Talk to any engineering team about their process and you’ll hear a common theme: speed. There’s an entire culture around shipping fast and deploying constantly. But getting an MVP out the door isn’t just about making sure it works. It also has to have a valuable user experience. That’s why it’s critical to have a design process that doesn’t just keep up with development, but helps designers stay one step ahead.
Designers should play a key role in every iteration of a product from concept to launch, and beyond. I saw how much of an influence that can have on a final product while working on Tally, a light-weight app we created to get feedback from our customers. We use it all the time internally to help us gauge how customers react to new features in the HubSpot product.
When we started, we had 11 weeks to design and build the app for our scheduled release. Our Engineers were in our Dublin, Ireland office while our Product Manager, UX Researcher, and myself were at HubSpot headquarters in Cambridge. Because of the distance and tight time frame, we had to come up creative ways to share ideas to make sure we were constantly aligned.
Sketching to Set the Pace
The clock was ticking so we had to keep it simple. Starting with too many features would mean rushing to the finish line and result in a weaker user experience. Cutting everything you can at the beginning enables you to focus on making a few features really great. As we narrowed down ideas, I would do some rough sketches on paper to clarify those ideas visually.
I took pictures of the sketches with my phone, uploaded them to inVision (our favorite), and linked them together. I was then able to share a link to the sketches in our HipChat room and the team could click through the flow. This made it incredibly easy for everyone to visualize how the app would work early on and work on iterations together. Collaborating around sketches allowed us to do this very quickly and define the scope of the entire app with a matter of days. The added benefit was that we could imagine how the product would look once we were done, getting everyone energized around the same goal. There was more momentum once we saw what we were working toward.Early sketches of Tally
There’s something immediate about drawing out an idea and sharing it with someone. Even if it’s rough, a sketch provides definition and sparks questions.