Digital solutions in today’s hyperconnected world are ubiquitous and increasing their footprint in business transformation. Their impact and influence have enhanced the understanding and requirements of businesses, which meet customer requirements, deliver value and ultimately help achieve their goals. In order to develop them, complex digital programs play an imperative role and their design is an iterative process to improve the overall efficiency of delivering digital solutions.
The design of any complex digital program involves the combination of strategic and tactical design. While strategic design is about applying future-oriented design principles to systemic challenges, tactical design focuses on identifying known and evasive components to make final breakthroughs. The tactical design phase follows a Lean UX mindset, culture and process that embraces Lean-Agile methods. Lean UX design extends the traditional UX role beyond executing design elements and anticipating how users might interact with a system, encouraging a complete view of a feature, its functionality, its implementation and benefits. By receiving immediate feedback to understand if the system will meet actual business goals, Lean UX provides a closed-loop system for defining and measuring value.
The main goal is to stay ahead of agile development sprints and prepare for development of designs through agile development methodologies. To achieve this, the tactical design phase follows the iterative and incremental cycles of the learn – design – test stages.
In this phase, designers understand the current state of complex digital programs and define the goals to achieve and move forward. The objective of the learning phase is to acquire immense knowledge for the domain, the user, the company, the problem identified, the solution defined and planned to be created and delivered. This is achieved through the following activities:
Roadmap: Designers understand the program roadmap and increment plan, to further utilize the inputs to visually outline a high-level timeline for the phased design, development, and delivery process.
Product Backlog: Designers gain a good understanding of the product backlog with the goal of identifying the minimum set of features and user stories that should be ready for the first program increment.
Design intent: The design intent is to understand the user’s needs that the interface will help them meet in a simple, minimalist, and efficient way.
Deliverables: Once designers understand the entire program, including business and design intent, they are ready to develop a design sprint plan for the first increment of the program.
During this phase, designers aim to create an interface that users find pleasing and easy to use. According to the requirements of the service provided, the user interface can be designed in three formats such as graphical user interface, voice-activated user interface (VUI) and gesture-based interface.
It is possible that today’s digital systems include more than graphical user interfaces. These are derived from the following activities:
Sprint planning: At the start of each sprint, the design lead meets with the product owner and project manager to define the design goal, user features/story, and intent for design. This is the stage where designers focus on the design work. Depending on the type of user story, different artifacts will be created to reach the final designs.
Deliverables: Design phase deliverables help the entire team visualize the final product before it is actually developed.
The development team can play with the prototype and get a better idea of what needs to be developed.
The testing phase involves testing the final designs for any existing usability issues in the interface or workflow. This is to evaluate the design of the interface with representative users. The goal is to identify any usability issues and refine designs before sending them to the development team through the following activities:
Design reviews: Design reviews are an excellent forum for concluding a collective agreement. This is an activity where detailed interface designs are evaluated against requirements and design intent to identify any issues. These discussions allow designers to receive open and honest two-way feedback from the product team about their intentions, goals, and whether the current design work is meeting those goals, etc.
Design testing: Once the designs are finalized internally, they are handed over to the design researcher for quick usability testing with end users to identify any usability issues before sending the final designs for development. This reduces the risk of developing a bad design, which saves a lot of rework and cost in the future.
Iteration and refinements: Based on the test results, final changes are made to the interface designs. Thus, ensuring that the right designs are pushed for development.
Deliverables: The only deliverables for this stage of work are the final interface design specifications and information gathered, which may be documented separately for future reference.
The digital world is changing at an exponential rate. Design innovations to address customer issues while scaling the business have become the need of the hour. Therefore, understanding and developing complex digital programs becomes crucial as they provide many benefits including increased productivity, faster problem detection and resolution, improved profitability and ultimately triumph for businesses and customers.
The opinions expressed above are those of the author.
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