The most important factor that directly determines the efficiency of our communication efforts is the so-called “shared understanding.” Everyone on the team needs to know the purpose of the product, the idea behind it, the needs of the end users, and the actual value we are delivering. We all have to agree on every single one of these issues. Not only that − all of us, as a company, need to discuss the user experience, the deliverables, and the business potential of the product.
So what are the best practices we use to achieve shared understanding between the client and the design team, and to improve communication?
Visualize Ideas and Obstacles
If you’re starting a project − regardless of whether you’re designing the app from scratch, redesigning it or just adding features − show anything you have in mind to clients and developers at the earliest possible stage of ideation.
Everyone on the team has a different way of expressing themselves − developers use code, designers use visuals, marketing uses numbers and statistics, while the clients use their preferred method of explaining and translating their ideas (be it spreadsheets, Pages documents, PowerPoint presentations, napkins, etc.). That’s all fine, but you need to communicate together somehow. In other words, prototypes are a translation tool for all stakeholders.
The only way to get everyone on the same page with regard to the business-to-UI/UX-to-development issues is to communicate using a universal language: visuals.
We draft sketches in Sketch and immediately upload them to InVision.
Only when we are 100% sure that everyone truly understands the sketches and is able to explain the idea in their own words can we proceed with the graphic design and development stages.
- Make it visual, as even ugly design is better than software documentation. There will be time later to make it pixel-perfect.
- Listen to all stakeholders, make notes, basic briefs (again, avoid drafting lengthy documentation!), and create rough sketches. Avoid ornate graphic design — focus on the flow of the application instead.
- Do it as fast as you can. Otherwise you will die of despair after enduring endless talks, meetings, and reading through countless e-mails, spreadsheets, and documents.
Make Developers a Part of the Design Process
It might not be a popular opinion, but developers often have much better ideas than people calling themselves designers.
Talk with developers, they are really creative people. After all, working with code requires them to be so in order to solve complicated problems on a daily basis.
- Show developers early prototypes instead of trying to describe them.
- Consult your ideas with developers and let them kill your overcomplicated features.
- Discuss user experience ideas and solutions with developers and give them access to the InVision prototype to click through.
- Tell them you want an honest opinion, even if it’s harsh. Your designs will be much better for it.
Do Not Agree with the Client
That’s right, disagree with the client.
Don’t take everything the clients say as gospel, in the end they will be grateful you did so. Tear their ideas down into constituent elements, remix them, and demonstrate the potential of a different approach.
Sometimes clients are blinded by their own ideas, overwhelmed by organizational issues, overbearing investors, financial issues, and other stuff you don’t know about.
Your primary objective as a designer is to have a working app ready as fast as possible to test it on real users.
- Try to minimize the number of features the client wants.
- Show prototypes on target devices.
- Organize workshops that will put the client face to face with developers. It will allow them to understand just how complicated some of their ideas might be from a technical standpoint. This will allow you to make the final product better.
Be realistic: you want to have a product ready − designed, developed, and tested − as fast as possible. As we all know, even a simple project may take up at least three months to develop! That’s a lot of time and money. Learn to say “no” in order to design better and deliver faster.
Got inspired? Contact us – we’ll be happy to hear more about your app design challenges!