Recently I published a piece on the Ideaware blog called Good design is as little design as possible, it has turned into one of our all-star posts.
So I’ve been thinking about how this affects us as UI/UX designers and how the best players in the field do their work. Usually as designers we tackle multiple projects at once and have a lot on our plates. Turns out that either on purpose or not we tend to do the least amount of work necessary to achieve a design or experience goal. In a sense we become lazy by optimizing.
A lazy designer:
Doesn’t over design
Designs with whitespace in mind
Keeps a goal checklist for each feature, crosses items off quickly
There’s a difference between doing your best work and using your best work.
Every blank canvas is a new opportunity to do our best work ever. But should we spend copious amounts of time to build the next big interface when the project doesn’t even call for it? I have yet to find a single project with unlimited time and budget to allow for this.
The best designers just re-use their all-star ideas. You bring them to the table when creating something new, and before you know it you are already innovating. Use that in your next project and this my designer friends, is how you both turn lazy and become a better designer.
Three entrepreneurs share their wisdom on how to build mobile apps without experience, from hiring the right talent to creating the perfect prototype.
Some advice from yours truly on the Proto.io blog.
About a year ago, I was in Miami with the team working with a client from LA. Just before we left he walked up to me and said:
“Max, you’re the James Bond of web design. You travel around the world saving one product at a time. Thank you.”
He didn’t realize how much his words meant to me – and probably hasn’t to this day. It was at that moment that I realized I was doing things right, that’s the exact reason on why I started the agency.
There should always be a reason on why we’re doing what we’re doing. And equally important that reason needs to be measurable.
What’s your reason? Why are you doing it?
I was very naive at negotiating when I first started Ideaware. Starting a new agency to compete with Silicon Valley counterparts was not an easy task, hell, it still isn’t.
Starting up in South America (Colombia), there was only one way to compete and step into the market: cheaper hourly rates. In other words: cost.
We tried – and succeeded sometimes – to deliver that ‘top agency’ quality at a fraction of the price. But this came at a cost, as great things take time to make. Time I wasn’t charging for – or undercharging for.
This took a toll on both revenue and in the end quality, as having enough cash is vital to having the necessary resources to deliver the work.
One day it all dawned on me after reading a blog post somewhere (would love to cite, but couldn’t find it): budgets buy time – quality should always be a given.
It rocked my (and Ideaware’s) world.
Budgets were suddenly time. I started talking time with my clients and team. Daily project management questions suddenly changed to: How much time do we have? Does the client have enough budget for that?
What happened next rocked my world (again): we started delivering the best quality work we’ve ever done and clients have never been happier working with us.
We no longer negotiate quality, but time. Time and quality equals results. Results are good for business.
Great post on Ux Magazine, couldn’t agree more.
… ad agencies are used to create “ideas that tell” stories on behalf of their clients. Meanwhile, UX-centric start-ups or digital foundries create “ideas that do”, or more precisely, “ideas that enable people do things”
New projects and clients are
always usually exciting. The possibilities are endless, the hair-pulling feedback limitless! It’s your time to shine, to design that great new interface that will bring world peace.
But before you prepare your nobel prize speech, make sure you understand what problem you’re trying to solve.
Defining the problem and what your client needs will make the difference between a successful project (and a happy client) and just a nice screenshot you will add to your dribbble profile.
Through the years I’ve perfected a list of ten questions that I ask every new client at Ideaware:
1. Why are you commissioning this project?
When a new client approaches you it is because they have a need, pain or problem. It may seem like an obvious question but sometimes your client hasn’t given it any thought. Asking this question will get both of you aligned on needs and expectation.
2. What are the primary goals of this project?
One of my favorite things to ask, you get to set expectations right off the bat. Try to aim for specific answers like: “Update the look and feel of our app to iOS7 and have it in the Appstore by June”. Work together on a better answer if all you’re getting is: “We want to make it prettier”. This is a red flag since there is no way to benchmark “pretty”.
3. Who are your users?
Always, ALWAYS keep in mind mind who you’re designing for. It makes a world of difference if you’re designing something aimed for a tech-savvy teen rather than a 60-year old woman trying to find a lower price on a prescription. This difference will probably affect the overall project scope and help you give the client a better quote.
4. Who are your competitors?
Get a grasp of who your client (and ultimately your design) is up against. If your client doesn’t know the answer, time to do some research. Don’t settle for “we don’t think there’s something like this out there!”. Trust me, there is someone else out there solving almost exactly the same thing.
5. Any sites, apps, etc. that inspire you?
By the time the client is talking to you, they already have a good idea of what they want. You’ll save yourself endless proposals and feedback loops if you get aligned with their vision right from the start. Aim for specific websites, apps, links and don’t settle for “clean and lots of pictures.”. I always find useful creating a private Pinterest mood board to post stuff together.
6. Do you have a brand style guide?
Having a brand style guide (if the client has one) will help you with fonts, colors, images, etc. that you will need to create a better, brand-aligned design for your client. If the client doesn’t have one, this might be a good time to talk brand tone, colors and preferred fonts.
7. What is your marketing or monetization goal?
Most of the time your client will have business goals in mind. They’re talking to you to help them get there. Ask what their goals are. Is it to drive website conversions? Get a million app downloads? Find Waldo? The answer will completely shape the design.
8. Do you have content/assets for this project?
I make it a rule of thumb to not start a project unless we have enough content, assets and anything else we might need. Content is king, and you should always know what content you’re designing for and with. Assets like pictures, videos, audio, etc are very important, so make sure to ask for them (or if you need to buy/find them yourself).
9. What is your anticipated deadline for the project?
Love this one. You get such a variety of answers like “Oh I don’t know, sometime next year?” or my all-time favorite that goes something like “In the next two weeks we need to go live!”. Once again is all about expectations, be sure to set them. Do you have the time and resources? Is the client being realistic?
10. What is your budget? (Or my rates are $X)
Possibly the most important question on the list. You’ll save a lot of your (and the client’s) time by setting budget expectations. Nothing wrong with asking the client. Sometimes the client will just shoot the question back, I’ll just give them a sense of pricing and timeline. Once again, it’s all about expectations.
You can save yourself a lot of time and kick off a project right if you ask the right questions. These are the ones that help me see if a client is fit to work with Ideaware, I really hope you find them useful too.