Trust the Process

5 LESSONS I'VE LEARNED FROM MY OWN CLIENT ONBOARDING

 

In my recent redesign of tiffenywilbourn.com I ran into so many obstacles, from inconsistent messaging to some pretty bad UI fails. Even as a visual designer who has worked on literary magazines, websites and tons of promotional materials, I was making some of the most common design mistakes. I was designing completely by how I felt instead of using my feeling for inspiration, and my process for execution. My take away from the entire experience after scrapping my site twice was that I wasn’t using methods that I know to be tried and true! The design process is there for a reason. Use it, trust it, and for the love of all things visually appealing and user friendly, STICK TO IT!


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WHAT I MISSED


“I can’t tell you how many times I worked on a portion of my site, just to conclude that it didn’t make sense. This is another misstep of designing in my emotions.”

So after going back to the drawing board on my site, I'd completely ignored the steps that I use for all of my client onboarding.



1. THE INTERVIEW QUESTIONS ARE IMPORTANT


I take each of my clients through extensive onboarding during the EMPATHIZE phase, as I see this step as a place not only to understand my end user, but my client as well. You would be amazed at how much this process helps with having a clearly communicated vision which is ultimately a huge time saver. I know it can be a lot of paperwork and difficult to get clients to respond at times, but you will thank me later!


2. DO THE RESEARCH


“...without processing the 5W's & H method, you can make a lot of unnecessary mistakes”

This one is just as important as walking through your empathy map! When you move forward in your designs without processing the 5W's & H method, you can make a lot of unnecessary mistakes. Defining the who, what, when, where, why and how will make the design process run so much more smoothly and give you a frame of reference when running into design obstacles down the road.


3. WIREFRAMES WILL KEEP YOU ON TRACK


Seriously, wireframe it! And I’m not just talking about slapping some shapes in XD, InVision, etc. Get out that good old graph pad and put pencil to paper. After my second iteration of my site, I was hitting a design block. I couldn’t put my finger on why everything wasn’t coming together and then it hit me! I had not sketched it out. I was doing it all by memory and feel, you know “oh this would look cool here, maybe” without thinking through the cohesiveness of my entire design. Needless to say, I stopped everything after completing several pages and allowed my mind to work out the problem on paper. What took me days to decide on before came together in hours.


4. ITERATE, ITERATE, ITERATE!


Let me start off by saying, I am a staunch believer is the 98% RULE - take your project 98% of the way there, then it's all pencil, keyboards, and track pads down. There is, however, something so special in the iterations that has helped my designs truly evolve. I know making changes can be time consuming and cumbersome and you definitely don't want to get stuck in a cycle of revisions, but I personally believe this is where we grow as designers. Having others critique my work and going back to understand the problem opens my mind up to new creative solutions. I personally wouldn’t do this more than a couple of times on any given project, but it is a key step to refining a finished product.


5. IF IT DOESN'T MEET THE GOAL, GO BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD


Finally, if you get halfway through your first iteration and you realize some key elements in your designs don’t make sense, unfortunately, you should probably start over. I can’t tell you how many times I worked on a portion of my site, just to conclude that it didn’t make sense. This is another misstep of designing in my emotions. I would become attached to the design for one reason or another and couldn't accept it was majorly flawed. Don’t be like me! Don’t spend hours on a site bringing it almost to completion only to scrap it in the final iteration. Go back to the drawing board early in the process while you’re ahead!



Now I know “pics or it didn’t happen!” So here are some of the phases my site went through before I decided to follow my own onboarding process. It's what my better half oh so lovingly calls "getting the ugly out." SMH!



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