Design the client’s processes.
With our research in hand, we both keep the voice of the customer in mind and have a firm understanding of the client’s challenges and goals, enabling our designers to focus on improving the client’s processes. In some cases, the client already has a strong Product Management group, with with clear processes in place. However, it’s still important to be on the lookout for ways in which you can adapt and improve these processes.
At Fuzzy Math, we respect our clients’ methods while simultaneously looking for ways to improve them. Often, we work closely with the client’s team to determine whether there are overlaps in our respective tasks and deliverables. Knowing where our work overlaps with our client’s work helps us streamline the design process and lets us focus on the processes that directly affect the consumer. Instead of forcing our UX design process on a client, we try to find ways to augment and improve both the client’s process and our process to enable collaboration and our overall success.
Sacrifice short-term design goals to achieve long-term, strategic change.
While design firms and UX designers tend to have a preferred process, we shouldn’t be reluctant to adjust our processes and risk losing a great project with a great client. What should we do to find a happy middle ground? Implement a flexible, iterative design process.
Sometimes UX designers need to diverge from their normal process purposefully, blending their process with the client’s to demonstrate short-term wins to their client. For example, at Fuzzy Math, we often rely on our established discovery services, following them with iterative design sprints, to show clients how important user research is to the overall design process. However, at times, instead of doing early design research based on stakeholder assumptions and testing their hypotheses, we’ve adjusted our research plan to help the client get a better understanding of primary user research after a design sprint is complete. This demonstrates how doing primary research before design could result in better ideas. After employing this adapted process for a few sprints, we’ve then been able to get closer to our preferred process.
Our work with clients underscores our drive to shift organizations strategically toward having empathy with users and capitalizing on the voice of the customer to deliver better products and services. Applying the basics of a user-centered design process demonstrates the what and how of design, but UX designers must also be flexible and demonstrate the why to enact change.
The process I’ve described may seem fraught with challenges, but it also demonstrates that there are practical methods UX designers can employ on projects in the short term to shift an organization strategically over the long term. The three key practices that Fuzzy Math employs set the stage for a gradual strategic shift over time. This process enables organizations to experience the benefits of embracing a user-centered approach—by including users in the design process. However, achieving this ultimately requires the client to modify their existing product-development process to produce a better, more usable product.
To implement the approach I’ve outlined in this article, UX designers and design firms should do the following:
- Study your clients.
- Empathize with everyone.
- Find ways to redesign your client’s internal processes.
- Maintain flexibility.