about ticking boxes on a to-do list; as it once was for me. It was the secret sauce to designing meaningful services and having certainty in decision-making. I learned that process-driven design ensures making the right choices and designing solutions that meet user needs seamlessly. Having a beautiful end design is fantastic, but it’s more than that; it’s about meaningful, user-friendly services. And following a process doesn’t have to compromise creativity.
Lessons learned: Design with purpose!
Reflecting on my journey, I’m no longer overlooking the process but embracing it which has enlightened me to its essence. While design is valuable, it really comes down to the user-centred, process- driven approach that ensures functionality and efficiency. The process, however, is not to replace creativity, they can both work together in harmony to create a powerful outcome.
Certainty in design-making, freedom from ego-centric choices and comfortable design timelines are the rewards of adhering to a design process. To the designers out there, I encourage you to embrace the process, let go of the ego and design with a purpose. Remember it’s not just about the destination, it’s about the journey.