A program manager’s approach to design
Evaluating the time and planning for a design project can be done in a lot of ways. But there are many factors one has to evaluate while planning, here are few.
The creative limit to your thinking is boundless they say, when it comes to design. But when it comes to the business world and especially for project planning, there comes a limit. I closely work with designers and have seen them work on different projects with varying scope, end users, fields and objectives.
What type of a design project will define the time span and will help in breaking down the milestones?
Note: This article covers the major factors that a design project will need looking into and planning. Apart from this there are many factors that only a designer can estimate with respective to the project type. These factors will help in figuring out 85% of the time needed for your project.
Products and services are the two factors we need to consider first. Common resources under both are time and Human resources. When building an internal product, the creativity boundary can be stretched to a farther limit than in a services.
When building an internal product, the designers have the freedom to think into the features and elements. The time constraint does matter but when the designers want to experiment with new ideas and layouts, time can be compromised to a certain extent. When given the freedom to think freely the designers tend to play around with elements trying to get something really creative and fun. Here the designers get to act as the decider as well, that adds as an advantage.
When given the same freedom in a customer product, time and money can be a hurdle. The solution to balance out both the sides is in smart planning. With the different design projects in mind, here are the stages that a design project takes up.
Finding out what the project is all about and doing all the basic research for it will happen in this stage. This will take a week for a project having a 3-4 month duration. Research will need a lot of discussions and co-operation from the customer.
Workflows have to be figured out. This includes prioritizing the elements, features and positioning the elements. Figuring out this will need a lot of stickies, pencils and markers.
3. User role mapping:
From the research the designers would have analyzed the different target users and their role. This document will undergo a lot of iteration, and will need customer clarification. This takes about 2-3 days for a product that has 3 -5 user types.
Sketching the wire-frame will need a lot of do’s and redo’s. Since it is a new product, the look and feel has to be complete throughout and the positioning plays an important role. Wire-framing takes about a week to 10 days for projects that involve more than 10 screens.
5. Design options:
Design options will cover picking out the color palette, designing the UI kit, fixing on the style of buttons, navigations, menu bar position, card layout, drop down, table layout et al. The design option will be delivered to the customer. This is done with one over one of the major screens and providing 3 options to pick from is the wiser choice than providing two. This will take an additional 10 days which includes iterating based on customer feedback.
6. Designing pages and their iterations:
Design iterations will progress screen by screen and allowing too many iterations can eat up a huge amount of your time. Constricting the number of iterations will prove to be productive on both sides. The time to decide this falls in the hands of the designer. In general, this covers the actual project time. 3/5th of the project time should be allocated for this stage.
7. Adding depth:
Adding depth to the elements present in your design. Adding animations, playing with the depth of color, fonts and many more elements influence this stage. This will take upto 3-4 days in general.
Back to the project types,
When the customer approaches with a new idea and few inspirations, the designers has the space and time to think through the elements, their positioning, looks and feel. Figuring out the navigation, placing of elements and playing around with the look and colors can be interesting for the designers. For projects like these, some time is taken off for research and analysis by the design team. Here is how you rack it,
- Research - Research will consume a lot of time given the product is new.
- Workflow - It falls into the designers’ hands to figure out and layout fresh workflows.
- User role map
- Wireframing - In projects like these, wireframes are super important as they act as the deciding factors. Once wireframes are frozen, proceeding with design will be easier.
- Design options - Options won’t take a lot of effort as the product itself being new, will involve all new ideas and elements.
- Designing screens and their iterations - This is the stage where the product comes into shape. The key stage for New products is this and hence a lot effort is needed.
Redesign type of projects involves work on giving a fresh feel to the product. The research time can be less as the time to understand the user roles, and the elements will be less. The designers will be using the research time to think about tweaks to the navigation, elements present, color, position and flow. These projects will take more time in the design options stage compared to other stages. The rack here is,
- Research - Basic research over the working of the application, target audience, navigation and features of the existing application.
- Work-flow - Tweaking the work-flow and navigation if necessary. This will take half of what is needed for the redesign projects.
- Wire-framing - Wire-frames of the existing application will be re-done which will take lesser than the normal time alloted.
- Design options - Will be exclusively done, as the ultimate goal is to provide fresh looks.
- Design screens and iterations - Following up with the screens after deciding on the option will be easier and can fall in place one after another.
Landing page design:
Landing pages are the main pitch of a product. When designing a landing page, the designers’ bear in mind the key elements, the features and how to display them with minimalistic yet brief design. Time to think out the design will be lesser but the thinking will be more business oriented than user oriented.
- Research - To figure out what goes on the page, and being very picky minimal is the code. The mock images of the products has be designed as well which adds on to the time.
- Design options - Then we directly jump to design the page by putting all the elements together and matching the colors and providing with options for the customer to decide from.
Though there seems to be only two stages, both has to be done exclusively to get them correct. A basic landing page will easily take 15 days.
- Designing a logo is completely different from the others. For a logo you need to do,
- Research - Research over the company/product the logo is being designed is major. Then finding elements to match the concept and choosing colors can take some time.
- Adding depth - This is major in logo designing as you will be providing various iterations and the way to play around will be with the elements and their styling.
But when playing around with the design elements, the best strategy will be to have a basic layout and perform iterations over it whatever be the type. Design cannot begin from scratch every time your designers has a striking thought or a new additional element. Splitting the time and using the first few stages to design the basic layout will be the smartest thing to do.
These factors have helped me in estimating the time and it has worked well. Check out our work here