Don't Force It, Solve It!
eBook - ePub

Don't Force It, Solve It!

How To Design Meaningful and Efficient Design Processes

George Kalmpourtzis

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  1. 260 pages
  2. English
  3. ePUB (mobile friendly)
  4. Available on iOS & Android
eBook - ePub

Don't Force It, Solve It!

How To Design Meaningful and Efficient Design Processes

George Kalmpourtzis

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About This Book

"Knowing various frameworks and methodologies is crucial.… This book takes you one step further by transforming individuals or teams into adaptable problem-solving powerhouses."

George Ketsiakidis, Design Researcher, Shanghai Jiao Tong University

"George is a master of design process thinking, and it comes out in every word of his writing."

Ryan Gerber, Founder, Quest Labs

It's not how much time we spend on design that impacts product and service success: it's whether that time has been spent on solving the right problems. The field of design, with a greater focus on user-centered design, steadily acquires a central position on the work of product design teams. From large corporate environments to startups, multidisciplinary teams of developers, designers, project managers, and product managers need to find ways to understand each other's needs, overcome obstacles, communicate efficiently, and perform, creating products that satisfy their users' needs.

In an era when the main differentiating factor between products are the teams that created them, George Kalmpourtzis' Don't Force It, Solve It!: How To Design Meaningful and Efficient Design Processes is the perfect roadmap for navigating the twisting paths of project management and user-centered design.


• This book aims at helping software teams work more efficiently by setting up their own design processes.

• For organizations, this book helps decode the design processes, allowing them to deliver experiences that address the real problems of their audiences.

• This book offers a combination of theory and practice that will help its readers understand how to design efficient processes and apply this knowledge in their own work.

• This book includes many insights in the form of colorful doodles.

George Kalmpourtzis is an award-winning User Experience & Learning Experience Consultant and Game Designer. Finding himself between the fields of educational technology, design, and game studies, he has been founder, C-level stakeholder, director, and board member of several design studios, startups, and consulting agencies.

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CRC Press
Web Design

Chapter 1 If Only There Was a Way to Make Design More Efficient…

DOI: 10.1201/9781003050445-1
  • Frustration abounds among the User Interface (UI) designers, User Experience (UX) designers, and user researchers of a large corporation’s design team. Even though they all want to contribute to creating great products, they consider that their voices are not being heard inside the organization. On top of that, the only things that seem to get created are obstacles, such as:
    1. ⚬ Dependencies with other teams (developers, analysts, product managers)
    2. Deadlines that don’t really take into account the time and complexity of the features they’re meant to deliver
    3. ⚬ Mountains of change and feature requests that don’t actually improve customers’ final experience
    As design is a complex process with lots of moving parts, the team feels their work and contribution are underrated. Some team members have the impression that the team only functions as a graphic assets “jukebox” for the organization. Others feel bored or frustrated, with the rest already searching for newer and funnier opportunities somewhere else.
  • There’s a communication breakdown between the development and design teams of a startup. Developers are passionate about creating robust mobile apps, but they feel that designers aren’t approachable when they have questions about mockup designs and that proper documentation is often missing. To make things worse, as they rarely communicate with designers, developers aren’t thrilled about all the design changes being made to interfaces they’ve already coded. They feel that designers switch up designs for no obvious reason and according to no particular logic. Designers, on the other hand, feel that updates to their designs are slow to be implemented or even never get done at all. They’ve got the impression that all developers ever do during meetings is slap unreasonable restrictions on their designs, which severely impacts their design output and the overall user experience.
  • A large multinational corporation consists of dedicated development, design, user research, quality assurance, marketing, and product teams. Some of them are located around the globe making remote communication a key aspect of teams’ workflow. This causes major coordination issues as each dedicated team communicates very little about their work, goals, and progress. There are times that design and development teams work on tasks that are set by product management, without actually understanding how they fit into the broader picture of the organization and its products. The outcome is that team tasks often overlap and at other times design proposals and technical stack configurations don’t match, rendering several months’ work obsolete. Everyone agrees that these errors could have been avoided if they didn’t work in silos. However, the various teams are reluctant to take the initiative to improve communication as other teams may see that as an effort to take them over. Eventually, stakeholders are frustrated and all the teams blame each other for delays, rollbacks, or failed products.
  • A large organization is experiencing an Agile at scale transformation. Even if the configuration, topology, and interaction between development, DevOps, QA, and product teams are rather clear, this isn’t the case for the design teams. Designers are frustrated since they need time and resources to explore and test different design hypothesis. On the other hand, product and development teams have difficulty refining, estimating, and planning their work, due to this misalignment with the design teams. Both sides are unhappy.
If only there was a way to make design more efficient and the life of both stakeholders and users better…


Chapter 2 Processes, Humans, and Design

DOI: 10.1201/9781003050445-3

2.1 Processes, Humans, and Design

I talk to teams and organizations all the time that have lost faith in design, user centricity, and setting up their own design processes and activities. The main argument I hear is that they’ve already invested tons of time and resources but haven’t seen the return on investment to justify it.
My answer is to remind them that:
It’s not how much time we spend on design that impacts the final outcome: it’s whether that time has been spent on solving the right problems.
Products that fail often have in common that they:
  • Don’t address customers’ needs and expectations
  • Present features and services that nobody cares about, so shouldn’t exist in the first place
  • Focus on pushing for new technologies, rather than delivering value for users
  • Are a reflection of the organizational complexity in their creative environment
  • Are difficult or complex to understand and use
For every product or project that went wrong, there is always a team or organization that didn’t function properly. It’s quite common that behind unsuccessful products:
  • There are teams that aren’t working together harmoniously
  • Coordination and a coherent vision are missing
  • Communication among stakeholders gets difficult, causing frustration
  • There is conflict that can’t be resolved
  • There is organizational complexity that stifles creativity and innovation
  • Problem solving stagnates into a meaningless process, where stakeholders feel that their contribution has no value
Whether they realize it or not, design teams are often required to identify and solve business and user problems. However, no matter how frequently those problems may appear around the industry or in academia, each situation, organization, design team, and set of users come with their own individual particularities, making them unique.
This book puts both problem solving and problem solvers in the spotlight, aiming to help them address problem situations more efficiently. On this journey, we will examine some of the most popular design processes and identify their key characteristics so you can set up processes that meet the needs of your own design teams.
Before we get into the scope of this book any further, let’s set a few things straight:

2.1.1 People Quit Design Teams and Processes That Are Boring and Meaningless

Technology evolves at warp speed. So, more and more competent professionals are needed across many industries. As a result, retaining talent and keeping it motivated becomes a huge challenge for all types of teams, from small startups to large corporations. Often, even if an organization offers lots of perks, people may still leave.
I believe that this is because we tend to forget that we (primarily and instinctively) search for purpose, communication, and fun.
If you go through your favorite memories, both personal and professional, the moments that you fondly remember and cherish are never dull or unenergetic.
On the contrary, those memorable moments were suspenseful. They entailed the element of surprise. They included exploration. They allowed us to have some type of control over an activity, to contribute, and to see the effects of our actions, whether we failed or not. They made us feel part of a group or a movement. This thrilling sensation is an integral part of great design teams.
It’s not the challenge, bugs, necessary technical skills, or the very process of problem solving that scare people off: its dullness, communication problems, lack of control, and lack of interest.

2.1.2 Design Is Impacted and Driven by Creative Stakeholders

Design, as a multidisciplinary field, takes into account user and business needs, technical resources, technological constraints, industrial environments, team dynamics, and many many more aspects. As a result, directly or indirectly, every stakeholder of a product team contributes to the design of a product or a service.
The multidisciplinary nature of modern product design requires harmonious collaboration between different types of experts, towards solutions that are novel and original. Both of these two attributes characterize creative individuals.
Contrary to popular belief, creativity is not a privilege of the few but a universal human trait. To make it even clearer:
Creativity is a skill that we all have. The more we work on it, the more skilled we become at it.
As a result, I don’t believe that design is only driven and impacted by designers. In fact it’s the opposite, design is the sacred responsibility of all stakeholders who want to solve problems and create better experiences for their users and customers. These people, whatever their background and technical expertise, are inquisitive, strive for originality in their field, and want to explore possible solutions for the problem at hand.
Hence, modern product teams don’t consist of mere stakeholders: they consist of creative stakeholders.
Let’s meet just some of them:

2.1.3 Design Is about Intrinsically Motivating Problem Finding and Problem Solving

I often hear people explain that design is a problem-solving activity. Even if this statement is indeed correct, it manages to capture only half the essence of design: Design consists of both problem finding and problem solving.
Teams that get this point right are already half-way along the path to better performance.
Whether we realize it or not, in order to find and solve design problems, we incorporate a series of steps into our work methodology. The structure and order of these steps is based on training or experience. In other words, whether it is structured or not, individuals and teams already apply some type of process in their design activities.
I am absolutely certain that some of my colleagues will exhale sharply and roll their eyes when someone starts talking about process; and they might have a point. Processes can be highly effective, but they can also be cumbersome and frustrating. For many obvious and otherwise reasons, we won’t focus on bad processes at this point. Instead, let’s focus on some indispensable elements of what makes a good design process work.
One of the greatest misconceptions out there is that finding and solving problems is boring. I can say with great certainty that people who say that are absolutely wrong: problem finding and problem solving are actually really exciting! Let’s take a moment to think back to our childhood days, when we were building play-forts or putting toys together (and it’s quite likely these moments weren’t always brimming with success…). Back then we came up with design solutions, which were fun to propose and implement.

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