The design process can be scary. As humans, embracing ambiguity feels unnatural and is therefore a trait that is only learned if practiced. But, as they say, practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect. At Handsome, we’re confident in our approach because our methodologies are centered around reducing uncertainty. Our methods are flexible and purposeful, which allow us to move fast without sacrificing quality.
Some of the most valuable artifacts that comes out of research are the design values. We think of these as our guiding lights and constantly reflect back on them to ensure the “ship” is on the right course. These design values are created from insights gained through the discovery phase, user interviews and the patterns we uncover when synthesizing the data.
By embracing and often forcing our own constraints we’re able to avoid the fear of a blank canvas; this helps produce more concepts in a short amount of time.
Here’s an example from a recent experience we created where the client wanted to build a service based off of their current platform but for a slightly different use case. The focus of this ideation session was around the core component of the application; the sign up & create new reservation flow.
Constraint 1: Utilize any/all existing functionality of the client’s native application, and make them work cohesively for the new experience of the “sign up & create new reservation” flows.
Constraint 2: Use ONLY standard iOS functionality + existing functionality of the client’s native application to create a new unique experience for the “sign up & create new reservation” flow.
Constraint 3: Explore a completely new pattern where the home screen is contextual and clearly visualize when a reservation is or isn’t available during the “sign up & create new reservation” flow.
Work fast, keep it loose, explore a lot
Quick and loose sketching allows us to be creative while channeling ambiguity into something concrete. Start by reading the scenarios out loud, set a timer, and sketch as team. Then, pin your work on the wall and talk about it.
By constraining ourselves to a short amount of time we’re less prone to overthinking a solution and are able to get out a bunch of ideas more quickly. It doesn’t matter if a concept is good or bad, both can be inspiring and help us get closer to the right path.
Get in front of users early & often
Doing very early testing with users by utilizing paper prototyping allows us to quickly get feedback on the concept of the product. We use a technique called Think-Aloud testing. Using this method gives us immediate insight into the usability issues that users are encountering. For example,
“Now, I need to send the email. I’m not seeing a send button. Hmmm… I’m not sure what to do. I’ll try this button because it has a paper airplane icon on it and that is closest to what I’d imagine a “send” icon would be.”
This example might lead us to re-evaluate the use of an icon. We could quickly swap it out for a “Send” label and do another round of think-aloud testing with a different user.
Another key component of our process is the use of digital prototypes. This helps us quickly visualize a concept in a realistic format to ensure the usability is on point. This can be done using simple shapes which helps us stay flexible and efficient.
You can shoot from the hip and still be on target!
Design is complex and challenging, but at the end of the day, it’s about making the most informed guess. Our process and the tools within it help us confidently wade through ambiguity quickly and efficiently.