Analysis of the design methodology: errors, situations and useful conclusions from them

    The last time I wrote an article on design in 2011. Then I was going to write much more, but I thought: “There is a method, but it has not been tested by time, clients and projects. What demon will I write about her? ” And he didn’t. Two years passed, during which the team and I designed fifty different projects: corporate sites and product catalogs, personal accounts, management systems, services, landing pages, mobile applications. A lot has changed: I have statistics, conversion data, user and customer reviews, many mistakes have been made and fixed in the methodology and process. Now you can write.

    I will begin with a review of these errors and conclusions over the past two years. I hope this will be useful to you. Separately, I hope to receive feedback from your personal experience.

    Talk to the client as much as possible at the information gathering stage

    I shared (and partially share now) the opinion that the client’s project is often led by mediocre or unprepared people, but this does not mean that you don’t need to talk to them. No one has more information about the client’s business / project than himself; even if he is a marketer describing his audience as “25-50 years old, men.”

    By asking the right questions, you can learn a lot of useful things for design. Then, when you tell your findings to the client, he will be very grateful and will use them in his work (if not a fool).

    Assign responsibility for the completeness and quality of information collection to the client

    In no case do not take this responsibility upon yourself if you do not have a staff of researchers and analysts like Gallup. Because we are just designers, we need to analyze and interpret; In any case, the client knows more than us: he has data, statistics, materials, experts, clients.

    Blaming the client, you do the right thing, not because you take it off yourself, but because the client is, by definition, more interested in you so that you get the most useful information and draw the right conclusions. Well, let him ensure this, and you will think and make decisions. The business center architect does not take soil measurements and does not analyze the flow of potential customers, right?

    UPD: This item does not mean that we are disconnecting from the process of collecting information! On the contrary, we “torment” the client and all his employees who can tell us something useful, provide materials, statistics and so on. Usually, at the stage of collecting information, the client gets tired most of all, because every day he is forced to answer my questions and requests for materials.

    Marketing, positioning is the sole responsibility of the client

    I naively believed that I could tell the client something about positioning, and that would be good. Yes, I can tell, but most often it: a) is not accepted by the client, because he “knows best”; b) stupidity, because the client really knows better.

    I realized that the best I can do is to help the client formulate the positioning, but not to correct it and, especially, to create it. In the end, this is his business, and let everyone do their own thing and bear their responsibility.

    Put the customer in an uncomfortable / difficult position

    At the stage of collecting information, inconvenient (even impolite) questions proved extremely effective. For instance:
    • Your sales managers cannot answer, due to which they convince the customer to buy the goods. Do you know?
    • It seems that you have no positioning or competitive advantage. What will we tell the visitor to choose you, not a competitor?
    • Your product prices are more than competitors, delivery is more expensive and longer, the service does not offer moneyback. Why do you think that someone will buy something from you?

    It is simply amazing how well the client’s head starts working at this moment. I am ashamed and I want to quickly fix everything?

    Sketches needed!

    This is one of the main conclusions that I have made for myself. They help one to understand and think through logic and content, the client - in general, understand what you offer, and the designer - to understand what to do. Words, many words, mind maps - all this works poorly without visualization.

    I had a hypothesis that sketches cut off the designer’s thoughts, limit him to what he sees, and make the client treat the design as a sketch coloring. Fortunately, this is often not the case, but much depends on the quality of the sketch and its presentation. The sketch should be a sketch, i.e.:
    • Look like a draft and thereby not give the slightest reason to think that this is a design;
    • Clearly reflect the logic and content, with real content, not Lorem ipsum!

    Separately, I want to say about fashionable interactive prototypes. Our experience says: an interactive prototype in 99% of projects is a waste of time. He doesn’t add much understanding, but it takes several times more time to create and edit. In addition, he does not really meet the requirement to “look like a draft”, because he is too folding.

    Work out logic in sketches, not look

    This is an extremely important point, because I saw the mistake of “registration” with colleagues and I made it myself. The emphasis on logic allows you to:
    • Focus the client on it, and not on the size of the logo and color of links;
    • Reduce the time for sketching;
    • To bring maximum information to the client and the designer;
    • Give the designer a certain freedom in design and interface solutions.

    In no case do not give the logic to the designer completely (I made this mistake repeatedly, unfortunately). Yes, he is a specialist in interfaces and design, but you know the logic of the project and the characteristics of users (characters) better. And it is you who know what to highlight, what wording will be more understandable, and so on. Let everyone do their job.

    What I just said does not mean that the designer does not need to listen. It is very necessary, but it should not determine the logic of the project - only correct errors and help to do better.

    Describe the logic after the sketches

    Yes, I used to think that I need to describe the whole logic, and then make sketches of it. Now I realized that these processes are running in parallel, and it is better to first identify key points (concept, general structure), work out the details on the sketches, and then describe all this.

    The same goes for scenarios. Designing detailed scenarios before the structure and sketches did not give (me) visible positive results, so now I am sketching out general scenarios showing how the user thinks, and then using the finished sketches I will describe specific scenarios of his behavior. Why is it good? Because the general train of thought of the user helps to determine the structure, communication and emphasis in the interface, and the scripts written according to the sketches help to check your decisions in practice.

    Test the sketches

    Show sketches to potential users with whom you conducted the interview at the stage of collecting information, and check your decisions for the completeness of the information and the logic of its communication. This is not a site yet, there is no interactivity in the sketches, but they still help to see if the user of the organization understands the information, the language you speak to him, further actions (target).

    Designing Together Is Best

    Designing alone deprives you of a valuable outside view (the client does not always help, because it is extremely passive and is waiting for the first pictures). Three-way design is a swan, cancer and pike . But designing together allows you to look at the problem from different angles, argue constructively and secure, if that.

    It’s best to combine slightly different designers in style - for example, a great project designer of communication / content and more inclined to work with interfaces. If you try to reduce completely different, do not agree.

    Seek customer insight

    Make sure that the client understands all the important decisions (not necessarily made). The concept, each idea and sketch needs to be explained, and not just sent and, having waited for a reaction like “yes, everything is fine” or a few obscure corrections, to breathe a sigh of relief and move on to another task. Most clients (so far) have not come across design and do not understand its meaning and significance, which cannot be blamed. They made a concept - put it in the form of a simple presentation and personally, or, in extreme cases, via Skype, present it with detailed explanations of why it was done this way and not otherwise. Also with sketches.

    This will save everyone time and nerves, with a higher probability of understanding and agreeing on the right decisions. If you do not do this, you will re-design, but at the stage of creating the design or, even worse, programming. Less money, time and reputation , because it is you who are to blame.

    Do not load the customer with technical information

    Try to make technical descriptions human-readable. Instead of “CMS contains functionality for editing the“ News ”entity with the following fields: 1) title, 2) description ...” write “The control panel should allow editing the headline and content of the news”. This way you will gain more understanding and less irritation; the words "desription" and "title" do not at all show your professionalism, as many think, but simply enrage.

    Do not torture women

    I don’t know exactly why, but women managers endure the painstaking design process when you force them to check every word in the description of logic and every element of the interface. But they have many other advantages: constructiveness, a desire to find a common language, less tyranny and obstinacy (obviously, not all of them are listed).

    Does this contradict the point “Get an understanding”? Yes. But my experience has shown that the benefits of torturing a client are like a goat's milk: the brain of our dear client is disconnected and begins to respond completely inadequately. So if you start designing with a woman on the other side, be prepared to take responsibility for decisions on yourself.

    Make sure the customer is able to implement solutions.

    In the project, you can come up with anything - a video presentation, a cool system of recommendations, analytics of user actions in 56 sections. But what is the use of this if the client does not have time and resources for this? When proposing solutions, be sure to verify that the client will be able to implement and support them .

    This applies even to trivial news: if the client will receive them every six months, then you do not need to put the “News” section in the project with the output of the tape on the main page, right? Or if the client does not have a good writer, then it’s somewhat naive to make the core of the project a blog / article.

    Give recommendations for creating content

    Even if the client has the ability and resources to create and support the content you have planned - a blog, news, event reports - give him recommendations on how to do this: tasks, size, content, style. In their absence, the client will write the devil knows that (I will not give examples, because this is incorrect).

    Do not do more than two projects at a time

    One project is good because you can immerse yourself and meditate. Two projects - not bad, because more money. With three or more projects, at the same time, the efficiency drops sharply, a wild mess appears in the head, elements of another appear on the sketches of one site, and so on. The brain does not seem to be able to process so much different information in one way.

    Take “the same” projects to work, but not at the same time

    At first glance, identical projects with the correct application of the methodology almost always turn out to be different: in communication, business processes, content. Feel free to tell the client that it is a big plus for him, that you designed the site for his competitor. But never do such projects at the same time: you won’t go anywhere - you will offer the same solutions.

    Decisive “No!” To the client-designer

    Under no circumstances - with the exception of a million dollar fee - do not enter into development with a client who at the design stage shows himself to be tyrant and “savvy in design”: he says that it would be nice to move the logo 2 cm in the sketch and make it bigger, or requires "make the interface as in Windows 8".

    If at the design stage, where there is much more logic and common sense than in design, he does this, imagine what will happen when you show him the first design layout.


    It is customary to draw conclusions in articles. I have one and quite obvious one: never think that you are doing everything right, notice, acknowledge, analyze and correct your mistakes.

    In the next article, I will offer a quick and effective way to create a concept (website or service). I deliberately skip the stage of collecting information, because almost everything is said about it here: .

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