I often think about what would my career be if I had some coaching or mentorship in the first years as a designer. Going to college we expect to be somewhat prepared for the real world but for many people, myself included, that's not the case.
I'm going to very broadly outline what I've learnt so far and, in my point of view, explain how a designer should go about and design something, so if you are a designer just out of college or planning on being one, I hope this helps.
As a designer your role spans across many subjects like analytics, research, strategy, business, SEO, visual design, interaction design, user experience, frontend development, content, marketing and the list goes on. While I’m not an expert in every single one of these areas, I know more than enough to help me communicate and collaborate with others to achieve a goal, this goal can be a business challenge or a user challenge, and most of the time these are the same.
A business challenge is what’s important for the business, may it be reduce churn, increase conversion rates, better NPS or any other KPI that measures success for that company. It’s important as a designer that you understand these, because without a business, there are no users, period!
A user challenge can be many things too but to understand these one needs a special skill called empathy. Empathy is something you learn through experience, it’s looking at analytics, conducting quantitative and qualitative research, it's talking to your users, understanding what they need, what are they trying to accomplish, you need empathy in order to fully understand the reasoning behind every action.
Your responsibility as a designer is to combine these two perspectives, bring learnings from so that you design experiences that meet expectations, both from the business and the users.
Here is an example of a business problem it might be handed to you:
The business needs to increase their online sales channel.
At first sight it’s pretty clear. You need to do something in order to increase the online sales number in relation to other channels. But where do you start?
Ask questions! I often use the 5 year old technique or Sakichi Toyoda’s 5 Whys.
Q: Why do we need to increase the online sales channel?
A: Because it’s cheaper from a business point of view.
Q: Why is it cheaper?
A: Because users can do this on their own and we don’t need people to sell.
A few questions later and a couple meetings with stakeholders you get a statement that you can work with and something to measure success. Let’s say that after all those chats we have this statement:
The business needs to increase their online sales, so that it can reduce costs and increase profit.
So by increasing online sales, the business makes more money. This is the business goal, but what about the user? How is the online experience for the people who use it?
At this stage your job is to find out what your users are doing today, what attitudes and behaviours they have. There are many ways of achieving this such as, surveys, interviews, look at data analytics. There is no silver bullet process but you should find as much as you can about your users.
After analysing all this information you will have some ideas that might result on an improvement of your KPI (online sales). What you’ll want to do is conduct some workshops, perhaps a design sprint to come up with some ideas, test them with users, A/B or build it, measure it and then learn from it.
When whatever you designed is out in the world you need to keep checking your success metrics, come up with new ideas on how to improve it even further, because design is never done.
This is no in detailed process but it has some information to get you going and if you do follow this process I guarantee that you'll be a successful designer. In turn, you will find out about your own way of doing things.
Over the last 2 years or so I’ve had the privilege and huge responsibility to manage a team of 5 designers. This is the story of my journey.
The digital industry does a good job at promoting the new ways of working and the new tools, but it does not promote enough the journey.