Clarify, please.

How it felt like to work with a design project without clarifying things.

Photo by Alvaro Reyes on Unsplash

This writing is to reflect and tell the story of how I was working out with my college fellow to design his website.

It’s the middle of May, my college friend offers me a mini UX & UI Design project, designing a website for his Bootcamp assignment. Why not? Cause I was not touching any design project in while, been busy finishing my React course assignments.

We’re starting to discuss the project brief, the output, what platform they would be targeting to develop this project, etc. But, here’s the foundational problem starts to appear.

We weren’t clarifying things out better than standard.

Even though I was asking a bunch of questions for clarifying the project intention, I didn’t get it right. There are still many things I left behind that made me questioning them later on while I’m in the design process, this is actually pretty normal but wouldn’t it be better if we already clarified them while the project kick-off phase?

One of the things I missed was the feature of adding items to the website, I wasn’t thinking about how the scenario of adding it should happen. This results in more screens that are actually outside of the project scope.

After discussing the project, I didn’t get any touch to do sketches but to straightforwardly design the mid-fi on Figma. I did this because the deadline was supposed to be just 3 days, but eventually the timeline shrunk until a 1-month timeline, what a joke.

For me, a perfectionist guy, this would be a huge problem. I wasn’t designing intentionally about the wireframes because of too much cared about the spacing, copy, layouts, grids, etc. I had the way to optimize it so why wouldn’t I do it? That’s why whenever I want to do the “wireframe” thing, I would pick the tool with as much fewer features as possible, I was late figuring out that there is a tool with such criteria: Excalidraw.

If I could use the time machine from Avengers: End Game, I would tell myself to use it and follow up with my friend about the sketches, what things are missing and what other changes would happen.

Whenever you face an uncertain brief simply like you don’t know how many screens you would design for, just draw sketches and then expand the flow possibility from those.

My first thought when I will work with him was he or at least his team already know what they’re gonna build, but I was wrong. The difference between my knowledge of digital products is a little bit far from what they knew. Which made me adjust what I would say and simplify things for discussion.

And this case should be normal I think, some people just want to know the outcome, they know what they want but don’t how the outcome should be.

And this one correlates with the consequences of getting design changes, we can’t avoid them but we can minimize them through wholesome and compact discussion.

Facilitate them to give feedback.

When the design is on 70% progress, as we know it’s better to ask for feedback for another improvement or iteration but I wasn’t good enough at doing this.

All I did was show them the design without telling the context and what specific things I would like to receive feedback for.

I did this “connecting screens with arrow” to explain the screen flow of how the website would transition between one state/screen to another, It’s good because they rarely ask about what happens if we click through this, that, or those. Everything is flowing clearly. But to make it even more helpful and contextual, I realized I could’ve done it better by showing for example: what part of the design I would like to be criticized, the context of it, etc.

Learnings

  • Always confirm things out first (ex: wireframe) before starting to finalize it, don’t get yourself creating things all the way from the start, just do your “so bad” sketches and iterate on them
  • Managing design brief better through questioning things and clarifying them, we don’t want to work with uncertain design scope
  • The knowledge gap is real and sometimes we need to be patient and lowering & adjusting our knowledge
  • Always prepare for design changes
  • Some people just want the results, and do not actually care about the process
  • Establish the way we’re getting feedback, not just try to get it but try to guide people to give it
  • Not just showing the flow, but adding context to each flow/screen

It’s nice to write this kinda thing, to reflect on what I’ve done, what did I miss and why. A reminder for me that learning is never done, we might make mistakes somehow and someday, but believing things would be better once you had experienced them, they would help you up the life ladder.

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