IT consultancies are not commonly known to have creative teams focused on providing the best of user experience and UI design. Today, a trillion companies offer custom software development services with hundreds of full-time IT professionals to help enterprises and entrepreneurs create digital products, but only a few make UX design and final look and feel as much of a priority as delivering a product with good coding standards. And there’s a reason why.
The simplest reason is that most IT consultancy companies base their core business on extended development teams, leaving UX design and creativity as an additional value proposition. This is the first obstacle to creativity and design best practices.
Another obstacle is that even when these companies have talented UX/UI designers, they tend to assign a single senior designer to work on everything, from end to end, and expect this person to be a “unicorn” or some type of design god who can do it all: decide what’s best for the user experience, lead meetings with customers, and design an awesome UI. Nothing could be further from the truth. Digital product design can’t be done by a single person, no matter how talented that person is.
So, how can IT consultancy companies improve their design offerings? Here are a few strategies our team puts into practice to improve design outcomes for all of our clients.
1. Understand what “Design” means for digital product development
“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” This popular quote from Steve Jobs describes the meaning of product design and suggests that “good” or “bad” design doesn’t just come from designers. It comes from an extensive and multidisciplinary team. In software development the number of stakeholders that directly or indirectly impact product design frequently exceeds twenty people—including the customer team and the internal team. The CEO, VP of sales, IT engineers, marketing team, Project Manager, Solution Architect, Business Analyst, Technical Architect, software developer, UX researcher, Visual Designer—all these roles are instrumental to the success or failure of a digital product. To ensure a positive outcome, the team should include experts in each specific area who understand how product design should be approached and follow the process; folks who listen carefully, understand their responsibilities, and are given the opportunity to speak and be heard. Communication is all.
2. Adopt a lean methodology
A perfect design strategy starts when the team fully understands the background—the client, their needs— and the goal—why the solution is important for the company. Projects that fail to take the time to understand where everything is coming from are just flipping a coin.
Lean methodologies are the best way to approach digital product design. Contrary to popular belief, these methodologies also save companies time and money. In fact, products that aren’t iterated in mini versions tend to go so quickly that by the time anyone realizes they’re going astray, it’s too late. Correcting the project’s direction at this point can waste more money and time than just trying to fix the mess left behind.
Teams need to be optimistic and eager about exploring possibilities out of the box. Sometimes we don’t give innovation a chance because we are afraid to fail. So, we go with more conservative ideas because we believe they’re safer. But safer doesn’t mean better—or even adequate. Innovation takes great thinkers, optimistic dispositions and, above all, the courage to try new things—along with the ability to immediately identify when things are failing—in order to correct the project’s direction in the blink of an eye.
3. Reduce design stakeholders to 4-6 people
This sounds easy but it’s the hardest thing to do and takes the most practice. Assigning design stakeholders doesn’t mean dividing the full group into subgroups, it means that key stakeholders will vote, make decisions, and give final direction on product design after considering valuable input from the whole team. Design stakeholders are the ones who should consider ease of use and quality as top priorities. Therefore, they need to understand the product’s goal, target personas, and user experience best practices. With poorly defined roles, decisions are harder to make and friction may arise among the team, which inhibits the free flow of ideas.
4. Don’t rely on a single resource for UX/UI design
As specified in point #1, UX decisions should not be made by designers, but by a group of stakeholders. “Product Designers” are team members who transform user experience decisions into visual concepts. The discipline of Design is very broad and encompasses a wide spectrum of skills. This makes it almost impossible to be successfully taken care of by a single person. Product design requires equal parts logic and creativity. Key stakeholders all need to be fluent in the same user experience language to enable good decisions and achieve a high standard of quality.
Anexinet puts these four points into practice every time we help customers develop digital products—from ideation to product launch—to consistently achieve the best results possible. Our team is composed of an expert mix of disciplines and experiences to deliver your digital product design with an agency approach. To learn more about exactly how we do it, please feel free to reach out to us at any time. We’d love to know more about your needs and help you build the best digital product for your organization.