Evolving Your Design Process by Changing Your Mindset, Part 1: How to Bring More Research to Your Design
We work in an industry where people are eager to share experiences and learnings. You are just one Medium search away from thoughtful articles full of great advice — principles and mantras to follow. We are excited about changing and growing, yet we get into a project and once again resort to our old habits and blame timelines, resources, or budget. Yet these things will always be a factor. Changing your or your team’s process takes targeted effort because old habits do indeed die hard. So start with a simpler first step: change your mindset. Once you do, you will more naturally and intuitively find ways to improve your process that fit within any project limitations. In this three-part blog series I will share three mindsets I adopted to infuse more research, self-awareness, and empathy into my design process and some of the actionable methods they led to.
Mindset: Research is a tool, not a phase.
“I’ve learned everything there is to ever learn on this topic” said no one ever. There is ALWAYS more to learn. It’s good to have a discovery phase at the beginning of a project, but your discovery shouldn’t end there. Your discovery phase should be used to establish a base of knowledge that you continue to build upon throughout the project. You don’t need the ideal project plan with the ideal timeline and budget to do this. You just need the correct mindset. If you continue to actively crave more knowledge and information throughout a project, you will come across ways to find it.
But first you must embrace the fact that at any moment you might learn something that requires you to completely rethink your approach.
It’s this possibility and the fear of it that often stops our search for knowledge. We don’t like to learn that we are wrong, but if we don’t we will stay wrong and never be right. Here are a two key ways to continue to gain new knowledge and information throughout a project AND after.
1. User test. This is the best way to vet your designs, get valuable feedback, and uncover new information about your users. Can’t pay for test subjects? Where there is a will there is a way despite timing and budgets. Test paper prototypes or sketches with friends or family. Take to the streets and do some guerrilla testing with a phone or iPad. People are often curious and perfectly willing to help out. Seek as much feedback as you can get from any source available. If you are motivated to put your designs, assumptions, and hypotheses to the test, you can always find a way.
2. Measure.You launched your design! Yay! You’re done, right? Wrong! It’s time for the real pressure test for your design. It’s really tempting to move on to the next project, but the best learning is yet to come. The only way to truly know the success of your design is to track its performance post-launch. Create a measurement plan (or the structure of one) at the beginning of the project based on your overall goals and objectives. Then come back to it and update it throughout the project based on your design decisions. Outline exactly what analytics you want to review and at what frequency. This will ensure that the available data gets passed to the whole team post-launch. Following your plan and looking at the data collected may require a personal investment of time, but these learnings will not only guide future iterations of your design, they will be valuable for all projects going forward. How can you improve if you don’t know what worked and what didn’t? You can’t.
These are just two ways to add additional research to your design process. By continually striving to ask and answer new questions while you work, you will find even more, and I’d love to hear about them.