Research, Ideate, Validate, Implement

I adopt an end-to-end approach to Product Design. My Product Design Process consists of 4 main phases — Research, Ideate, Validate, and Implement. It’s meant to be efficient, versatile, and adaptive.
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Research

The Research phase aims to gain an empathetic understanding of the problems I am solving. I believe building a good product begins with understanding the users — their needs, frustrations, motivations, and goals. Preliminary user research can take place through interviews, observations, workshops, surveys, or simply by talking to whoever interacts with customers on a regular basis.

Understanding the business values of the product and product visions can provide a better context of what I am designing. I interview Product Owners and business stakeholders to get a sense of what the business is hoping to achieve with the product and how its success should be measured. In essence, I constantly seek answers for what are we building, why are building it, and who are we building it for.

Methods: Contextual Inquiry, User Journey Mapping, Usability Audit, Stakeholder Interview, Kick-off Meeting, Competitor Audit, Persona.

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Same attitude, minus the gun.

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Ideate

The Ideate phase is all about visualizing solutions and building prototypes, with a focus on the utility and function of the product.  I take charge of information architecture (deciding how things should be organized) and interaction design (figuring out what happens next when users click, hover, type, etc).

During the Ideate phase, I produce numerous inexpensive, scaled down versions of the product or specific features of the product. I delay any conversation relating to look-and-feel and micro-interactions and revisit it once the solutions are validated and agreed upon by the team. The levels of fidelity for the deliverables vary; they can be paper prototypes, wireframes, flow diagrams, and/or interactive prototypes depending on the time constraint and complexity. 

Methods: Ideation Workshop, Sitemap, User Flow Diagram, Wireframe, Screen-flow, Interactive Prototype.

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Same scribble, minus the suit.

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Validate

The Validate phase aims to eliminate problems and user difficulties that were unforeseen in other phases. User testing helps with identifying usability issues and uncovering insights that inform my design decisions. I put prototypes in front of users, get their feedback, refine them, and repeat. If time and resources are limited, as an alternative, I partner up with Product Managers to set up small, incremental tests on the live sites to test out my hypotheses. I share the insights with the rest of the team and remind our team that our users may not use the product the way we do. 

Furthermore, I set up checkpoints with Tech Leads and Product Owners, so that I can ensure its technical feasibility and satisfy product requirements. Although trade-offs will likely take place during checkpoints, I make sure that we as a team keep good usability as one of our top priorities. 

Methods: User Testing,  A/B Testing, Multivariate Testing, Product Owner Check-in, Tech Lead Check-in.

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Same question, minus the dramatic expression.

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Implement

The Implement phase focuses on providing design specifications and support for the development team. I turn our low-fidelity prototypes into higher fidelity mockups with all the necessary information to moving development forward. I utilize existing elements from our design system and provide design spec for any new design pattern. I also provide annotations and links the final deliverables to corresponding development tickets in the Jira system. 

However, delivering perfect specs is hard, the gaps must be filled with constant communication and collaboration. I follow what is being built and provide guidance around the accuracy of implementations. I make myself available to answer questions and discover opportunities for improving usability with the current built.

Methods: Mockup, Demo, Post-Live Usability Review, Design Pattern.

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Same focus, minus the extra arm.

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Takeaway

No two projects are the same. In essence, my Product Design Process is very flexible. Each phase can be repeated iteratively, rather than sequential step. They all contribute to moving development forward.

Research — Understanding users and business goals.
Ideate —Visualizing solutions and prototyping.
Validate — Conducting user tests and gaining buy-in.
Implement — Providing design specs and supporting development.

And of course, I didn’t reinvent the wheel; I took references from Jesse James Garrett’s The Elements of User Experience, Stanford D School’s Design Thinking, Google’s Design Sprint, The British Design Council’s Double Diamond, Andy Boynton’s DeepDive™, and Eric Ries’s The Lean Startup.

 

Photo credit: giphy