Selling UX with a Cross-Functional Design Process

An effective product design process, much like a usable website, removes the friction from getting in the way of the final goal, creating a great product that not only is usable and valuable to it’s audience, but receives buy-in from every member of the team.

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When the product is released, everyone wants to say, “you see that widget, that was me.”

For the majority of people using your product, the perceived value of the product is only skin deep. What I can interact with, what I can visually see is what makes this product great. In which, the designer is held up high and everyone else on the project feels a little left out.

It’s the intangible activities that often gets overlooked: business minded stakeholders who saw a market opportunity, the engineer to worked feverishly to make a component function as intended, the hours of research conducted.

In most companies the product design process is disjointed. Business, design and development are separate activities in a linear process flow. Like an assembly line to make cars, first the requirements are gathered, the researchers research, designers design, developers develop while the stakeholder jumps in between phases to sign off on the concept.

This often turns a design pitch into a design session with the client and other team members. Sometimes, the design decisions are justified, a lot of the time a list of prescriptive changes to the design come out of the critique in order to gain sign off by the rest of the team.

Regardless of the expertise of the designer or the research they have conducted, things need to change to move forward.

You know where it goes from here. This process has been done time and time again and still happens to this day.

A more collaborative process that allows cross-functional teams to contribute to the design phase of a product gives everyone a feeling of control and sense of contribution.

Popularized into digital product design by Todd Zaki Warfel, The Design Studio leverages sketching with cross functional teams as a generative process to deliver the best ideas.

At the heart of it, I believe the magic really comes in by allowing members from all teams, development and engineering, design, and business to take stake in the design process. The belief that if you can draw a square, rectangle, or circle, you can sketch and contribute to the design process.

Steve Krug also advocates getting a representative from each member of the team in on usability testing. In his book “Rocket Surgery Made Easy” he states:

One of the most valuable pieces of advise I can give you about usability testing is to do everything you can to get as many people in your organization as possible (stakeholders, managers, developers, designers, editors, writers— even executives) to attend your test sessions in person.

Or, in maxim speak: Make it a spectator sport.

Why do I think it’s so important to get people there in person? Because, when it comes to usability testing, seeing is believing.

And it works! Cross functional contribution may feel a little unnatural at first to a design team, but it has been proven time and time again to work 100% of the time. A two fold approach to collaboration at the early stages of design in ideation and concept creation, combined with usability testing observation of design decisions that were made during the design sessions, makes everyone believe in the process.

Getting the buy in for great design is the small piece of the puzzle, the larger and more important piece is delivering a valuable product for the person using the product.