In user-centered design, process is sacred. But let’s be honest, sometimes we have a lot of requirements and constraints and very little time to make an impact. We recently worked on a project where we had about two weeks to redesign four page templates and the IA for a client’s website. Yet within this short timeframe, we were able to do three days of workshops and two days of usability testing – striking a balance between process rigor and expediency.
Our project lifecycle went like this: Design workshop with the client, test, analyze, iterate designs in a workshop with the client, test, analyze, and deliver recommendations. The task at hand was a little daunting because of the timeline but, in the end, it was a great success. These tips helped us complete so much in so little time:
1. Design with your client.
One of the things that made this project so successful was designing side-by-side with our client for three full days of workshops. We didn’t have to wait to hear back on business requirements, if ideas were technically feasible, or if there were any political limitations within the company to consider. In turn, we were able to teach the client how to implement design thinking into their process, which will allow them to become more customer-centric in the future.
With our tight timeframe, we had high aspirations for what we could accomplish in the design workshops. With more time, all participating designers would have focused just on design ideation with the client. Instead, we defined roles for each designer, so that as our designs took shape on the whiteboard, one designer began wireframes in Axure while another started on test scenarios. Frequently, the group came together again for further collaboration. Overall, we had some success with this condensed format, getting a jump on our deliverables, but had to be realistic about what we could finish during the workshops.
3. Time box your activities.
We created an itinerary at the beginning of each workshop and stuck to it by setting a timer. At the end of the allotted time, whatever design we had, we tested.
4. Find time for iterative testing.
Having two rounds of usability testing kept us from getting hung up on designs. We knew that any solution we came up with could be tested (maybe even twice) so we didn’t feel pressured to come up with the best solution right away. To save time, we kept our tests very basic and low maintenance, using wireframes or even just lists of words to test labeling. By the end, our go-to motto for when we felt stuck was “Let’s test it!”
5. Always plan, but be flexible.
We did everything we could to prepare for the workshops and tests so we could get the most from the little time we had with our client and the users. We planned workshop agendas, prepped the Axure file before the workshop and set up test scenarios. But, when things are moving fast or in an unanticipated direction, you may get more from winging it. We relied on our expertise in interviewing to identify opportunities to learn more about our designs in the moment, rather than sticking strictly to the plans.
Even with the short amount of time we had, we were able to add value to the client’s designs as well as influence their approach. We constantly seek ways to make our process leaner and will look to implement the things we learned here on our bigger projects.