My design process has evolved over the years. There are no great revolutions in the way that I look at design. My skill has improved dramatically, especially on the graphic design side of the equation, but my overall process is remarkably similar to where I started.
Listening to the Customer
A lot of designers will tell you that customers don’t really know what they want, and this is indeed often true. However, it is a little arrogant to think that they know nothing of what they want, and they are indeed willing to tell you what they don’t want. I like to be sitting with the customer, watching them do their everyday tasks, and asking questions when they perform a task I don’t understand.
Contextual Inquiry really means just that. Finding out what your customers want while being there in their context. Customers tend to forget less, and not focus on the negative. Don’t get me wrong, it is essential to understand their pain points, but you can’t get a fascinating application by just taking away pain points.
The Genius Designer and the Myth of Innovation?
Recent articles have referenced the Genius Designer. A prime example is Jonathan Ives at Apple. Incredibly brilliant, and with a great eye for design. He does a wonderful job of coming up with designs that are more than a simple evolution of what came before. Can genius designers forgo checking their design with customers? Maybe. I choose not to. Yes, interviewing the user can sometimes lead to just barely incremental designs. I understand that other people think that you end up with design by committee. However, a combination of the two will lead to a much better product. Combine elements of design with elements of user experience techniques and you can achieve fantastic products.
I have included examples of a couple of design documents, and a couple of websites I have created over the years.