Designing for Success: Defining Product Design Processes at Nextech AI
As the Director of Product Design, I took on the mission of developing and implementing a set of innovative processes to streamline product design, enhance communication, and foster seamless collaboration with our product management team. This case study provides insights into the processes I've personally envisioned and brought to life to achieve these goals. The presentation was crafted to educate new product managers and align our entire organization with design principles and best practices.
Table of Contents
The Product Design Team: A Shared Service Model
The Nextech Design Team Organization Chart
Product & Feature Delivery Lifecycle Overview
Streamlining the Feature Request Intake Process
Establishing Effective Communication Channels
The Product/UX Design Process Within a Team
Understanding What the Product Design Team Does to Solution
The Value of a Dedicated Product/UX Design Team Brings
Code of Conduct
The Product Design Team as a Shared Service
At Nextech, the Product Design Team operates on a shared services model. With four distinct products under our umbrella, we efficiently serve the design needs of the entire organization. Our team includes 6 talented designers and is led by me.
Product Design Team Organization Chart
To provide clarity on the organization of the Design Team, here is an overview of our structure.
Design Delivery Lifecycle Overview
To optimize resource allocation, I focused on streamlining our feature intake and delivery process. Effective communication between product managers and our design team is important to accelerate the delivery of designs that align with product requirements. The Design Delivery Lifecycle can be summarized as follows:
1. Feature Request Intake & Approval
A clearly defined feature request and approval process ensures clear communication between PMs and the design team, resulting in faster delivery of designs that meet requirements.
2. Establish Communication Channels
Establishing regular communication channels between PMs and the design team ensures alignment throughout the design process, from initial design to final delivery.
3. Kick-off The Design Process
PMs and the design team collaborate closely to ensure designs meet product requirements, sharing work in progress throughout the design process.
4. Design Hand-off & Dev Follow-up
PM works with the design team to review final designs and schedules hand-off presentations. PMs connect with me to schedule designer feedback reviews on developed features.
This streamlined process allows us to maintain clear communication and collaboration throughout the product design lifecycle.
Feature Request Intake Process
To ensure transparency and a smooth request intake process, I've defined four key steps for design requests:
PMs can initiate a feature request by contacting the Design Director, who will provide a feature request template. This template aids in identifying the appropriate designer, estimating timelines, and ensuring a clear understanding of the feature's scope.
A call is scheduled with the PM to clarify requirements, assess technical limitations, and provide high-level UX-based recommendations if applicable. Once the requirements are agreed upon, we proceed to the next step.
Prioritize & Approve
The Director discusses the request with the COO to prioritize assigning a designer based on the company's roadmap and fiscal priorities. This prioritization ensures alignment with the roadmap and scheduling approval from the COO.
The Director relays the COO's decision to the PM, the director refines UX requirements for the designer presents the detailed requirements with the PM and Tech lead. Alignment with the tech team is established, and a kickoff meeting is scheduled to initiate the design process.
This structured intake process ensures that design requests are handled efficiently and align with business goals.
Product Management & Product Design Communication
One of my primary objectives has been to ensure effective communication and collaboration between product teams and the UX design team. A clear and structured approach is key to maintaining alignment throughout the product design lifecycle. I initiated a robust set of practices to achieve this goal. They are as follows:
Establish Communication Protocols
In our effort to foster productive teamwork, I actively engaged with our product managers (PMs) to define comprehensive communication protocols that resonate with everyone. These protocols encompassed the frequency of interactions, the choice of communication mediums, and expected response times. By implementing these protocols from the outset, we ensured that all stakeholders, including PMs, designers, and team leads, were on the same page, consistently.
Schedule Regular Check-ins
Regular communication channels play a pivotal role in ensuring alignment during the design process. I understood that ongoing dialogue between PMs and the design team was a vital component of our success. From the initial stages of design to final product delivery, these regular check-ins helped us track progress and course-correct as needed. These touch-points allowed for the swift resolution of any emerging issues and the nurturing of a culture of collaboration.
Progress Tracking and Visibility
To maintain visibility and transparency regarding design progress, we continued to rely on Asana as our go-to project management tool. This practice empowered our PMs and leadership team to access and monitor the progress of design projects. This provided everyone with real-time updates, kept them informed, and ensured that no critical details were overlooked. In a world where every detail counts, this proved to be a vital aspect of our collaborative success.
Feature Design Process & Lifecycle: Crafting Impactful Features
At the heart of our design process lay a well-defined lifecycle, which empowered us to create features that truly resonated with our users and drove business success. This process consisted of several key steps that enabled us to allocate design resources efficiently and deliver features that met both user needs and business objectives.
At the outset of each project, our approach included a thorough onboarding process. The Director and the PM were responsible for introducing the designer to the feature. This onboarding involved in-depth education on the feature's requirements, the overarching vision, expectations, check-in schedules, and deliverables. For designers new to the product, it included an orientation to the product itself, encompassing its workings, user types, personas, user goals, pain points, and a deep dive into the problem space.
Research & Discovery
The cornerstone of our design process, research and discovery, played a pivotal role in informing our design decisions. The designer consumed research materials, which could range from data provided by the PM to their own research findings. This stage included the development of information architecture and task flows. Our approach to research encompassed a wide spectrum of methods, including user interviews, surveys, analytics, usability testing, market research, competitive analysis, heuristic evaluations, and more. We left no stone unturned in our quest to gather insights that would drive design decisions.
Wireframing and Prototyping
Once the information architecture and flows are approved, the next stage begins with wireframing, research, critiques, and iterations. Our designers take the lead in creating screens and interactive prototypes, all under my direction. A significant innovation that I introduced is the creation of reusable components, which are then added to our design system libraries. This addition streamlines our workflow and facilitates seamless hand-offs to our development teams.
To ensure that this phase runs smoothly, I instituted weekly scheduled calls with our team to critique work, gather feedback, and engage in iterative processes. This initiative has not only improved our designs but has also promoted open and constructive communication.
Design Reviews & Iterations
During this critical phase, I scheduled semi-final reviews with the product team, ensuring that our designs are on the right track. The designers actively present their work and gather final feedback, making necessary adjustments if required. My role here is not only to facilitate the process but also to ensure that all team members are satisfied with the proposed solution and to strategize and come up with compelling solutions the designers can implement.
Once we reach a consensus, I organize a final hand-off presentation for all developers, PMs, and other stakeholders involved. This step ensures that everyone is on the same page and ready to move forward with the development process.
Hand-offs & Follow ups
In the final stage of this process, we focus on the seamless hand-off of the design to the development team. I schedule a hand-off presentation to provide clarity, answer questions, and transfer the design for development. This step is crucial to guarantee that the development team fully comprehends the design's intricacies and requirements.
To maintain alignment and ensure the accurate implementation of the design, I've taken the initiative to have PMs schedule follow-up sessions with our design team. These sessions offer a chance to share and showcase the developed feature, enabling our designers to review it thoroughly and guarantee that the implementation matches the initial vision.
This entire feature design process reflects a continuous cycle of collaboration and improvement, a framework I've developed to guarantee the delivery of impactful features that meet user needs and drive our business's success.
Crafting Effective Product Design Processes: Demystifying the UX Design Journey
In my pursuit of a shared understanding of the product and UX design process, I embarked on a mission to educate our leaders and product managers comprehensively. This segment of the presentation served as an enlightening primer on what encompasses the intricate world of product design and, more importantly, how we meticulously address challenges.
This educational endeavor not only shed light on the intricacies of our profession but also reinforces the pivotal role of design in problem-solving. Through this enlightenment, our leaders and product managers became equipped to embrace our shared vision of enhancing user experiences and driving business success.
Research & Strategy
In the first phase, we focus on Research & Strategy. Here, I've emphasized the significance of research and strategy in the design process. We've moved beyond guesswork by adopting a data-driven approach and centring our design around user needs and business objectives. By doing so, we create digital products and features that are not only effective but also genuinely enjoyable to use. My role as the director involves guiding this crucial phase to ensure our designs are purposeful and intentional. Research & Strategy can involve the following:
User Research & Persona Creation
Information Architecture Activities
Ideation & Prototyping
The Ideation & Prototyping phase, the following critical step, plays an essential role in our product design process. By fostering an environment of creativity and innovation, we bring forth ideas and concepts that align with both user requirements and business goals. This approach not only saves time and resources during development but also guarantees a positive user experience. As a director, I've been instrumental in promoting this phase's importance, ensuring that our designs are not only effective but also efficient. This phase includes the following:
Idea Generation & Prioritization
Low & High Fidelity Wireframes
Visual design is a cornerstone of product design. It encapsulates the visual elements of a product or service, including its aesthetics, branding, color schemes, typography, imagery, and more. As we emphasize, it aims to create a visually appealing and engaging user experience that effectively communicates our brand's values and message to our target audience. I've taken the lead in ensuring that our visual design aligns with our overall product vision. Visual Design can involve the following:
Brand Identity & Guidelines
Graphics & Animation
The ROI of Prioritizing UX Design
In this final segment, I highlight the substantial returns that come with prioritizing UX design, reinforcing the invaluable role of our dedicated UX team. According to compelling research and industry insights:
Forrester Research reveals that companies emphasizing UX design can experience a remarkable 10x increase in ROI, where every dollar invested in UX design yields between $10 and $100 in revenue.
A survey by the Nielsen Norman Group demonstrates an astounding average ROI of 9,900% for UX design implementation, equating to a return of $100 for every $1 invested.
The Design Management Institute's report showcases the remarkable performance of design-driven companies, outperforming the S&P 500 index by an impressive 228% over a 10-year period.
Insights from a survey conducted by InVision unveil the substantial advantages of design prioritization. Companies that place design at the forefront are 2.5 times more likely to achieve high-performance status compared to those that do not.
By emphasizing these statistics and industry findings, we underscore the immense potential that our dedicated UX team brings to Nextech. As a director, I've championed the integration of these principles into our design philosophy, and the results are tangible.
Establishing an Effective Code of Conduct
It's crucial to underscore the importance of establishing a code of conduct to guide the interactions between the design team and other departments. This code ensures that feedback is delivered constructively, encouraging an atmosphere of collaboration and mutual growth. It's paramount that all teams recognize the vital role that effective communication and respectful critique play in our ongoing journey to enhance user experiences and drive business success.
In crafting this code of conduct, my role as a director is to facilitate an environment where innovative ideas and meaningful feedback are not only welcomed but celebrated, creating a collaborative and harmonious space for all our teams to thrive.
As we wrap up this case study, I want to thank you for joining me on this journey through the world of product and UX design processes. Your interest in my story is greatly appreciated. I hope this experience has been insightful, and I look forward to sharing more of my adventures with you in the future.