UIEtips article: Getting the Most From Design Deliverables

Jared Spool

July 16th, 2009

For today’s designers and developers, the biggest challenges involve how we transition, or hand off, a project at each phase.  We know that a conveyor belt system of project management creates issues that can prevent your project from being a successful design. Why get everyone on the same page? Designers will have more control in getting the vision implemented the way they imagine it, and Developers can begin thinking about the problems they will need to solve.

Take that two-way communication out of your process, and the design that emerges from the development process doesn’t work the way we thought it would.  You increase your development costs, and deliver a product that’s lost all of it’s interactive goodness.

Unless you’re doing your own implementation, practically impossible for a serious production application, you need to find a way to succinctly communicate what’s important and how it should all work. In this week’s issue of UIEtips, I bring back an article, Getting the Most from Design Deliverables, that discusses how the best design teams go about successfully communicating their ideas to the development team. I think you’ll really enjoy it.

Also, we think this article ties in nicely with our upcoming UIE Virtual Seminar: Comps vs. Code: Case Studies on Collaboration Between Site Designers & Developers with Ethan Marcotte.  On July 30, Ethan will use four case studies to teach some insightful lessons about the collaboration between designer and developer. See a preview.

How do you hand off projects at the transition phases in your organization? What types of reviews do you build into the transitions?  Join the discussion below.

5 Responses to “UIEtips article: Getting the Most From Design Deliverables”

  1. Hendry Betts Says:

    I am pleased to say that I have been a long time convert (thanks to the UIE) to paper-prototyping. In our organization, we use a “more advanced” paper-prototype by preparing Visio(tm) documents that use some of the advanced features of Visio(tm) like hyperlinks. Then we publish those documents to a web server so the stakeholders get an idea of interaction.

    To address the edge events, we also hold “what-if” parties (Joint Application Development [JAD] meetings) where we talk about edge events. Most of those events identified can be mitigated with validation and user friendly prompts/exception messages, but it is best to make sure that all stakeholders (or at least a significant majority of stakeholders) participate.

    Then as a final opportunity for input, we post the results of any JAD meeting to a private project wiki in a Request For Comment [RFC] type environment where we open the results to comment for an agreed upon period. We keep the development team moving forward during the RFC period but they all know that their work is in a ‘soft-state’ until the JAD RFC period is closed.

  2. Paula Thornton Says:

    I’ve found that it’s often about creating the artifacts of conversations (storytelling), and doing it as if you had to pay for your own time.

    For a recent internal sales conference, I found that our ‘before’ and ‘after’ shots didn’t really tell the whole story — nor did adding bullets. Instead I animated a story around the screenshots with a conversation — it’s literally about capturing and/or retelling the story.

    There should also be no such thing as a ‘standard’ approach — more a collection of paintbrushes to choose from. If the destination of the design is SharePoint, a good UX pro can create the production versions of pieces of the design (e.g. link lists), faster than they can draw it up for someone else to do.

    We’ve got to get a lot smarter about what we’re doing.

    The end goal is always to shorten the distance between the need and the result.

  3. Daniel Szuc Says:

    In the past we have put our designs up on a wall for team walkthroughs, giving people an opportunity to provide feedback.

    Moving it away from the confine of the screen and onto a wall can really help communicate the design to a wider team and promote buy in.

  4. Benjamin Ho Says:

    We’re in the process of including more deliverables than just providing remote testing video footage, a report and the updated mockup. There also needs to be baseline metrics to summarize the design and its potential. We also have a component to deal with the emotional side of design, considered within its context.

  5. Linda Francis Says:

    Consistently on projects this process is challenging, even more so when the development teams are “remote’ to the design team and/or the clients. Increasingly, development teams are even “off shore” and the expectations of those projects are that the developers can produce excellent results purely from documents and conference calls (which stretch everyone’s work life balance, given the times of day these calls have to take place).

    Recently, I faced a challenge getting the design team (an advertising agency) to work with the interaction designer and subject matter experts to embrace a paper based highly iterative design process. They wanted to impose a waterfall approach where they got wireframes, then went away for the visual design, offering the client three choices…this proved painful for everyone involved.

    Where things are getting interesting in our world is the overlap between visual design and the interaction design. As we incorporate more animated features and the features of web programming improve, the question of “how” a person “chooses” or “selects” or “views” an item. for example, prove harder to represent in a wireframe document. Documenting content or task steps that “appear” and “disappear” for example (with mouseovers, for example) is challenging to do with the dimensions of paper and text. And further, insuring the exact wording (and sometimes translations) of that content proves even more difficult to convey to those responsible for the on-screen content.

    Creating high profile prototypes (using Flash for example) can be excellent, but expensive and time consuming and difficult to keep up to date as the team iterates through the design process. And some clients figure that the flash prototype is so close to the final product that it gets treated as such.

    My gut says two things:

    1. A member of the development team needs to be the “fly on the wall” (physically there, not just a disembodied voice on a conference phone) throughout all the design (interaction and visual) and requirements gathering sessions on the project. This allows the development team to be “privy” to the rationale, and functioning of the site and to understand the priorities better. It also means that they can give the design team a heads-up, if they are on the way to approving “an architect’s dream and an engineer’s nightmare”. They can also ramp their team up on technical skills that may be necessary to implement the design.

    2. A combination of paper (low fidelity – hand drawn; or digital – visio, or omnigraffe etc…) with a video walk thru of the scenarios supported (with annotations in the verbal descriptions) of edge events (cross referenced perhaps to written material). The videos would have to be short, and available through some kind of team website, with a naming convention to be easy to find and replace. Most projects I work on involve long meetings where this walk thru takes place, and there are usually development team members present, but I think it would be good to record this third dimension via video.

    The other challenging thing I find is working with deliverables from the interaction/visual design team that suit the agile development process. Our documents need to be nimble to respond to that process and somehow, we need to be able to flex the design to accommodate new features that get prioritized down the road in the iterative process. Again, a video element could help to explain these differences I think. The videos could ultimate become a prototype or script for a video supported help on the site.

    I’m looking to incorporate video into my deliverables moving forward, I wonder if other teams have had luck with this approach?

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