I believe the best design process is to learn, do and repeat; it’s hard to define the process upfront as the design is a non-linear activity.
However, some basic guidelines will prevent us from inventing the wheel and spending too much time on the wrong things.
Here is the five stages design process that I use for my design approach. Let’s dive into each step:
I begin every project by identifying user needs and business goals.
I work closely with the team and stakeholders during this stage to formulate assumptions and validate them through various research and interview.
As a result, we will form testable and measurable hypotheses to move to the next step.
Design is an action-oriented learning process. We will learn by doing here and turn the abstract into a tangible.
The cross-functional team will work closely to shape the ideas. We sketch and wireframe, workshop, feedback & critique, brainstorm, etc., to visualise our hypothesis.
Therefore we turn ideas into various concepts, mock them up, and prepare them for the next step.
In this stage, we will connect various concepts to conduct inexpensive experiments with minimal functionality but a realistic user experience.
We involve users and our peers in the design process by using our prototype to validate our hypothesis with them (so-called usability testing.) After all, it’s experimentation that drives innovation.
As a result, we will better understand whether our product can be up and running with the current resources, whether people want it, or whether it will be profitable.
According to interaction-design.org, “affordance is what a user can do with our design based on the user’s capabilities”—Source.
The experimentation stage is the baseline the user tells us what they can do with our design. Affordability is to find out what people can do that they didn’t tell us yet.
Creativity and profound intuitive observation are the keys here. At this step, we will design the delightful moment, whether a micro-interaction or an a-ha moment.
Great design is the design that we can not remove anything anymore. The great design will serve our purpose well but not draw attention to itself.
Think about the iPhone keyboard that pushes BlackBerry out of the smartphone market. You might not notice the touch screen keyboard, but I’m sure you often use it.
Users constantly interact with the design with a goal in mind. Understanding whether our design is a distraction or a solution is crucial.
The case study
Now, let’s see how the design process works in practice. As a case study, I will use the café open from 6 am - 3 pm in the mid-tie traffic commercial and office area.
To keep it simple, let’s assume we already validate our assumptions through the research, and I will start from the hypothesis, which is:
“To increase 20% of our profit, we should open for dinner so we can serve more customers whenever they visit.”
It’s a reasonable hypothesis because it’s testable (Will people come for dinner?) and measurable (increase 20% of the profit). Now, let’s make it more tangible.
Unlike breakfast and lunch, we believe that our customers will come with their colleagues as a group at dinner. So we tweak our table layout to support that.
Since our dinner serves after work, we want to ensure our environment feels relaxed and comfy. We dimmed our lights and chose different music backgrounds.
Moreover, we’re looking to differentiate our signature dishes and cocktails that our customers cannot find it elsewhere. So we designed our original dinner menu.
Alright, all set. Now we decided to test whether our dinner has a market fit or not.
We told our regular customers that we would open for dinner for a few weeks to see if we could lift their day after work (user needs).
We open for dinner and gather feedback from our customers.
A few weeks after we served the dinner, we noticed that our customers often come with expensive belonging, e.g. bags with the laptop.
So we provide the basket underneath their table so they can securely leave their bags, sit back and relax, which also helps create more seats for our café.
Moreover, we notice that it keeps our customers longer, increasing our drink sales by 43.4%!
After a few months, it seemed like our hypothesis was true; we exceeded 20% profit goals. Dinner makes more profit than breakfast and lunch combined!
We’ve also discovered that alcohol and cocktails make more money than meals. So we’re looking to create more signature cocktails.
Now we are considering testing open for dinner only and reducing our food menu, waste, and overhead. We’re now focusing on what we do best.
The design process is a collaborative and iterative, non-linear process. There is nothing wrong with jumping back and forth between the process to get things right.
The design process is a guide, not a rule; it’s just a ground, not a ceiling. It’s an option, not a template.
The best design process is the one that works for you, even if it doesn’t work for anyone else.
“First you learn the instrument, then you learn the music, then you forget all that s**t and just play” — Charlie Parker