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Mastering your perfect design process

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This is an excerpt from Fundamental UI Design, an InVision e-course by Jane Portman.

User interface design is a production process. But beneath everything, it’s a service. And you’re getting paid for serving the client.

Developing your own process is almost as important as developing your own design style. These workflow peculiarities will get you through hard times, and they’ll make your service more memorable to clients.

With time, you polish the process and it becomes part of your personality.

Let’s briefly walk through the most common stages of the UI design process to see how you can improve them to fit your style.

“Beneath everything, UI design is a service.”

Wireframes

Are you still working without wireframes? I totally know what you’re thinking, because I spent years in your camp before I realized the true value of wireframing.

You’re thinking: “Sure, they’re useful. But I know what I’m doing, and I can design perfectly well right in Photoshop.”

But the benefits of wireframing aren’t limited to just prep work:

Make sure to include plenty of comments right into the wireframes. Comments make wireframes look more interesting, and they’ll guide the client through your thinking process. You can even ask questions or give a few options to choose from right inside the wireframes.

“Developing your own process is almost as important as developing your own design style.”

Have a look at this fragment of wireframes for the mobile version of Planscope for Brennan Dunn. Not only do you set the grounds for further high-fidelity layouts, but you also explain your way of thinking to the client.

portman-02

Here’s what these wireframes finally evolved into. The ultimate high-fidelity layouts were much easier to design (and sign off).

portman-01

Prototypes and testing

These amazing methods allow you to explore and highlight problems in your wireframes on the early stage, without drawing up high-fidelity layouts and deploying them.

You can make your wireframes clickable using tools like InVision. Or you can work with the developer to build an early version that lacks the graphics but represents the core functionality.

“Thoroughly documented wireframes yield additional respect towards your UX expertise.”

Then this early prototype is tested live, either by you and the team, or by a group of users from the target audience. It would be fantastic if all the projects could afford this stage, but the reality’s different.

The majority of large agencies still employ the waterfall approach, which means the testing happens after product deployment. Then the amount of testing to be made is very limited due to the lack of resources and the natural resistance of the team to change anything after the hardest part of the work is done.

Not to mention that plenty of entrepreneurs don’t budget for testing at all. It doesn’t seem smart, but it’s easily justified by the lack of resources, both time and budget.

High-fidelity layouts

No matter what the usability experts say, the visual part of the process is very important. It brings true joy and fun to the UI design process. Nothing can be more rewarding than getting your hands on actual fonts and colors. If you do your due diligence with the wireframes and get preliminary approval from the client, then the visual part will be easy as pie. Well, almost.

So open up Photoshop and get your hands dirty.

I don’t recommend you present any more than 2 “style options.” One isn’t enough because the client just needs to have a choice, and 3 makes the choice too hard. Remember that Buridan’s ass paradox? The poor mythical animal starved to death because it couldn’t make a choice between 2 identical piles of hay.

Managing feedback

It takes additional wisdom to manage the feedback process. One of the key principles here is empathy. Plus, be attentive and remember the details from your discussion with the client. Later on, you can present your UI ideas as the development of their initial ideas.

It also helps to emphasize the business goals of the app, the target audience, and other marketing aspects. These are the bread and butter of any entrepreneur, and they’ll be very glad that their UI designer takes all these things into consideration.

Want to learn more? Get Jane Portman’s entire e-course, Fundamental UI Design, in your inbox by signing up here.

Author

Jane Portman, UI/UX Consultant
Jane is an independent UI/UX consultant from Russia who helps SaaS founders build focused, profitable products. Previously a creative director at a large agency, Jane went solo after having two boys. While running a successful productized consulting service, she recently published her third book, The UI Audit. Jane enjoys writing and speaking at events, but most of all she likes to solve real-life business problems through smart UI design. Get her free course on managing designers here.

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