Over the years, I’ve learned that there’s something more important in my design process than the actual design: getting my team on board and excited. Without that, my design work doesn’t mean much.
Things sure would be easier if designers could just say “because I said so.” We’d also have worse products and workflow, so thank goodness it doesn’t work like that.
These days, the design process is more collaborative than it’s ever been, and it’s the designer’s responsibility to include all comers and process all feedback.
“It’s the designer’s responsibility to process all feedback.”
That means I’m left constantly presenting my designs, listening to and acting on what people have to say, and repeating the process. On some really tricky projects, I find we spend almost as much time in the meeting room as we did in Sketch.
Put it on the board
My main presentation tool isn’t a slide deck, a prototype, or a collection of animated interactions. It’s all those things, in the form of a presentation board.
Everything worth sharing, loaded into a central, shareable space. Presentation boards have filled a gap in my workflow by allowing me to collect quick and easy feedback from my team, as quick as I can hit save in my design app.
Lately, when I’m working on a design project, I’m rarely working on just a web page. Throw in a product, app, or marketing site—or all of the above—and multiply by the dozens of popular device screens and capabilities currently available, and you’ve quickly got a lot of moving pieces.
As a modern designer, I don’t just share a single PSD or Sketch file and call it quits. I’m on the hook for prototypes, animations and interactions, user experience, and more. While I’m capable of designing and building such a wide gamut, presenting every last bit can get tricky.
“Your design work doesn’t mean much if your team isn’t on board with it.”
That’s where a design presentation board comes in handy. It’s a quick and organized way to show everything your design has to offer. Instead of emailing someone only a design source file, or just a link to a working prototype, you can include everything in one space.
A presentation filled with design source files and mockups, working prototypes, and even full-motion animated GIFs paints the entire picture. It shows all levels of your design and planning, beyond what a single tool or mockup can accomplish.
It’s great when a designer can use any tool necessary to get the job done, and it’s even better when presented in a way that makes you forget all that noise.
Share now, share later
I’m not sure the last time I presented an honest slide deck. Meaning, a presentation made entirely in Keynote (or Google Slides, or—shudder—Powerpoint). When I’m speaking with a group, I almost always hop around from a few slides to design, to linked website, to live Sketch file—I go nuts.
Replacing the traditional slide deck with a board just made too much sense. Aside from being easier and quicker to build (hellllllo, drag and drop), they’re built from my original design files, which makes for some seriously easy sharing.
And that sharing isn’t just limited to the meeting or presentation itself. Since the board lives at a shareable URL, you can easily distribute the board before your meeting takes place.
Meetings are most productive when everyone comes ready with something to discuss, and sharing design early and often helps make that happen.
“Meetings are most productive when everyone comes ready with something to discuss.”
Even better, people on your team can keep the board as a meeting takeaway, and give more time and thought to the sticky issues that came up during the meeting. Boards are the perfect tool for those sleep on it moments. My favorite design feedback always starts with “After some thought…”.
Once you’ve used a presentation board to share design direction, it’s time to flip around and use them to collaborate. Boards are ideal for collecting feedback, facilitating the handoff, and documenting finished design.
Inviting your team members and stakeholders to comment on anything and everything inside your shared board will help you catch problems before they hit production. No matter how much I think I’ve covered my bases, new sets of eyeballs always seem to find something.
A board loaded with source files and notes is also a smooth way to make the designer/developer handoff at the start of the dev build (assuming there is a handoff at all, you unicorn!). Now that I’m able to organize and group files, along with notes in context, I certainly don’t miss those long back-and-forth email exchanges.
A single board with a bunch of people contributing is something magical. It’s like a live design pulse of your project, with in-progress and completed designs showing up fresh out of the oven.
A shared space for design and notes is even more important when you’ve got some non-design, non-technical people on your team. Explaining the design direction and features to everyone on the team, regardless of know-how, is a great way to keep everyone moving in the same direction—and with the same level of confidence.
Get your whole team on board
Designers aren’t just on the hook for design anymore. We’re team leaders, responsible from bringing everyone along on the ride. Doing so requires taking the time to present a well organized, convincing design plan.
Clark is a UX designer in Austin, TX. Equal parts freelance, startup, and agency, he’s been rebuilt into a content producer with a designer-friendly interface.