The Design Process as Team Collaboration: No Ego but ‘Amigo’

Here at PHM I work as a UX designer as part of the mobile app development team that builds software solutions for our clients. Because we follow Agile principles I’m involved in projects throughout the whole app development process. In this article I will share some insights into our process and how we collaborate to achieve a common vision.

 The Role of the UX designer

Designers and mobile app developers have very different roles in the creation of a product. While visual designers are typically preoccupied with the aesthetics of the software in terms of the graphical interface, menu position, colour schemes and fonts, UX designers focus on people’s thoughts and behaviours to help resolve problems or “pain points” with new products.

As a UX designer I work closely with our in-house app developers, testers, product owners, subject matter experts and other stakeholders as one Agile team dedicated to designing better flowing, more effective mobile solutions that bring smiling faces all round!

So how do we do it?

 Collaboration in the Design Process

We are one team under the same roof. This brings with it several advantages when it comes to the way we collaborate. Here are some insights into our design process.

1.   Understanding: mapping and pain points.

“A brilliant solution to the wrong problem can be worse than no solution at all: solve the correct problem.” 
― Donald A. NormanThe Design of Everyday Things

One of the positives of working here at PHM is that we have several subject matter experts available to join the team. This means that at the start of any project I get a deeper understanding of the client’s business and the context in which users will utilise the required mobile solution.
I will spend time understanding the user’s behaviour and try to empathise with the journey they take when using a product or service. I will use tools such as empathy maps and customer journey maps to help me find the user pain points. A solution will then be drafted as a series of “user stories” in our chosen tool, JIRA.

2.   Exploring: paper to prototype

The most exciting part of the project for me, exploring ideas!

Once I’ve received the client brief I go off with pencil and paper in hand to explore ideas which I then share with the team. We then go through a cycle of “sketch, iterate, and repeat” until we end up with the optimal design.

I’ll then mock-up the sketches as wireframes and once everyone has agreed on them I’ll produce an interactive prototype. The tools I like to use in this stage are Adobe XD, Photoshop, Axure and Proto.io - it all depends on the job at hand.

One of the key improvements we’ve made is to get app developers’ feedback earlier in the design process. This adds value, maximises the benefits of collaboration and minimizes the risks of incorrect or poor design emerging later in the process. It also has the added benefit that everyone feels more engaged and motivated throughout the process.

3.   Delivering: final designs and optimized assets.

A smooth handover between designer and developer makes everyone appreciative, so this is what I aim to achieve. By working together with the developers we’ve found the best way to share final designs, style guides and optimized assets is by using Zeplin. Once the designs have been shared I’m available to go through them for any further clarification and being just two desks away has really improved this working relationship - no ego but ‘amigo’!

The designs will then be tested and implemented into the finished product.

Summary

Good communication is a team effort. Getting product owners, designers, developers and other stakeholders together early in the process maximises team motivation and enhances the overall design, but ultimately your design will improve by:

“Remembering that design is an iterative process that takes time to get right” 
― Excerpt from The User Experience Team of One by Buley, Leah

…so learn from the challenges and enjoy the journey!

Thank you for reading.