Tailoring the Design Approach
As we mentioned in our previous blog article, UX and design are indispensable components of the software development process, but there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. The concept development toolbox is deep and picking the right set of tools for the job depends on knowing the client, the project, and the budget. It can be helpful to think about the contents of the concept development toolbox falling on a spectrum with visual/emotion-driven strategies on one side and data-driven strategies on the other. While real-life clients tend to utilize most of the spectrum by the end of a project, clients tend to gravitate especially at the beginning of a project more to one side or the other of the spectrum.
The Visual Client
Some of our clients are deeply concerned about the emotional impact of their application's design and may even start with a strong sense about how things should look and feel. This sense may be based on positive experiences with other applications they’ve used or might emanate from a zealousness for how their brand and/or community is perceived. In this case, we will focus more of our design efforts on aesthetics and page-layout.
After building a thorough set of user personas and scenarios as a foundation, we iterate on getting the aesthetics right: the colors, the visual metaphors, illustrations and iconography, and the mood of the application. We might iterate through several conceptual mockups until the client is sure the app feels right and is consistent with their brand. As we build the app, we will make sure to maintain a smooth user experience, and that new features are added to the app with the same level of care and polish as the first features.
The Data Client
Other clients care more about measuring user satisfaction. For them, color and mood are not nearly as important in the initial phases of software development as making sure their users are productive, satisfied, and avoiding errors. Their customers might be in a business or medical context where all that matters to them is performing a task as quickly and accurately as possible so they can move on to the next one.
For these types of projects, we begin with user personas and scenarios, but we then focus our efforts on usability testing and user research. We interview and find out from real users what their needs and perspectives are. Beginning with sketches and gradually increasing fidelity with wireframes, mockups, and prototypes, we put our initial designs to the test with real users in their native setting and measure the results. Learning from identified inefficiencies or points of confusion, we make changes to the design and try again. As the app begins to take shape, we test developed features in increasingly real-life scenarios. Usually, the application will initially deploy to a set of beta users for thorough testing before public release. This ensures that the shipped application meets the usability goals of the client.
The Importance of a Tailored Design and Development Approach
In many ways, the concept development team bears the greatest responsibility to make sure communication is clear among all responsible parties in a project because at its core design is communication. This is especially true in an agile project where effective collaboration at each point is critical. While it’s tempting to get into the habit of doing projects the same way every time favoring strategies that fall most within one’s comfort zone, effective concept developers have to be able to tailor their approach to the customer and adapt the design approach as the product evolves.